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Why do we allow football to govern our society?


Would we permit any other facet to so dominate?!

Norwich City stops traffic on match days, but the football ground is part of a busy inner link road. Traffic is snarled up around the ground for 40 minutes – just at the time when shoppers are finishing their afternoon and  people are arriving for an evening out. For local residents, it means they cannot cross the road outside their home as cars from the football carpark are queued up. After having heard the shouts all afternoon carry to their homes, this extra part is one too much. A smaller road is shut for an entire afternoon. 

There are lots of reasons to live in this part of the city. Whether you work at the retail park, commute by train, need to be in walking distance from the centre, or are involved in the night clubs – this southeastern corner is the best place to live. It’s also an area of smart new riverside homes, and conversely includes an area where housing benefit is more readily accepted. All these suffer from the ground. The prolonged closures were announced on a small level at short notice and without any consultation with residents.

It means non football fans are planning their day around something they are not interested in or partaking of, and quite often, having their day spoiled by it. There is a huge resentment about the club in the city, and for all its claims of putting money in the economy – it does not support anything that I am interested in, or plenty of others.

 The football ground is too central in Norwich; most other cities have them further out. It affects the city centre on foot and by car. Why was not the opportunity taken during the development of Riverside retail and leisure park and the new inner relief roads to deal with the traffic problems? Why wasn’t a provision made for the large amounts of people leaving the stadium? Shutting the road is ludicrous as football has more sway over the public than the needs of everyone else.

The leaking sound problem would be helped if the stadium was round and had no gaps at the sides for the cheers to leak out of. I have lived near far larger stadia with less trouble. One factor was having enclosed, circular seating. This would mean that only those who chose and paid to attend would hear the matches and pop concerts held here.

The stadium holds only about a tenth of the population – which doesn’t include all the workers and visitors in a regional capital with a wide catchment area. There as many people who hate football as love it: passion goes both ways. A supporter once rudely called this point of view selfish: yet this attitude is the selfish one. To say that football trumps all is wrong and unfair.

As I write, my city has been closed at short or no notice for a major fan party. Bus stops are out of use; the library was unbearably loud and a reflective act of worship became very hard to focus on. In our recession and cuts, high levels of security are paid for, including wasted little hand held poppers, which then needs extra money to be cleaned up. I have never seen the streets so disgusting. Hooters and uncouth shouts fill the air, audible from some distance, many hours after the gathering. Teens kick cans around the street which police ignore. I’m in my home and had planned to read, and I also need to buy food, but both are affected.

We are also expected to put up with major matches football in our neighbour’s homes, our streets, and pubs that are nothing to do with sport try to attract fans by showing it and spoiling the refuge from football that regular patrons hoped for. Volume goes up on otherwise chilled cafes and pubs as fans descend on them, turning regulars away. 

Worse of all is the antisocial behaviour that football more than other sports brings.

It is so unfair on the quieter fans that the big mouths and unruly spoil the reputation of football for all. Trains are full of thugs littering carriages with beer cans and showing they have no idea how to behave as adults, shouting and wandering about, illegally smoking on trains and getting into fights.

 Why do we accept this? Does any other interest generate such hooliganism?

 There must be a way to accommodate football supporters that both allows them freedom to enjoy their matches in safety without allowing the excesses of oafish antisocial behaviour or making the rest of the city come to a stand still.

 Here are my suggestions for Norwich:

 The Carrow Road area is a weak point of the city’s inner link road and needs to be properly completed. I suggest driving a second bridge near Carrow works/priory (or Trowse bridge) to link with Thorpe Road; or straight across from Morrison’s to where the post office now stands, which will be moving. This means that traffic can move in that corner of the city without going past the football ground and so shutting that road isn’t a problem. I think the current Carrow Rd/Canary way should never have been built and that area should be an open space for fans to spill out on to, preferably with another car park there and not on Lower Clarence Road.

If that sounds too much – the other option is move the ground. It was built far too close to the centre, after the railway and businesses and homes began spreading in that direction and has been lucky to avoid a move. Football clubs are rich and so should be prepared to use their money on balancing their needs with the community around them. the advantage of having it central is purely for the club and fans: that it benefits the city is a much spouted fallacy.

 Local residents should all get match fixtures for the season through their doors and an opportunity to discuss issues with the police/council/ football managers. No residents’ views were sought about the road closure and nor we they given fixture listings. the ones really near ought to be offered season tickets as their lives and homes are rules by football. I think residents may be happy to avoid just before and after the matches in their cars but not to have access to their homes affected for a whole afternoon (or evening) and there should be a resident priority on foot and vehicles at all times.

 The roar of uncouth shouts could be transformed into melodious singing. I was struck by how much nicer Welsh rugby sounds and perhaps footballers could learn from our Cymru cousins about musicality. A challenge for a reality TV musical director!?

 I would like to see a campaign start for anti hooliganism; that excessive drinking and loutishness is no longer considered acceptable and that it’s letting down fellow fans, your team and your city. And the name of the very game itself.

 I was amazed to hear how few transport police there are for smaller cities – often half a dozen per county (Norfolk has 5). By the time they are alerted to an incident, it is too late and they have to ride to the nearest station. So if there’s trouble in Thetford, by the time the train gets to Wymondham, the fight will have reached its worst. The transport police need better resources and to not be so country and city specific: as a passenger and possible victim, I’m not interested in whether Peterborough or Nottingham or Norwich police are coming or whose jurisdiction it is; I’m on a train with trouble and I need someone to stop it. Football time trains – especially late at night – should always have police riding on them and a rail staff presence. It shouldn’t wait for ‘intelligence’ that there’s  problem – there’s a match every week in season and most routes will be affected by fans. They should not be allowed to take on board large amounts of drink and be stopped from consuming it.

Although many hate football, I hope many of us would be willing to show the same spirit of consideration and working together we seek from the football club – who has so far failed in this respect.


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