Earlier this morning, The Black Scarf Movement announced the results of the survey which the commissioned after the League Cup defeat against Chelsea, a match which saw the BSM attempt to get like minded fans together to create a passionate atmosphere in an attempt to be Arsenal’s 12th man. Despite the best efforts of the leadership and members of the BSM, a mixture of over zealous stewarding and not all the fans in blocks 19, 18 & 17 being willing participants led the initiative to be a relative failure. Highbury Harold of the BSM said:
“it was more like pissing into that St Jude storm while being battered with a water cannon of piss at the same time.”
On the back of this, the BSM commissioned their survey, to get the opinion of Arsenal fans and hopefully be the 1st step on the ladder to making the atmosphere better for all. 17,377 supporters took part.
52.6% of all who took part rated the Emirates atmosphere as ‘poor’ and 41.5% as average. Just 5.9% rated it as good. The biggest surprise, for me, is that nearly 6% of all those who took part felt the atmosphere is good. Now either these fans only go to the Spurs/AC Milan games, or they have fairly low standards. I personally answered average, as for ‘non elite’ games, the fans often sit there with a ‘well entertain me then’ attitude, waiting for the action to spark them into life, rather than being a true 12th man.
17,377 took part. It will be interesting to get a break down on this figure of season ticket holders, regular go’ers, occasional go’ers and those who live abroad who have never been. One of the big things about the BSM is they see it that we are all in this together. No matter if you have not missed a game in 50 years, or if you have never been to a game, it is our Arsenal so we all deserve a view. However, for me, if you have never been to a game, and never plan to, you should not be answering a game on the Emirates atmosphere. It is like voting for which turkey you want for Christmas when you are the vegetarian of the family. It would have been nice to get the break down.
Moving on, the BSM bought into discussion a second singing section. For a long time, it has been a Black Scarf Movement initiative to ‘bring back the Clock End’. The question about a 2nd singing section was clearly a ‘set-up question’ to then be followed up by a discussion about a new Clock end. 95.9% felt that “the atmosphere would benefit from introducing another singing section”.
When it came to the Clock End question, 87.9% backed the initiative. Now for me, ‘bringing back the Clock End’ is something which needs proper debate. Whilst in theory, it makes sense. Getting like minded, loud fans together in one area, next to the away fans, to drown out the away fans voices and create an atmosphere which will ripple around the stadium. It makes sense. However there are a key factor to remember.
The club has recently created the ‘Young Guns Enclosure’, for Junior Gunners aged 12-16 years old, where there are 1,000 tickets available for £10 for weekend Premier League category B and C matches. The club introduced this initiative after a demand from all Arsenal fans groups to make more, cheaper, tickets available to young supporters. There is no where else in the stadium these can be ‘moved’ too, without enforcing current season ticket holders to be moved.
It is no surprise that the ‘recreate the Clock End’ got the lowest percentage of positive results (still a very high 87.9%) then all other questions on atmosphere as many people would have had the Young Guns Enclosure in mind.
Can both the Young Guns Enclosure and Clock End sit in harmony? Is there space for both in the Clock End? Should the young guns take up half of the slow selling out Family Enclosure ? If not, who should take residence? Should other season ticket holders be moved to accommodate new season ticket’s in the Clock End? There are plenty of unanswered questions that will need to be explored. But there is clearly a want for a Clock End.
The final question, and for me most important, was about safe standing. It is backed by 91.5% of those fans who took part. Arsene Wenger has already said he wants it, Ivan Gazidas has also mentioned he is pro safe-standing and the fans clearly want it. Obviously it is out of the fans, clubs and even Premier League’s hands, as it is government legislation which currently outlaws standing at top level football games. ‘Health and Safety’ is the reasoning. Hillsborough happened nearly 25 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Football has changed. The mentality of fans has changed. There is no reason to not have safe standing. The area behind the North Bank goal would be perfect for this, running from Block 6 to Block 11.
Safe standing would then get rid of the need for a 2nd singing section, as standing will organically improve the atmosphere, and we would end up with a ‘singing end’ rather then 2 singing sections. It would allow Arsenal to mimic the old Kop End’s, Dortmund’s yellow wall, the old North Bank, etc.
Safe standing is currently backed by 25 professional clubs, as well as the Scottish Premier League. Aston Villa, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Hull City, Sunderland and Swansea City are the only current Premier League side who back the initiative. Arsenal have, for a long time, been the leader of English football. whether it be names on shirts or floodlights, where Arsenal have gone, other clubs have followed. Arsenal should start to take the lead when it comes to safe standing.
The results of the BSM survey are clear. The atmosphere in the Emirates is, at best, average. The club needs to work together with fans and authorities to improve this atmosphere. There is plenty the club can do. There is plenty the fans themselves can do. And there is plenty the authorities need to do. I will leave the final words on the BSM survey to the BSM themselves:
“It has long been our members thoughts that the atmosphere in the ground is poor. Giving it names such as the soulless bowl. Attempts from the BSM to get some atmosphere in the ground were met with some reluctance from the club as was shown recently at the Chelsea Capital One Cup match. We hope that with our survey findings the club are open to the fact that there is a big problem there and with our help hope we can address that and better the match day experience for the fans'”
The full results of the Black Scarf Movement can be found here.