Who remembers the days when Football was moral, and fans were polite?

A golden opportunity to reclaim top level football from the corporate “thieves” and the part we all can play. Plus some nostalgia! by Jon Fox

Let me ask you good people some personal questions, if I may.

Do you consider yourself, at core level, a moral and decent human? On what evidence do you base your answer? Do you believe that fan bias gets in your way of being totally honest with yourself about your own club and about others? Do you feel helpless against the corporate power of the way that modern football is run? Do you think that a major change to that way is remotely possible if fans band together? And finally, do you think it your duty to fight for what you believe in, or do you not?

Without wishing to bore – but I’ll take that chance anyway- I have lived my 69 years since I was old enough to know my own mind at least, with a passionate belief, often bordering on arrogance and sometimes even being deliberately arrogant, that I could HELP achieve great things.

Having spent much of my working and social life around theatre people, who often have, shall we say, artistic temperaments, sometimes with brutal honesty but who also play mind games with the best of them (Fergie!!), I flatter myself that I know a fair bit about how human nature is, and how we work and what makes us tick. I can recognise a con merchant and a chancer, and know when people are in it for themselves, not for the general good.

That being so, it has long been a difficult decision for me to continue supporting a sport run by people and organisations I profoundly despise. Of course, I mean the football authorities, not the players and not the fans, who are by and large merely pawns caught up in a tsunami of gross greed that has overwhelmed and destroyed any pretence to morality the game once had.

And way back in time it DID have a great overall morality and was a force for good and healthy in so many ways, not merely physically either. When I was still a teenager, a great man named Sir Stanley Rous was our FA chairman and was widely respected throughout world football. He was a famous ex top level referee who had even refereed a World Cup final before the war. He sat beside Her Majesty the Queen when England won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966, a game I watched with wonder and pride. It was a great time, even a noble time, to be a lover of football, and my love of football and of our own mighty Arsenal, who had won NOTHING for thirteen years nor would for another four, was all consuming.

How easy it was to love everything about football back then! Players did not dive, though Francis Lee of Man City, an England international, was soon to be the first and best-known diver, in the late 1960s onwards. He was known as LEE WON PEN, because the papers would give the goals scored as Lee, one pen!

It was around that time that hooliganism came quickly into our game, ruining it for many and frightening away thousands of others. The authorities and police were at their wits end as to how to stop it and all these years later, despite all seater stadiums it is still with us, even though more controlled these days. Society was fast changing, with new aggressive attitudes to the fore, consumerism rife and the economy booming as people got richer, with more spending money and many of the old, now rather quaint but charming, customs being pushed aside. Back in the fifties and before, young boys were often passed overhead from the back of terraces down to the front by ordinary decent fans who wanted the boy to see a game he otherwise could not. My late father told me of how he personally had done this “child passing over his head” back in pre-war days, as a still young adult. All adult men wore caps, usually flat caps but also some bowler hats back then, and some would throw the hat in the air at a goal. You can still see these on old grainy footage of olden times and how I long that we had all those customs now. Scarves were knitted with wool, and without names, only colours, and we had bobble hats too of wool, with rattles and rosettes. It all seems so old hat now but it was a time when the game had sportsmanship in spades and fans were decent, working class and you could stand next to your friend or mate who supported, openly too, the opponents, and hooligans were still unborn or babies.

What has been the catalyst for so much change has been of course MONEY. And the love of money and still more of it! It has totally changed many things that were the norm and which we held dear, for the worse in many cases, though far from all. In case you wonder, I am NOT a left wing socialist, far from it!

In the next instalment, I will tackle the harm this excessive love of money has done to our sport and suggest how we can help to wind back the clock, now that this deadly virus has given us a great opportunity, if only we have the courage and will to grasp that opportunity. Following that, I will then explore our own attitudes to what we think is wrong or right with the game today.

