Why Coventry's 'Why?' & 'When?' At Arsenal Was A True Punk Protest
A drizzly night in the Emirates and five thousand Coventry fans prepare for an FA Cup exit after seeing their defence cut apart twice in the opening half by the fierce precision of Lukas Podolski, who carved through yellow shirts like a hot knife through a particularly cheap brand of butter.
For a league-topping Gunners side, the game felt like a formality and whilst Coventry's City's Stephen Pressley prowled the technical area, Arsene Wenger covered his legs with a blanket to keep out the cold. In footballing terms, it should have been a 'dead cert' for Arsenal but for the Sky Blues it was a rare opportunity to be in front of the cameras and shed some light on an unrelenting period of administrative turmoil.
In the 35th minute, Coventry's fans lifted their skinny fists skywards clutching on to A3 pieces of paper declaring 'Why? in bold font, to a standing ovation from the hosts. As a West Midlands club not particularly known for it's philosophical standpoints, it was safe to assume that this was not a Nietzschean question thought up by supporters who've been reading too many Joey Barton tweets.The timing was in fact significant for the beleaguered supporters to raise a defiant 'Why?' to their owners, as thirty five is the number of miles that they must travel in order to attend their 'home' games this season.
Due to administrative issues between SISU, the hedge fund owners of the club and other parties who own the stadium, the Coventry City team have taken their balls and have been shipped to Northampton Town's Sixfields Stadium since the beginning of the season, leaving their Premier League built Ricoh Arena as an empty husk in the city itself, a football ghost town.
This first question was followed by a further 'When?' in the sixty first minute, a nod back to a more successful era for the Sky Blues under Jimmy Hill and a wondering whether these past glories would be ever re-visited as the away team suffered a 4-0 defeat.
It seemed that all Arsenal fans present were in full support of a group looking to protest the mistreatment by their own board, but who would look to belittle such a heartfelt protest? Surely everyone is on the side of the underdog in this case? Wrong.
As Twitter consistently proves, some people never have a good 140 characters to say about anything and it seems that there was a vocal minority which felt that paper based questioning was not quite enough from the City fans; 'Coventry owners won't care about bits of A4 being waved…What is it meant to spell out?....Could they not have coloured them in at least?…Surely if they're protesting they should just not turn up at all?' moaned the collective cyber hive mind.
Counter-arguments can be given to these online grumbles however. In terms of protesting with your feet and not attending, Coventry fans have in mass declined to take up the attendance offer at their supposed 'home' fixtures in Northampton, with home figures plummeting to some of the lowest in the club's long history. This is no easy task when your team starts the season with a ten point deduction which is almost instantly vaporised by a string of high quality performances and nine goal thrillers. Yet still, over half way through the season, Sixfields continues to be nearly as empty as the ground left behind.
As for the idea that the Sky Blue's decision to display their message through the medium of sheets of paper was not quite visual enough for the cynics, it shows that we as a nation have been spoilt by the Europeans.
It was safe to assume that this was not a Nietzschean question thought up by supporters who've been reading too many Joey Barton tweets
With more football from across the continent being available to watch in the UK than ever, fans have become accustomed to displays of artistic endeavour; the likes of the huge flags of the Bundesliga, the elaborate 'binocular man' by Dortmund's yellow wall, the 'Being Cristiano Ronaldo' face masks in the Berneabau, or AC Milan fans depicting their neighbouring rivals as Ned Flanders in the Derby della Madonnina. All these displays are fantastic examples of the creative ability of these passionate fan bases, but to compare top league European fan art to the efforts of a provincial League One side is like comparing Frank Zappa to Crass. Yes, both are musicians but one creates works of creative beauty whereas the other is an anti-establishment DIY effort which is intentionally rough around the edges. Just because one is not as technically superior does not make it any less valid.
To look at things from an economical standpoint, the Sky Blue support had already paid out for their away seats, train tickets, tube travel as well as food and drink in the ground, so maybe it should come as little surprise that there was not enough change left in their back pockets for a whip-round in order to hire Neil Buchanan for the evening, to put together a 'big art attack' which effectively displayed a 'shove it, SISU' sentiment.
Of course we should marvel and gawp at the fantastic fan art from our European cousins, but Coventry fans should be applauded for their DIY punk ethic. A completely non commercial display from a side that has been led into obscurity by a misguided search for commercial success. What could be more British than a protest created solely from office supplies and on someone else’s printing credit?"