I spend a lot of my time on Twitter and over the last eighteen months to two years, I have seen more and more Twitterers with the legend AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL in their bios and plenty of tweets bemoaning the state of football with the suffix #AMF. I have recently started asking tweeters who proclaim to be Against Modern Football what it is that they want exactly. Common answers are "cheaper tickets", "safe standing areas","wage caps" and "we want football to be a sport and not a business". And my personal favourite - "we want our game back".
Sorry, but it never was YOUR game in the first place.In England, at least, things have moved on a bit since the days of cheap tickets and standing areas and, for better or for worse, things are not going to go back to how they were. Things don't go back to how they were. They can't. I'd like to live in a pre-Industrial Revolution England, working my own land and bartering with my neighbours, but that's not going to happen either.
I have a problem with the phrase "Modern Football". What is it, exactly? I might be wrong, but from what I can gather, "Modern Football" seems to have begun with the founding of the Premier League.
I suppose the easiest way to see what Modern Football is, is to have a look at the video on the StandAMF.com website. It opens with U2's (evil mega-corporate b**tards) "Beautiful Day" - the song ITV used as their football theme - playing over a Sky Sports logo, this is followed by a montage - Abramovich and Bates, fans in fancy dress (is that REALLY a modern phenomenon?), Joey Barton, Cristiano Ronaldo, (surely just George Best with a tan?), the MOTD gang, a green and gold United jester hatted fan, Redknapp, Tevez, that well-known modern blight on the game - a brass band, and the phrase "SUPER SUNDAY".
Cue abrupt gear change and a new soundtrack. The made-of-twigs-and-dirt organic beer makers Elbow and "One Day Like This" and we find out what StandAMF presumably think is "real football" - black and white footage mostly - Stanley Matthews, the Celtic v Inter 1967 European Champions CUP - not League - final, the Arsenal v Leeds 1972 FA cup final, Shankly, Jock Stein, players larking about, someone buying a green and gold United scarf - not a jester hat, you'll notice - an AFC Wimbledon fan and, finally, fans on a coach (remember that? Why don't fans get coaches to matches anymore....?). Nostalgia is a cosy, comforting thing.
I'll cut to the chase - here's what I'm getting at. I think this Against Modern Football stance is just that. A stance. A pose.
I know a lot of football fans who either go to Premier League matches or watch games via their Sky subscriptions. Or both, which pretty much amounts to the same thing - feeding the industry that they claim to hate, and then sneer at modern evils like "goal music", the on, and off, field antics of spoiled millionaire players and the waving of plastic flags supplied by their clubs. This AMF stance reminds me of those people you talk to who were into a band when they used to play in dingy, dirty rooms above a pub to an audience of 12 people, but now their band - THEIR band - have had a string of number one hits and platinum albums and they now play sell-out stadium gigs.
Like the thousands who say they saw The Pistols at the 100 Club or the Lesser Free Trade Hall, a lot of these fans who claim to have seen the early gigs never did. I saw the early gigs. The first game I went to was in 1974 - I went to a lot of games in the 70's and 80's and I can tell you that those gigs were not as good as some people would like to remember. There were games when I actually feared for my life, crammed in like sardines and dodging fellow fans pissing on the terraces because you couldn't move, death trap venues and vile, vile hatred. That's how I remember football before the Premier League.
So what can the fan who is Against Modern Football do? I mean what can he do APART from clicking "like" on Facebook, buying a sticker or a badge, or a fanzine to have sticking out of his jacket pocket as he walks to the game so that everyone can see he is a REAL fan and not one of the arriviste w**kers with their jester hats and half and half scarves.What can he actually DO? Nothing. Nothing at all - to quote a favourite film - business is business and progress is progress. The only thing he can do is to withdraw. Give it up. Stop going and cancel your Sky Sports subscription. Sure there will be a queue of people ready to snap up your season ticket, but you're not happy with the "product" anyway, or so you keep saying.