Stay safe and have patience,

Jon Fox

26 Comments

  1. GunneRay says:

    A fantastic sentimental post, Jon. A post that for me at least makes complete sense and brings a certain perspective to the fore that should have us all contenplating our own actions and views of modern sport. Not just football. Yes, money. The all empowering substance that can turn all that is good, bad! It gives so much and yet takes it too. I guess progress is to blame but without progress we would be watching football behind bars still or standing around for a few hours on tired legs watching some money grabbing footballers earn an easy crust! Of course, they’re not all all the same. But the game does seem to be inundated with massive egos and over bloated self important primadonnas! 😯. I guess we have to take the good with the bad and eccept progress as it is because the people with the money pull the strings. Morality, for me is a dying quality of life that means nothing more than mear gesture of kindness, only when it’s needed to get something in return? Can you imagine what football will be like in 50 years time? I can’t. But j bet it’s whole lot more different than it is today!

  2. S.J says:

    I quite agree with you, morals need to be brought back to the world in general. The world is getting corrupt and polluted every day cause the powers that be has set the tone to be like that. And football is not exempted either.

    I understand that the game of football we love needs to be different and teach morals but it’s unfortunate it will be difficult to bring back morals and polite to the game.

    There are millions of people all over the world who will not think twice on spending a lot of money on Arsenal and it’s merchandise.

    I dream of one day watching a game of football at the Emirates and I will work hard to achieve that, so I will always pay whatever it cost to have a seat at the Emirates.

  3. Phil says:

    Ok Jon, so the first in what is going to be, I believe, three articles. I assume that what you are building to is quite simple- how the money in Football today has changed the game forever. There is no argument that the game today is a million light years away from my first game aged 6 in 1962. But I would also suggest that without doubt, football has, over the last 20odd years since the Sky TV involvement, brought the game to millions of supporters globally that would not have the opportunities to see ANY games. That has come at a price, I agree, but has it been a price worth paying?
    I believe this is what you are getting at, and look forward to how you are going to suggest your thoughts in the second article.
    Got to say Jon, a great topic headline, especially for the “ more mature” supporters, as I would imagine very many will have never known anything other than all seater stadiums, FA Cup Finals kicking off in the early evening, and the huge financial cost to each and every fan to attend games these days. It wasn’t always this way, as you well know, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this trilogy progresses.

  4. Ken1945 says:

    Second great article Jon and who would argue with your moral stand?

    In answer, only those without morals of course.

    However, if we look at it from the perspective of, say,
    a victorian person, the morals they held would also seem light years away from what our generation deemed acceptable and what the current moral standards are.

    On the footballing side of your article, I happened to be one of those children who were passed down by the crowd, when it looked like I might stumble
    This was after the game and at the North Bank laundry entrance/exit.

    At the exit, I was led to the front garden of one of the terraced houses (which are still there) given a disgusting nip of whisky and two shillings and sixpence to treat myself with!!!

    We are in a different world today and football is no different in that aspect – I can remember my father saying to me that the Rolling Stones were a bunch of unwashed, long haired louts who couldn’t sing for toffee – I find myself saying much the same to my youngest grandson, who is into rap music!!!

    Us oldies have to adapt, just as our forebears did and I fully endorse Phil’s point regarding Sky etc bringing football and, more importantly, The Arsenal, to the world – I had a reply to one of my articles from a guy in Ghana!!!

    I guess we all must make our own decisions regarding morality, but my love for our club is the same today as it was the very first time I saw those red and white shirts.

    1. jon fox says:

      Ken, I think we have already set up our own mutual admiration society and I can think of plenty others who OUGHT to join AND write articles themselves. Oh, and two and six! I hope you got adopted by those RICH folk!

      1. Admin Pat says:

        If I remember rightly my Dad used to pay a shilling to get into the Clock End, and I was stuck down in the kids “Moat” along the side of the pitch coz it only cost sixpence.
        I used to then climb over the barrier and join him in the stands!

        1. jon fox says:

          Pat, when I was around 7, I got one and sixpence pocket money and while playing football in the garden with kid brother, I put the money on edge of coal bunker til later. The ball knocked it into the coal and while I was desperately scambling to find it, Dad came out and stopped me. I cried and he said “That will teach you to be lazy and not put it away”.
          All of 50 plus years later I reminded him, albeit in jest, and he could not remember it. But I will to my dying day!
          I’VE ALWAYS HATED GREED, AS WE OLDIES HAD TO DO CHORES FOR OUR MONEY . QUITE RIGHT TOO!

