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I wouldn’t normally write a blog about being trolled online, however this one is different and is particularly interesting. You may remember that earlier this year I visited Millwall FC and made it the subject of one of my letters. To read it in full click here. In brief some of the subjects discussed were openly racist and homophobic behaviour, drug taking and a lack of cleanliness. A few Thursdays back a link to my blog was posted on a Millwall supporters internet forum under the subject heading of ‘just come across this sad cnt’. This sparked thousands of hits of traffic to my blog and discussions on social media. The comments made in this ‘backlash’ I believe completely justify and enforce my initial letter. I must confirm at this time that I have not heard back from anyone at the club.
First I would like to thank the original poster on that forum for driving a fair amount of targeted traffic to by blog, I bet even Google ads couldn’t have been more precise in bringing in people that needed to read the letter the most.
The disappointing thing is that in all of the comments not one person denied the contents of the letter, they just tried to belittle me as a complainer. 75% of the responses I received merely called me a ‘c*nt’ or enlarged upon that by calling me a ‘sad or boring c*nt’ Fair play. I don’t think I have ever knowingly been called a c*nt by so many people in such a small space of time. That’s another thing ticked off the bucket list! Reading into these comments, which isn’t to taxing the implication is that my blog in general is a waste of time and that I must be a right saddo to write all these letters. I’ll hold my hands up yeah, so what, everyone needs a hobby. I must add in my defence that not all these letters are complaints. Some I would describe as recommendations, ideas or enquires as well as congratulations. There is a broad scope of subjects discussed. The blog was clearly not fully read to appreciate this. I’ll also go as far as to say that the letter in question was not read in full by everyone from the unjustified abused received.
A number of people quoted the list of teams that I have visited recently mocking me and implied that it was a bad thing. The reason I put the list in was to illustrate that I have seen what other teams have to offer and that I am not complaining about Millwall on a whim without sound footing and comparable knowledge or experiences. I personally think that it also illustrates that my views on football are not confined to a singular viewpoint of supporting and visiting my own team of preference. I love the tribal nature of football and the ‘banter’ that it brings, but just because I support a specific team does not mean they are the best or their or their fans views, stances or positions are correct. It’s one of the reasons I like to visit other grounds and watch two teams compete as a neutral. I like to see the local area, the way the fans behave (as home or away) inside and outside the stadium, what the shop has to offer and what’s in the program, how the club interacts with the fans and of course what the atmosphere is like during the game. Some people implied I went there with the wrong intentions and that I was always going to walk away with a pre conceived point of view. You have to appreciate that the letter was written after the visit so there is creative license in how the letter was put together and i tried to tell the story of the day with a fair degree of facts and background, however I went there fully expecting the reputation to be non-existent purely because of the world we now live in where there are social expectations.
Again I will say not one person denied the facts I presented. How worrying is it that they feel that the behaviour I highlighted is acceptable. In fact one person quoted my comments where I have referred to racial abuse and merely said ‘what’s wrong with that?’ One individual calling himself ‘cockpissmillwall’ who sent me numerous tweets appeared to be suggesting that my letter was another instance of middle classes ruining the fun of the working class. Firstly if you’ve read any of my letter, there’s a clear indication of my class if that is even relevant. He repeatedly complained about my letter and indicated it was about ‘Millwall fans standing around drinking’. The fella along with many others clearly did not read the letter and just jumped on the abuse bandwagon. The issue is much more significant that a few pints.
I lot of people seem to have a romantic view of how football was back in the day. Everyone supported their local team, they walked to the stadium having a few pints on the way, paid for the ticket on the day and it cost loose change, everyone sang for the shirt and did it standing and then finished the afternoon in the pub after having an altercation with the away team on the streets. The same guys probably have a view that anything goes at football. Language, fighting and general bad behaviour are acceptable because it’s the lads day out for the football. Unfortunately life has changed. The world has changed. These guys that are passionately against modern football but still pay the excessive ticket prices, buy the replica kits every year, love Paddy Power and I bet all of them subscribe to sky sports so they can watch football whenever it’s on wherever it’s on and tweet 20 times to let anyone know if anyone cares . If we forget about the money in the game and how that has changed football (i.e. the players and the coverage and the costs for fans) what has really changed for the worse? It is not the product as football is infinitely better now than it was (my opinion based on very little) The answer it would appear is the atmosphere at most stadiums. Why is this? Most people can’t afford to go every week. This leads to ‘tourists’ and occasional fans. This has diluted the atmosphere in most popular clubs. How have Millwall retained their atmosphere? They haven’t followed with the times. If you have read my blog you will know I wrote to Reading FC to say I thought their atmosphere was non-existent. So I am pro improving the match day experience. It just needs to be well thought out so everyone can enjoy it, not just half cut lads.
