Something is brewing in the midlands. Over in Wolverhampton, a grass-roots campaign for change at the highest levels of football is growing in size and momentum. Disenfranchised fans from across the country are uniting to decide that now is the time to ‘Take Back The Game.’
September 19th 2011 Stockholm Sweden, and match day for the city’s two rival clubs, AIK and Djurgårdens IF. A local football derby’s atmosphere is difficult to beat; all that passion, emotion and tension whipped up into a grand spectacle of chanting, shouting, screaming noise. For the first 10 minutes of AIK’s match against Djurgårdens IF however, the stadium fell eerily quiet.
Such a scenario was unprecedented. Both sets of rival fans had united in silence to make a stark point in protest; a graphic vision of football where the fans had been priced out of the game completely.
After 10 noiseless minutes, the stadium roared with defiance. From illustrating how bleak a future would be without them, now was their moment to display their devotion to their clubs and their cause. At the outset of the second half, both sets of fans ignited flares at either end of the stadium, bathing the pitch in a fierce, burning red. As the referee halted proceedings, the crowd chanted as one: “Football killers!” Their screams aimed squarely at the Swedish Football Association.
This was the inspiration that galvanized a pocket of discontented Wolves fans into online action. After rousing the other sections of their clubs’ support they set about contacting fans from across the country, ignoring usual partisan lines. Their message can now be found across the social media channels, inviting supporters of every affiliation and allegiance to ‘Take Back The Game’ together.
As price hikes and a treacherous global economy stretch the finances of football fans ever thinner, long held grumbles are being converted into driven activism. There seems to be a real sense of awakening within the English game as fans begin to self-organise in response to the corporatization of their sport. Other revolutions are already underway through different means, such the fan-owned splinter clubs AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester, but many would rather fight for their clubs than start anew elsewhere.
Whilst hyper-capitalisation has brought success and glamour to the English Premier League, the rampant commercialism and focus on profit has left fans feeling like cash cow customers ripe for exploitation. From the ‘39th game’ through to privatised TV rights, European super leagues and the lingering suggestion of abandoning relegation, those at the very top seem evermore determined to seek ever-greater riches to create a manufactured, vapid commodity product that bears little resemblance to a sport.
Fans don’t want sports entertainment packages or a bloated franchise; they want their local football clubs back.
The first major ‘Take Back The Game’ protest will be held during Wolves’ match against Sunderland on December 4th, with a 10-minute silence from kick-off in the spirit of the Stockholm derby protest. A noncompliment orchestra of Wolves and Black Cats, struck quiet.
More information can be found at http://www.takebackthegame.org