    2. ozziegunner says:

      Ken, unfortunately the “morality” of the Victorian era was full of hypocracy. As well as bring in enlightenment in abolishing slavery and reducing child labour, the powers that be accepted and often downright encouraged poor pay and working conditions, lack of occupational health and safety, work houses, poor health, sanitary conditions and atrocious slums.
      The moral courage and works of the reformers shone like brilliant lights through the gloom of the industrial smog.

  5. SueP says:

    Morning Jon,

    Another great read!

    It was in the mid to late 60’s that my mum and dad took me to Highbury. We would pay at the turnstile and stand at the clock end and my parents never worried for my safety. People generally had manners. My parents could afford to go and take me with them. It wasn’t too expensive either.

    Hooliganism did in the early 70’s stop my dad taking me to any away game. I was lucky enough to go to the Arsenal v Liverpool Cup final in 71 with him (he collected the little red triangles on the corner of the programmes) but he absolutely wouldn’t let me go to White Hart Lane. Too dangerous , he said.

    Certainly in the earlier Highbury years I didn’t notice any change taking place, but that went out of the window at the start of the Premier League. I was actually quite excited about it then. Previously, most football players were drawn from the home nations, but suddenly I could watch Bergkamp or Ruud Gullit The PL became a magnet for incredible players to arrive and ply their trade on our shores.

    Without getting political, it was like voting to join the Common Market and ending up with the EU. I didn’t notice the change happening. A bit like AW, ‘I didn’t see it’ !

    Back in the day when an English team qualified for Europe I supported whichever team it was. I didn’t hate Liverpool, Notts Forest or Villa, instead I cheered for them.

    Now that football has become the behemoth that it is, and money is god, any sense of camaraderie has gone out of the window. I now ‘hate’ any team that could beat Arsenal to a CL place.

    Sky TV changed the fortunes of football, bringing live matches to the world. Such was their spending power, the BBCs and ITVs of this world were priced out and were left with more niche sports. Consequently we have all had to pay to watch sport on tv. I am not saying this was bad, but now that BT and Amazon have got in on the act even more money has gone into paying for sport and this comes out of our pockets.

    I know that nothing stays the same, but I do hope that time will be taken to reflect on how wealth in sport is distributed. Football is a community sport and when Bury go to the wall and Macclesfield and others struggle to pay player wages but PL teams can pay players up to £25m per year then this is one area where morality has gone out of the window.

    1. jon fox says:

      SueP when you post like this you show yourself to be a REAL writer who simply MUST do articles of your own from now on. Please seriously consider it Sue!

  6. Grandad says:

    Great stuff John.As a 72 year old , born and bred in Aberdeen I vividly recall my Father lifting me over the turnstile at Pittodrie stadium when I was 5 years old when my love of football began.My Father supported Aberdeen and his English favourites were Preston North End and Arsenal .My allegiance to the “Gunners ” has endured to this day and after a disappointing decade I am optimistic that better days lie ahead despite the current lockdown.Oldies like us John are sometimes accused at looking back through rose tainted specs.To an extent this is true, and while I accept Phil’s point on the benefits of Global TV exposure, the riches it has brought to players has brought about a huge gap between them and fans which never existed in the fifties or sixties. The great Tom Finney for example chatted with fans on the bus as he travelled to home games..To me this is one of the saddest aspects of the modern day professional game.Carry on the good work John, I look forward to your next “epistle”.

    1. jon fox says:

      Grandad , have you thought about writing articles yourself? We badly need more worldly wise fans to contribute and thus elevate this site to where it could be if only more who have considerable wisdom between their ears would contribute.

  7. Marty says:

    I know this is going to be controversial and many ( if all ) people won’t agree with me but I wish that we hadn’t formed the Premier League or gone to bed with Sky and the other companies with their endless offers of money. Yes, I know times change and we have seen some great and brilliant players at Arsenal bought with Sky money but how many more great British players would have come through our and other teams ranks. When I started watching football in the 60’s it seemed to be more enjoyable and friendly. I know young people must be fed up with hearing this but I really miss the ‘ Good Old Days ‘.

    1. jon fox says:

      Marty, I truly see your point of view and though I share its thrust I do think that Sky etc and the foreign influx has massively benefitted our game. THE GAMES MORALITY THOUGH IS A VERY DIFFERENT MATTER. We live in a world where I foresee , down the track perhaps a couple of decades or perhaps less, where the total worlds wealth is divided and distributed to all far more equally.

