Insulting our intelligence

English football supporters are famously anarcho-communist.

And where would we be without progressive terrace manifestos?

It’s all about the politics, see. The Observer told you that weeks ago.

And that’s why you have to applaud the Southwark Lib Dems, for latching onto the Hamlet’s popularity, and trying to commandeer some of the club’s appeal for their own political purposes. It’s what any proper Hamlet fan would do.

Alright, retracting the claws, there is some merit to what Ben Maitland and the Liberal Democrats in the local area are saying. It would be churlish to dismiss their arguments blithely. Anybody arguing against property developers building expensive luxury flats, and building on green space, is worth listening to.

The Lib Dem’s website has this to say, beneath this in no way opportunistic snap of Ben and Simon Hughes, watching Dulwich:

libdems

Local Liberal Democrats are proud to support Dulwich Hamlet, and will fight alongside fans and residents to ensure that Dulwich Hamlet has a ground and facilities that guarantees its future and reflects the club’s ambitions, growing fan base and importance to the local community.

In the rest of the article it is obvious that their primary concern is campaigning to prevent Green Dale being built on. That in itself will be lauded as a worthy campaign by many (presumably the Lib Dems believe so, at least), and the party should be honest about its genuine concerns, rather than indulging in transparent bandwagoning.

Anyway, back to the above quote. What is meant by “Local Liberal Democrats are proud to support Dulwich Hamlet”? What precisely does that support consist of, I wonder, beyond turning up for a photo opportunity at a well publicised game, where a large crowd was likely?

It would be interesting to know how regularly Ben attends games. If he does often show up to support the club, that’s great. I hope he does, because all this talk about supporting the club and fighting on behalf of the fan base appears disingenuous otherwise.

Moving on, the quote says the Lib Dems want to ensure that Dulwich has a ground that “guarantees its future and reflects the club’s ambitions”. There is no clarification on why they feel the current Champion Hill facilities are best suited to protecting the future of the club, and accommodating its ambitions of growth.

Is this because the Lib Dems haven’t actually given that much thought to whether the current ground really is the best thing for the club?

The article goes on to state that the planned new stadium “risks attendances plummeting” because it “lacks the appropriate access and sufficient space for fans”.

When you have a moment, take a look at Champion Hill on Google Maps. Turn the aerial view on. Have a look at the old sports surface that takes up a section of Green Dale already, and sits directly behind the current stadium. That’s where the new ground would be.

On what planet is it sensible to claim that the “access” to the area directly next to the current pitch will be so poor, that attendances will plummet?

As for not having sufficient space, will the fans of the club not be able to console themselves, by enjoying the fact that they nevertheless have more space than they used to, since the capacity will be larger than at the present ground?

Crowds are increasing, but I don’t think a 30,00 seater is required.

In any case, it would be interesting to hear the Lib Dems explain how the current stadium offers sufficient space, while the proposed larger capacity ground would not.

As we all know, football fans are not the real target, here.

Out of 1000 Hamlet fans, how many live in south Camberwell? The answer is, well who cares what the answer is. The Lib Dems think campaigning for “green space,” no matter how disingenuously, will appeal to a far greater number of people living in the local area.

I wouldn’t mind if they’d drop the pretense about being the real supporters of the club, fighting for its future. It wouldn’t take a campaign planning expert to realise that the actual real supporters of the club would find that insulting.

But then, as I said, I think we are rather inconsequential. Saturday’s game provided a good opportunity for a photo to stick on promotional material, talking about how the Lib Dems really care about local institutions like football clubs while, oh yeah, campaigning against a loss of Green Space™ while they’re at it.

Advertisements

Hardcore Ultras

I’ve missed the last two games, the last ditch win at Hampton & Richmond, and Saturday’s defeat at Burgess Hill. The win over Leatherhead feels like ages ago, and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to attending a Hamlet match. It’s funny how quickly you can get into following a club.

I’ve tried to arouse interest in a couple of friends, people who like going to football matches, but the response has mainly been that they think the standard will be too low. People imagine it will be like watching some pub blokes have a kickabout on Clapham Common.

It’s a misconception I’ve tried to debunk (with very limited success), because I myself was pleasantly surprised by what I found at this level.

Far from cloggers hoofing aimlessly, Gavin Rose’s men play an attractive style, combining some decent distribution, ambitious forward runs, and occasionally some incisive passing in attacking midfield.

There are still one or two people I might convince, and fortunately I’ve had company for the games I’ve attended thus far. I can attest to their having enjoyed the experience more than they expected.

I wonder what the consensus among the more established Dulwich fanbase is, regarding new supporters. After the Leatherhead game, several commented on the much improved atmosphere, compared to that produced by the bumper 1500+ crowd at the Billericay game three days prior.

I suppose the majority will sit somewhere between wanting to retain a concentrated bloc of vocal fans, and wanting more fans putting money into the club. I expect there is room to cater for both concerns, as long as the more vocal supporters get to stand together and, hopefully, attract new like-minded fans also.

