Why English fans didn’t take up their Euro 2012 ticket allocation
A lot has been spoken, written and tweeted about this week, as to how terrible Ukraine and Poland will be as an experience for fans, how racism, violence and – heaven forbid – high hotel prices have caused English football fans to stay away from this summer’s European Championships.
I have another theory: England are shit, and the fans – often credited with the collective intelligence and fickle memories of a bunch of hungry toddlers – simply haven’t forgotten this time.
We’ve been shit since 1996 (when we weren’t shit, but we still lost). Just six years prior in 1990 came our high (when we were shit, then we weren’t shit, then we were just about shit again, but only at penalties), with some particularly shit years in ’92 and ’94. Before that we were pretty shit all the way back to 1966. We had a particularly high level of shitness – even by our own high standards – in the ‘70s.
The loyal England fans who have followed various messianic teams to all corners of the globe, competition after competition, decade after decade, in grand expectation of maybe being on the same flight home as their victorious heroes, have perhaps in this time of recession and financial hardship simply decided they have wasted enough money on this thankless pursuit of glory. Maybe they’ll take the missus and littl’uns to Skegness for a fortnight instead.
There can be no argument that the BBC Panorama programme this week showed some shocking scenes of violence and racist behaviour. But let’s be honest and call a shovel a shovel here: Our travelling fans have never been too far away from a dash of national anthem booing, never ones to shirk away from a beer fuelled slap or seven. Our football today is hardly the bastion of all things sacred, good and holy, so why would that discourage fan attendance? Our last England captain and Euro-starting centre-back is awaiting trial for ‘allegedly’ racially abusing the brother of his then international team mate. The captain of Manchester United and the star striker for Liverpool – the two most famous English clubs of course – were embroiled in a race row earlier in the season. Several fans have been arrested this year, charged and punished for racially abusing players in the English game, online.
Racism is everywhere and violence generally trundles not that far behind. Italy have also had their issues with fan violence, with racism. Samuel Eto’o spoke earlier in the season about the abuse he used to suffer playing in La Liga. It’s not just the Poles or the Ukrainians, and it’s by no means any more than a minority in any of these countries.
So how about we don’t demonise the hosts of this year’s Championships before it’s even begun. How about we don’t claim that their horrendous, shameful behaviour – behaviour you’d certainly never see a well-mannered English fellow engaging in of course – is to blame for the English fans not following their team. How about we just accept that the real reason, when all the nonsense is swept out of the way, is that there’s just nothing worth following for an English fan these days.
We’re shit. And we know we are.