I made a comment in my letter saying that Millwall should set a target to be family club of the year. I received copious tweets that the club were family club of the year. Unfortunately for the people that tweeted me, they are incorrect. The Football League family club of the year was Middlesbrough. The full list of nominees were Birmingham City, Bristol City, Oxford United, Plymouth Argyle and Wolverhampton Wanderers. So no sign of Millwall in sight. I must admit I was somewhat bewildered at the suggestion by Millwall Fans that their club had won family club of the year, so I did some research. In fact the club had been awarded the Family Excellence Award. Now on the face of it that would appear to be in a way somewhat prestigious and have rigorous standards that allow a club to obtain such an Award. I contacted the football league and enquired as to how the football league goes about carrying out their assessment. Their response was as follows;
Thank you for your email and interest in the Football League Family Excellence Awards.
The Family Excellence Awards have run since 2005/6 and highlight clubs’ work in providing an outstanding experience to families attending their games (http://www.football-league.co.uk/page/FamilyExcellenceAward/0,,10794,00.html).
All 72 Football League clubs receive two mystery family visits throughout the season. The families are independently chosen and do not have any existing affiliation to a particular club. The families mark their experiences and provide both quantitative and qualitative feedback on a range of touchpoint areas including, ‘first impressions and buying tickets’, ‘the journey to the match’, ‘the Stadium vicinity’, ‘the Club shop’, ‘Refreshments’ and ‘Inside the Stadium’. Crucially they are asked to state whether they would recommend the experience to other families. Clubs achieving the required level of recommendation, and displaying excellence in their family engagement, successfully achieve the Family Excellence Award.
Some clubs fall into a judging category if they do not automatically ‘pass’, with the judging panel involved in giving the award made up of representatives from clubs across the Football League and representatives from Supporters Direct.
All 72 clubs across The Football League are assessed in the same way based entirely on the family experience at the matches visited and no other external factors.
Thank you for contacting The Football League.
In addition to this I noted that out of the 72 football league clubs that 47 achieved the standard. The list of areas that are considered appear to be limited. The journey to the match, the vicinity, the club shop and refreshments to my mind, despite the fact I commented on them in my letter and what I said above, are largely irrelevant when assessing a family club. Crucially and what I believe limits the credibility of the award is that it is based on 2 families single independent experiences. Really any kind of award should be carried out by a governing body with strict guidelines which result in yes or no answers in order to form an opinion on whether the club is suitable for families. I can only assume that in the example of Millwall that the 2 families that visited the club that they both visited the family enclosure and that the culture in this area is significantly different to the area I visited. Taking this point one set further I received an exceptionally long comment from someone called ‘Simon Miles’ who made a decent effort to make it clear that he was in no shape of form a Millwall fan, despite the essay that followed that clearly demonstrated that he was. He told me that if I went to Burnley, Notts County and Rochdale I would see the same behaviour. He went on to tell me that it is normal for guys to smoke in toilets in football grounds and to snort cocaine. Simon does that make it right? He went on to say that if I’m not going to write to all clubs then I shouldn’t bother targeting Millwall. Ridiculous. The letter was about my real life experience. 100% factually correct.
I have been accused of wanting to sanitise football and that I am ‘everything that’s wrong with post Euro 96 football’. It literally couldn’t be any further from the truth. If you have children you may appreciate my point more. I want my son to grow up and know right from wrong, to know how to treat others and have respect without having disclaimers like ‘we are at the football’ so we can get away with unacceptable behaviour including racial abuse. That is just clearly bang out of order. I love football and I want it to be a safe environment where everyone can enjoy it today. All ages, races, religions or sexual persuasions! Why does it matter? Surely all that matters is that you support your team, that’s who you are and have fun win, lose or draw.
The reality is that I don’t take myself too seriously and nor does the blog. I believe that I have tackled real issues and well as more light hearted or frankly irrelevant topics. That’s why I found some of the comments quite amusing. I think my personal favourite was from shed bragger ‘arthur2shedsjackson’ who said ‘So he goes all around Europe watching teams he doesn’t support and then writes letters to people who don’t give a shit‘. I have to say he has a point. I love that line and I am going to adopt it for the blog.
Do I hope Millwall fans read this post. To be honestly I am not that bothered. I felt I had to put some words down on paper in part just to work out a) what happened b) if I was out of line and c) what the real problem is. I hope the club read my letter and considered the comments and try to improve their club for the better. I never intended any offence, but I felt I needed to display the facts and assess them based on my experiences and expectations as a father who enjoys going to the football. I also hope that the Football League implements a better system so that they award clubs that genuinely deserve recognition. Lastly I hope the fans of Millwall try and change and think about their own children.