I didn’t arrive at Dulwich for the atmosphere or the politics, personally. It was mainly about enjoying football without all of the commercialism and hyperbole.

Still, the nature of the fanbase is a big bonus factor for me. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting into non-league football is the self-awareness and grounded sensibility at the heart of the fan culture.

Unlike what can often be found in the higher echelons of football fandom, and contrary to the militantly politicised image that journalists want to portray of Hamlet fans, you always understand that people are having a laugh with it.

Hamlet fans are passionate alright, in supporting the team and, as we’ve seen recently, in promoting progressive attitudes and pitching in to help those in need.

But while they tell you of the inevitability of luxury automated communism, they’ll be dancing around having a party, half taking the piss out of themselves. Not wearing black hooded jackets and making throat slitting gestures.

Unless we’re playing Tooting and Mitcham, obviously.

Good old fashioned football

There’s a lot of stuff in the media about the growth in Hamlet’s support, and how supporting the club is about fighting fascism and eating bratwurst. It got me thinking about what attracted me to the club.

I’ve always been left wing, and it’s nice to know a sizable contingent of Dulwich fans are likely to share my views on a number of social issues. That’s not always been the case when, at Premier League grounds, you can find yourself surrounded by furious men shouting their way through questionable ditties.The club and its fans laudably strive for positive action within the community and, well, stickers bearing a fist bashing Nigel Farage’s face are always going to be a winner.

eafeddbb-bcff-4129-abba-0c604d1997bb-2060x1438

But what about the actual football? The Communist Party of Britain has its headquarters in Croydon, and the Socialist Party of Great Britain is based in Clapham. If you’re purely looking for left wing political movements to join, it would make more sense to contact one of those groups and get involved in their activities. If the media reports are to be believed, the new wave of fans at Dulwich aren’t interested in football, they’ve just seen another facet of working class life that can provide a bit of fun for a while.

Quaffing “craft” ale (when did it stop just being ale?), and penning slogans about the coming emancipation from wage slavery, are noble pursuits, of course, and the “H word” has quickly been drained of all meaning by the late-to-the-party mainstreamers who, seemingly unaware of the irony, now dispatch it indiscriminately against anyone they want to disparage in order to feel better about themselves. But is there any truth to the notion that people start following the club simply because it seems trendy, or because they just like the idea of waving Pride flags around and getting smashed on Buckfast?

Well, who gives a shit?

Perhaps it’s not really for a newcomer to say it but, if people are attracted to the club, let them come. If they enjoy the feeling of being welcomed into a community more than they care about the quality of the football or the results, who cares?

There is always a large number of salt-o-the-earth supporters at Premier League grounds who complain about the numbers of “day trippers” and yet get so smashed in the pub before the game, they barely register what happens on the pitch. Do the journalists write about those fans? No, because there is no story there. And even if there was, no middle class journalist is going to write an article that draws a caricature of working class fans as boorish drunkards who can barely stand up straight during the match.

But there is a story to be had when the journalist hears about “hipsters” suddenly turning up in their droves to chant about socialism while watching a team that wears pink and plays in Dulwich, because “hipster” is a buzz word that the journalist has recently learned, and those middle class lefty types won’t be up in arms if you dismiss them in such an ignorant way.

It’s the journalists themselves who are the hipsters, isn’t it? Jumping on any cultural meme they think they can get a bit of currency out of, using it for their own benefit without a fuck given for the accuracy of their articles, exactly as they accuse the new Dulwich fans of doing the same to the club. But if those Dulwich fans are turning up to games regularly, perhaps even getting involved in activities organised by other supporters, then they’re doing a lot more than this dictionary definition of “hipster” suggests:

  1. a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.

In fact, following a football club is by no means a latest trend, and it isn’t outside of the cultural mainstream. Unless, that is, you read “cultural mainstream” as “corporately commandeered cultural pastime that has become little more than a means of exploiting working people for every last penny you can squeeze”. In which case, yeah, non-league clubs in general are outside the cultural mainstream.

And what about the Hamlet fans who aren’t there for the politics, and happen to support Dulwich the same way (or, more likely, not the same way) that the journalist supports Arsenal? Supporters who, irrespective of class, turn up each week solely for the enjoyment of watching the team play football?

I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of the new wave of Hamlet fans have turned to the club because they became aware of an alternative to the experience as a customer of Premier League clubs. Fifty quid for a ticket, fifty quid each year to be a “member”, entitling you to the square root of being a mug, crowds that bitch and moan all the time unless they’re winning 5-0, players strutting around the pitch looking useless, safe in the knowledge they’ve just stashed another fifty grand in the bank, and the constant barrage of football “banter” that permeates every aspect of life, an endless stream of people who never actually watch the club they “support”, but will bend your ear eight hours a day in the office about Man United or Liverpool.

Yeah, watching Nyren Clunis tear down the right wing at Kingsmeadow in front of 442 of us was much more fun, actually. If that makes me a hipster, sign me up.