So fans need instructions on scarf-waving now?
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium gleamed in the sunshine on Saturday as the north London side produced an exhilarating display to beat Portsmouth 4-1 in the Premier League.
The impressive structure, wedged into a densely populated part of the capital, is one of England’s finest club grounds but many of the 60,000 fans sat on their comfy plastic seats would have pined for the old Highbury ground just across the road.
Highbury, like Goodison Park, White Hart Lane, Anfield and the old Maine Road, was born in an era when football was the traditional “working class” escape from a hard week’s labour.
Just being at the ground, watching your favourite players, was enough reason to raise the voice and wave the scarf. Things were spontaneous, sons followed fathers as the terrace folklore was passed down from one generation to the next.
Old-school football fans are watching the Saturday afternoon traditions die.
So it is that the image gurus at Arsenal are busy devising ways to re-create what the march of money, live TV, expensive tickets and millionaire players has eroded.
“Arsenalisation” they are calling it. The club is promising a number of measures to try and link the concrete and plastic bowl that the Emirates is to Arsenal’s rich history.
On Saturday this involved the placing of a free red and white scarve on every seat.
Page 12 of the glossy matchday programme instructs fans to place the scarf above their heads when the players come out and to remember to bring them to the next game.
True, it looked good, but have football fans become so pampered that they now have to be given instructions on scarf-waving? Arsene Wenger said he was a big fan of the initiative, eluding to the fact that “soul and love” appeared to be missing at the new edifice.
Once upon a time, taking a scarf, a rosette, bobble hat or banner was just instictive behaviour…new songs would float down from the terraces on a weekly basis.
Arsenal just pump up the volume on the Elvis Presley classic The Wonder of You which for reasons not quite clear has been adopted as their theme tune.
This is by no means a dig at Arsenal. The fact they have identified a problem is to their credit.
Other stadiums also appear to have to initiate the atmosphere. At nearby Tottenham the Tannoy blares a medley of some of the club’s anthems before kick-off while at Wembley Stadium, fans are blasted with a selection of the winning club’s favourite tunes, as if they need a helping hand to celebrate.
With the old Victorian stadium gradually disappearing (White Hart Lane, Anfield and Goodison Park may all soon be gone) clubs will increasingly have to come up with gimmicks in a bid to maintain their identity.
And another thing, since when do self-respecting football fans need to be reminded of the score at halftime and fulltime. It’s another iritating trend that appears designed for the corporate hospitality brigade who might have missed something while tucking into their canapes.
PHOTO: A young Arsenal fan holds up his scarf before their English Premier League soccer match against Portsmouth at the Emirates Stadium in London August 22, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh