I don't want to go on, I don't want to beat a dead horse, I don't want to drag attention away from positive news, but I feel as though I'm not done with the whole issue of the Aston Villa protest. I'm not even sure I can call it a protest, to be quite frank. The sentiment of it and the organisation of the protest cannot be put into any doubt and it's always good seeing fan movements gain traction, but is the timing right? Can it even be considered a protest?
Football isn't what it used to be. I'm not talking about 60's cosmopolitan footie, 70/80's violence, the Sky 90's and the money 00's. I'm going way back, when a bunch of church boys met under a lamppost in Handsworth, Birmingham and decided to knock together the football club we know as Aston Villa. People in the church's flock would go to Villa's games and eventually that progressed into a point where Victorian gentlemen would spend afternoons watching games on the Aston Lower Grounds admiring the play of the Scotsmen who had come down from the Highlands to ply their trade. Some of them stuck around and eventually one of them (who was the Chairman of Villa at the time) decided to become the father of modern football and form the 'Football League' with a bunch of other people.
The point I'm trying to make is that Aston Villa FC evolved quickly from a past time of a bunch of bored holy folk into a business venture for a Scotsman. I'm not sure anyone complained about that transformation back then. From the reading I've done, I feel pretty certain that both sets of fans applauded 'fine play' and some of the more notable aristocrats who played the sport gained a celebrity-like status and would celebrate goals with gambols, handstands and cartwheels. If we travel to modern times, that atmosphere is dead. It's gone. Fans sing when they are winning, fans boo their own teams, fans expect winning as if the price of a ticket entitles them to three points. You can already see how that relationship between the fans and club changed from Victorian times to now and how the sport became a spectacle or an exhibition of talent and evolved into what I now see as a service or a 'business transaction'.
I use the word business transaction very lightly, but I hope you can see what I mean. My feelings about this protest brought to mind the kind of complaints I've had to endure whilst working in shops, stores and radio stations. People who complain about things want to be right and they want people to agree, especially if a purchase is involved. Modern football fans pay for big TV's, Sky Sports passes, NBCSN, cable TV, broadband, travel, game tickets and expect a return on that. In a world where we can see Lionel Messi light up a pitch, CR7 bang a freekick into a goal or some Brazilian hotshot dribble a ball on his head, any time we want, how can football clubs expect fans to put up with mediocrity when we can instantly consume more and more information regarding football than ever before. If our clubs fail us in life, we can set up FIFA or Football Manager and instantly do better with a combination of buttons. We can armchair manage because tactical knowledge is so widespread and books like Inverting The Pyramid can help us understand something that we could have never comprehended before. We've become spoilt as football fans and we can no longer appreciate the true beauty of the game - Emile Heskey coming back to England to score on his debut for Bolton, a sliding tackle, a defence splitting past, a thumping cross bar, a curling free-kick. Maybe that's because we can just go on our phones and see people play the game so much better than anyone else.
So the protest? Sit out until the 8th minute of a football match and then come back into the Holte End for the remaining 82 minutes...
"We believe there is no better way of showing the board how we feel than having an empty Holte End for the first eight minutes of the Liverpool match this weekend, one for the past eight seasons under the current regime. After the eight minutes then take your seat and support the team fully for the remaining 82 minutes, a number synonymous with Villa's finest hour." - #WewantourVillaBack
My main issue with this is that there are many better ways of showing the board how you feel, such as an organised march or maybe not paying the board money by not going to the match? The first protest was against Villa's appointment of Alex McLeish, McLeish was a shockingly poor manager, who deserved his exit. The second protest was against the Oyston regime at Blackpool, where things are much, much more dire than in B6. Oyston got about 90 million for the playoffs, but decided not to increase wages which lead to a team with no talent going down the pan. Oyston didn't increase wages even with all the spare cash he had, but he did give 11 million pounds to his dad Owen, from the Club accounts. Owen is a convicted rapist. Oyston also called a fan 'retarded'. Worthy of a protest, right? Pillar of a community abusing his position? He wants to stay and use the club as his bank account whilst it flounders in the Championship.
Randy Lerner isn't playing the club, he's not lying, he's done a solid job and it's time for a change, but not one person has come forward to buy the club publicly. The protest seems to want rid of him, but how does that even work if he already wants out? It makes no sense at all! It's like protesting against the moon coming up at night and the sun rising in the day. Lerner wants to go!
I hope you, the reader do not take this as a shot at the fans who are 'protesting'. I simply mean to critique the means and manner of the protest. Sitting out for 8 minutes of a match honestly, without being too harsh, means nothing at all. The fans who protest will have still purchased a ticket, will have still brought beers, will likely be wearing merchandise and will probably be tweeting about the club. It seems a way of pussyfooting around a big subject, kind of like telling your mother you've tidied your room, but you've really just shoved everything under the bed. It's pointless. If you want to protest, don't buy a ticket, don't write blogs about Villa, don't speak about Villa, don't go to games, don't support the current regime, don't wear merchandise, organise marches, support a smaller club (Sutton Coldfield FC, Walsall FC, Romulus and others are right around the corner). What I'm saying is, if you want to protest, protest.
If you're joining in the 'protest', please share the link right at the top of this page. I don't support the protest, but the idea of a fan movement is still a step in the right direction for those who want change. I just wish we could all come together in total support of a floundering team for a full 90 minutes.