      And despite that wish, I am not and never will be a believer in mass socialism. I believe we can and must get there by persuasion and by ethical capitalism but with the realisation by ALL that ALL are valuable and of equal worth. AND WHERE NO SINGLE PERSON, ANYWHERE, IS EVER AGAIN PAID HUNDREDS OF TIMES THE AVERAGE WAGE. That is an obscenity.

      The Prem has progessed in a more and more UNethical capitalist direction and must be turned around. The mere formation of the PREM DID NOT NEED TO BE AN EXCUSE FOR MASS GREED AND HUGE UNEARNED MONEY FOR ALL PLAYERS AT THE EXPENSE OF FANS.

      1. Phil says:

        Ok Jon, so I must add here that although the vast difference between the ordinary man in the street and todays grossly overpaid players, let’s not forget that the issue of “Supply and Demand” is more relevant than ever these days. And if you take the entertainment industry as a whole, the earnings of some of these are solely down to the demand.
        I read today that the pop band Little Mix earned over £11m last year from touring alone. These were, so I am to believe, 5 girls who did not have enough talent individually to progress though in The X Factor, but were assembled as a group and ending up winning it. In other words a bunch of losers end up earning a fortune with zero talent between them but made it big purely because the “Demand” was there, which they have exploited to their own advantage,
        The point is, if anyone is prepared to pay, whatever the cost, to be entertained, then the demand will only increase the brand accordingly. This is what has happened to Football.
        We heard from quite a few this week when the 1970 Inter City Fairs Cup win at Highbury was headlined. And a few other articles, even today, mention how it was so easy to go to Highbury, pay a few shillings( or not) and watch the game. There were times, especially mid seventies and early eighties when a 55,000 capacity was never near full. It’s because fans then voted with their feet. In today’s world, you need to be a registered member to even get a ticket at the Emirates, and join the 60,000 on the waiting list for a season ticket. This is down to the Global impact the Premiere League has now, that wasn’t there in the early days of our lives. Money being brought into the game has made the EPL Brand so big that it will never fail.
        I honestly believe that fear of the virus will stop a great many fans attending games for years to come. I know a mate who has told me only this week to find takers for his season tickets for the next two season, whenever they start, as he will not risk his health. So what will he do? Watch the games on tv, like many millions across the world who simply are unable to go to the matches themselves. This will increase the viewing figures, add additional revenue to the Broadcasters, and ultimately increase the money into the EPL. It may well take a season or two for the Clubs finances to straighten out, but the Global demand for the Brand that is the EPL will outweigh any moral issues, simply because the money always talks in the end, as we all know.

        1. ken1945 says:

          Phil, your best post for ages, including the scandalous suggestion of where AW’s statue should be erected PAL.

          Supply and demand is exactly what makes the world go around and kronkie is well aware of the potential number of fans who will immediately fill any season tickets that become available.

          If The Arsenal were to increase the Emirates capacity by 10,000, they would sell those s/tickets within the time it takes to offer those on the waiting list – whether we have players earning £10 a week or £10,000,000 a week it’s the club that we follow, not any individual player.

          1. Phil says:

            That’s it though Ken is it not? No matter how we feel regarding morals when discussing the money in football, is two, like 42,000 others, will not think twice about trend wing our season tickets when the renewals are eventually sent out. And if we don’t, 60,000+ others will be all to keen to snap them up if they were not taken up by us. I for one, while accepting the grossly obscene money paid to all footballers at elite clubs, will pay my renewals on the day I receive them.
            I would believe, bearing in mind the Article written by Jon, comments from Simon Jordan, and the continuing gratitude we all give to the heroic frontline workers in this country, cannot help but realise the money players receive is scandalous from a moral standing, but it will not stop me doing something I love as much as life itself, and that is following Arsenal Football Club for at every game, for as long as I am able. Does that make me morally inept? Probably it does. But life will go on, footballers will still earn far more money than most of them will ultimately deserve to do, and our Frontline workers will likely still be disgracefully underpaid in comparison.

