Category Archives: Manchester United

The Vagina of Imogen Thomas v Seriously Debating Democratic Organisation

There are a lot of miserable old-before-their-time lefties who argue sport is part of a bread & circuses phenomenon of social control.

I like to disagree.

But consider this weekend:

AFC Wimbledon, a democratically run fan-owned football club born of a bizarre, clumsy & ultimately capitalist injustice, win promotion to football league… but low brow gossip and awful Twitter jokes about Ryan Giggs’ naughties continue to dominate the agenda.
Sure, there are principled nuances to the Giggs story in the ethical & legal debates surrounding the use of super-injunctions by the rich. But in AFC Wimbledon there is case study in people organising themselves, successfully so. But what reports of the Dons’ success I have seen have been so simplistic and unquestioning they may as well have not bothered.

Tittilation has won.

This is reason no. 1,527 why the miserable old lefties think football fans are dismissable cunts, and they are right.

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Filed under AFC Wimbledon, Manchester United, Politics

The World Cup

There is so much awful about football. It is commercialised to a surreal but ultimately abusive degree. The partakers are far from the Cantona/Socrates ideal. The fans are sheep who don’t know what’s good for them (see: Manchester United fans campaigning against the owners dressed in official replica gear).

And the World Cup is the epitomy of it. A postmodern hypercapitalist slapgasm of mass-inescapability.

But it is also perhaps the biggest ritual in the world. Sorry to get all Durkheimian, but social life exists through and for these rituals. The point shouldn’t be to close off people’s participation in rituals, but to try to claim them, rebuild them.

I adore the World Cup – partly out of strong nostalgia, admittedly – but I hang a DIY glittered & sloganed St. George’s flag from my window, my skincrawls at every single “Official Butternut Squash Supplier to the England Team” type tie-in, I feel a strong sense of dislocation from many other fans.

But I refuse to give up my right as a social animal to this ritual just because it’s fucked up. Indeed, I feel a sense of both duty & fun in doing whatever little I can to deviate it, to Vaughanify it.

Every night I fall asleep dreaming of sporting deviance.

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Filed under 2010 World Cup, Cantona, Culture, England, Football, Manchester United, Personal Memories, Ritual, Sociology

The Glazer Takeover of Manchester United FC

Recently I’ve been cultivating the interesting habit of approaching strangers wearing green & yellow scarves and discussing the political economy & ontology of football fandom. Sort of. And this is a blog post about it. Time to address the elephant in the womb: the Glazer takeover of Manchester United FC and the various things it means, or could mean.

United. Fuck me. What an evocative word. United. United. I Love that word. United. United. United, United, United, UnitedUnitedUnitedUnited. A lot of snottynosed political correctionists erroneously claim that there are several clubs all with an equal claim to the name United. They are wrong. There is only one United. Admit it! As I wrote elsewhere, “The truth, the terrible thrilling dynamic truth, is that there is only one United. The others are wandering, aimless, undead. They’ve been fucked. And we stood back and watched it happen. Though I dare say it was so wrapped up with wider socio-economic transformations that the only way to save these (non-existant) golden years was a vigorous anti-capitalism over the entire post-war period. Too late. Absolutely too late.”

I grew up as a United fan. My mum had been a quite zealous fan since the late 60s, enticed by a decades-spanning crush on George Best. Nothing quite compares with something you learn to adore as a child. You mind is drunk on a nostalgic warmth since before you can remember, your own time immemorial. Wildly subjective, yes, but they did and do mean a lot to me, deep in my guts. My intestines slither like snakes for them.

But my manchild adoration of United hit enormous difficulties when the controversial takeover by the Glazer family finally went through in May 2005. I like many fans had been against it, and had campaigned against it. The takeover was financed by incredible levels of debt, and many of us had very romantic (and impractical) notions of the supporters “owning” the club… The Glazer takeover was a double insult.

Ever since the takeover I have had a lonely sense of detachment from my childhood sweetheart.

The green & yellow (or, gold – apparently) has been adopted as a visible sign of antiGlazerism, that simultaneously manages to be both challengingly subversive and highly traditionalist/conservative (green & gold were the original colours of the club, back in the 19th Century when they were known as Newton Heath). The best of both worlds. The authenticity of both progress and history. Well done! I would say this is the very epitome of what fandom desires. And I’m quite sure once the instability of Glazernomics are sorted out Nike will relish producing a green & gold commemorative kit to celebrate the passing of a regime they had happily worked with.

When I speak to these antiGlazerists in the scarves we talk inevitably about the takeover being “wrong”. No discussion. No question. It was wrong, we assume. But was it?

Of course, as widely predicted beforehand and coming to rotten fruition now, the takeover is bad on a basic level for United fans, in the simple sense that they want cheaper ticket prices (or at least less wildly rising ones) and team improvement.

But one thing that surprises me is that rival fans sympathised a great deal with the plight of United. Why? Why on Earth not take the opportunity to drive a hated rival into the dirt? Why not exploit this moment in the same way United’s former owners were so willing to (with the moves away from shared gate receipts, the formation of the Premier League etc.)? I think this is because, to use Foucaultian language, the discourse of Sport & Sportingness still dominates the more visible discourses of tribal loyalty (one club fandom.) But the fact remains United have historically been… economic… with this sporting ideology. And are thus very lucky to still have good will.

This is perhaps the result of skill media operation, both micro and mass, by the self-organised United fan pressure groups such as Shareholders United who campaigned very publicly against both the Glazer takeover and the earlier (defeated) Murdoch takeover attempt.

So… well done. And now that the tide seems to be turning, that the fans are growing more and more vocally antiGlazer as the oft-predicted financial difficulties seem to be becoming undeniable and affecting United’s sporting progress (i.e. the inadequate replacement of Cristiano Ronaldo)… I’m left wondering how I will feel if the Glazer family is indeed bought out and replaced with a more “fan friendly” (whatever that means) regime. Will I get rid of the sense of detachment? Will I flock back?

I fear not.

The years since the takeover have coincided with my own re-imagining of what sport is, what it means. In many ways this is liberating. Allows me to experience and enjoy things on various levels. I can be in and above the ritual simultaneously. But it also seems to have broken the link between me then and me now.

I write this blog floating deeper and deeper into sport space.

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Filed under Football, Manchester United, Personal Memories, Rebellion, Sport