Two of Arsenal’s biggest supporters’ groups have called for co-ordinated protest at Saturday’s match against Norwich – in a bid to force change at the top of the club.
The Black Scarf Movement and REDaction Gooners described the club as “stale” and have called on fans attending Saturday’s televised match to hold up posters that call for a fresh approach.
In its statement, the Black Scarf Movement said: “We are seeing the same failures year after year, and amid rumours that Arsene Wenger may be given a new three-year contract there really seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Kroenke and the board are seemingly content with Champions League cash, so outside of finishing fourth best in the league there is no pressure at all on the manager. This isn’t good enough. It’s time for change.
“Whether it’s the manager, whether Stan Kroenke has to go and whether the board needs shaking up and reminding that we’re a football club, change is needed at Arsenal, A fresh approach to bring some excitement back to this great club of ours.
“We host Norwich this coming Saturday in what’s become a pretty meaningless end of season kick about. At this game we would like as many fans as possible to show their desire for change at Arsenal by holding up signs demanding that action is taken. “We’ve seen Coventry City do this successfully at Emirates already, and abroad there has been massive success with this approach.”
A co-ordinated statement released by REDaction Gooners said:
“It’s pretty clear that things aren’t right at Arsenal.
“We have an absentee owner who takes money from the club whilst not engaging with fans. We have a manager who won’t use the resources available to him, to strengthen a squad which everybody can see needs investment.
“Throw in some of the highest ticket prices in world football. And, all of the Groundhog seasons, where it’s clear that the fans’ ambitions are not matched by those in charge.
“Fans are fighting each other over what exactly is wrong and who is to blame – but it’s clear that we are in a rut, and that something needs to change.
“Lots of people have opinions on how fans can make our voices heard. At Saturday’s game against Norwich, we are calling on fans to send a co-ordinated message – together we are stronger.”
There are already deep divisions among fans of the club and I suspect this move will only serve to deepen that divide, perhaps irrevocably. For my own part, I can truly say I have never been as conflicted as I find myself today.
It’s difficult to disagree with a lot of what is being said. Stan Kroenke probably doesn’t give a monkey’s about Arsenal – so long as he can continue to take money out of the club for services he imagines are rendered. Does he care if we win the Premier League? As long as the TV revenues and Champions League revenues keep rolling in, I suspect not.
Investment has improved at the club after a lengthy lean spell, but last summer, with an enormous cash reserve in the bank, scarce more than £10million was laid out. I don’t think many people would disagree that a solitary signing simply wasn’t enough. The way the season has imploded this year has borne that assertion out.
What about a shake up at board level? Again, I struggle to disagree. There simply doesn’t seem to be much ambition from the board – not in the footballing sense, at least. Of course, they have done a superb job with the club’s finances, second to none in some respects, but they appear to demand little of the manager other than the status quo – something which has become unpalatable to fans.
But will holding up placards during the match really force change? Will it do anything other than shake the morale of an already fragile team?
In order for a protest to be truly effective it needs the oxygen of publicity, so I understand why the groups are calling for a mid-game demonstration, they want exposure and TV cameras are a uniquely useful way of achieving that.
But I suspect that an in-game protest will simply risk widening the rift between many fans, and cause a gap to open up between supporters and the team, who may or may not feel as though the anger of fans is directed at them.
And, should the protest fail to garner widespread support, with only pockets of posters around the ground, it will surely project weakness and division, which could be even worse for the club going into the summer.
All things considered, I neither condemn, not endorse this particular protest – there is simply too much bad-feeling and division among fans already, and I don’t see it helping in that regard.
For me, the best way to protest for anyone minded to go down that road would be in the build-up to the game. When the whistle blows, the supporters should be behind their team, and not concentrating on unfurling posters.
But, at the same time, the club belongs to its fans and if there are a significant number who feel as though they want to protest, it would be wrong to deny them that right, so long as it is proportionate and, of course, legal.