D Reilly

Why are football fans such patsies?

Why are football fans such patsies?
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I have been called every name under the sun by a great many people since my defence of Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger was published in the Spectator on Thursday.

Naturally, most of the abuse has been online, but a little came my way on more traditional media. A caller to BBC Radio Ulster, for example, branded me 'disgusting'.

My favourite insult came from Piers Morgan, whom I admire tremendously. Without any trace of irony, he dismissed me to his six million Twitter followers as an 'agent provocateur'. But perhaps, coming from him, this wasn’t really an insult.

According to the vast majority of my abusers, my crime was not my support for the embattled Wenger, although it must be said not everyone agreed with my position. Instead, my crime was switching allegiance from supporting Manchester United to supporting Arsenal. Or, at least, admitting to it.

The concept of doing such a thing was, and continues to be, mind-blowing for the Twitter intelligentsia. Unthinkable. The rage I encountered made that obvious. But maddeningly, for me, not one single person of the thousands who took the time to send vitriol my way explained why what I had done was so bad. No one bothered to tell me why it is not alright to choose to change the football team you support. I’d genuinely love to know.

The more I think about it, the more obvious it seems football clubs in this country and around the world are pulling off the greatest legal con job in the history of commerce.

Fans, all too easily made idiotic with love for their team, are being bled dry by clubs that care not one jot for them beyond their ability to keep unquestioningly stumping up increasingly large amounts of money, no matter what product is delivered on the pitch.

They can do this thanks to a culture they and broadcasters have cynically propagated that tells fans they can never change allegiance, that they are part of something, without ever explaining why or exactly what. Nothing else in life inspires this unthinking, expensive and pitiful loyalty. It’s insane.

I’ve also discovered through the abuse I have received that fans, like ecstatic cuckolds, wear the misery inflicted on them by their beloved clubs as a badge of honour. There is competitiveness in their despair and devotion. Who loves the club the most? Who has suffered the most and is therefore the most ‘real’?

The romance that surrounds football is utterly one sided and it makes fans horribly vulnerable to being taken advantage of, which is what is happening. Football clubs are not in any way romantic. Like drug dealers, they are hard-eyed, commercially-minded and out for everything they can get. Luckily for them, they have literally millions of doped-out patsies to fleece week after week after week, year after year after year.

The abuse I received was mostly very funny, but also enlightening. There is a cultural message so constant it’s become like the car alarm we’ve stopped hearing, despite its immense volume and clarity: your football club does not love you, no matter how much you love it. It has only contempt for you.

Shoot the messenger all you like. That’s the truth.