          2. SueP says:

            Sadly the season tickets are bought but the ground is rarely full

        2. jon fox says:

          Phil, I differ from you on what the future demand will be, unless those running things change tack. Society is changing fundamentally, including fans, and I see it clearly. All things change eventually. MY OWN BROTHER TAKES YOUR VIEW, BASICALLY, AND WE ARGUE OVER IT!

          1. Admin Martin says:

            Come on Jon, I reckon you argue with the mirror

          2. Phil says:

            Jon, look at it like this.
            If we all woke up in the morning and found that this Pandemic had been just a bad dream, would we all be talking about the changes everyone is demanding? I don’t believe we would. I believe we would all get in with our lives as before. For me I would be either on a golf course, travelling to see Arsenal, doing a small piece of Consultancy, and as little housework as I possibly could. I would not be considering the injustices highlighted by this nightmare time the world is enduring, which I accept is morally wrong. That’s just me I suppose. That’s not to say I don’t agree with a lot of what you say because I do. I just honestly feel that however much public sympathy is being publicised during these times, the reality is life will be back to normal for most because that’s how the people would want it. Will I stop going to watch Arsenal because of the players ons end wages? No. Will I crusade for better recognition for the heroic frontline workers? No. I would certainly support those that do, but reality has proven that nothing changes too much in life and nothing will change to much when these time’s have passed.
            Very cynical thoughts I accept. But I feel reality will prove these thoughts correct.

          3. SueP says:

            Phil
            I wanted to reply to a later post but could only reply below this one

            Interesting scenario about waking up from Covid as being a bad dream and all of us happily getting on with our lives. I would love to agree with you but in my household my husband received a letter from Rheumatology at Leicester Hospitals today saying he was now advised to Shield as opposed to taking moderate care. There is not a cat in hell’s chance that our lives will be the same again because it is not a bad dream that we can easily wake from. This is our new reality until medication or a vaccine is formulated. There will be plenty like us now facing a much more uncertain future. Playing a round of golf is definitely on hold

  8. Sue says:

    Talking of season tickets, I saw a post today saying this particular fan has been on the waiting list for 10 years and is still yet to be offered one! Wow!
    At this rate I’ll be lucky to be offered one before I hit 50!!

    1. ken1945 says:

      Sue, this is perfectly true I’m afraid.

      I have a very good friend who has been on the red list, same as you I think.

      She went on the list in 2006, the day the Emirates opened and hasn’t heard a peep!!!

      I really believe the figures that The Arsenal give out of over 60,000 waiting – of course, some might not be able to purchase if offered one at the moment, what with corona virus and so many losing their jobs.

      I was told by a steward who I am friendly with last season, that the club is starting to monitor seats, due to there being many empty of late.

      He assumes that is in order to warn those who are not going to the games that had better start attending or the s/t could be taken away – sounds very reasonable to me…we need a full house to get the old chanting back on song.

      1. Sue says:

        2006?! Sheesh!!

        That sounds reasonable to me too, Ken. If you can make it down, then anyone should!!! Yes, on the odd occasion, a genuine reason arises, which results in being unable to go, fair enough.
        But as you say, there have been too many empties on more than one occasion..resulting in an awful lot of tickets on the ticket exchange!!
        It’s a big commitment, financially too.. and if you can’t find a buyer on the T/E.. you’re out of pocket.. so i don’t understand purchasing one if you’re not using it!
        I agree – we need the place full and rocking

      2. jon fox says:

        Ken I am on board with those who have seats needing to use them. By all means let a friend or relative usethem if you can’t come but NOT to leave empty. Unless as a deliberate protest, as has happened in recent times but even then I have reservations. But as I had no reply tag to Phils last post, let me say that I much differ with him on things changing far more than he says after this is over. You, or he anyway, only need to look back at all historical landmark times in human history to see how true that is. People STILL, fall into two camps on this virus; those who think it a mere interruption and things will then proceed as before and those who are IMO more prescient and can see huge and lasting changes ahead.
        The most pressing problem football has right now is to financially survive this virus and players , mostly, are in for a huge shock which will change their attitudes and earnings for ever. The Prem clubs meeting just yesterday showed how worried they all are about money and survival, and whatever we may think about their morality, there is no doubt that such as Kroenke and Co are acutely aware of the real andlasting danger to their empires without change.

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