Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In defence of the flag ban.

There's been a lot of anger about the flag ban coming from several Arsenal related websites. The general consensus has been: 'it's political correctness gone mad', or something along those lines, and also an opportunity for rival fans to criticise us for not being an English club.

Now, I've made my views on Arsenal and foreign players know before, and, while I can understand the anger of many fans, I also feel there has been a great deal of unwarranted over-reaction to the club's policy.

The club didn't ban all flags because it hates fun, or because of some warped puritanical PC mindset. It did so because certain supporters had put up flags in the ground which could be very easily taken to be of a politically inflammatory nature, and which could have unnecessarily soured the match day atmosphere at the ground. I actually saw, I think, the flag that led to the ban: a Turkish Cypriot flag which was unveiled at a home match this season. The issue of the political ownership of Cyprus is one that has led to warfare between Turkey and Greece: I don't really think its fair, as some have argued, to say that those who complained should, essentially, just get over it because it's not that big a deal. It is, and we should respect the feelings of those involved.

So what does the club do, especially when it was undoubtedly mindful of the large Greek, Cypriot and Turkish communities that live in North London and support Arsenal? Does it ban the Turkish Cypriot flag and anger those of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot origin? Does it ban just Cypriot related flags and possibly anger all Greek, Cypriot and Turkish Arsenal fans? Does it ban Turkish flags or Greek flags? Where would the spiral end? Why not all flags of a 'politically sensitive' nature? I can't think of many flags that don't potentially fit that criteria. I wonder what the reaction would be if I brought a German flag to our games to support Jens, who has, of course, been labelled a Nazi by opposition fans on numerous occasions just because of his nationality.

Thus, the blanket ban on flags could be considered an over-reaction, but its the most politically sensible thing to do.

I would also ask those who bring flags to the games, does it really offend you so greatly not to be able to take a national symbol to a club which, I would hope, prides itself on its multi-national flavour? Arsene doesn't judge a player by his passport, and neither do I. If you take an England flag to a game, does that mean you, albeit only tacitly, support our English players a little bit more? And if not, then why nationalise your support? Wouldn't it be nicer if we could carry banners and items of support into the stadium, that just showed our support for the club, without, I would suggest, needless national connotations?

There is a time for signs of nationalism in football: it's called international football. If you want to wave your flag around do it then. I support the English football team, but, personally, I don't really enjoy the nationalistic baiting and stereotyping that goes along with the international game.

The bottom line is, we don't need flags in the stadium. They don't show our support for the club in any greater way than a non-nationalised Arsenal supporters' item. One of the most beautiful things about our club, for me, is that it transcends national boundaries. We are an English club, due to our location, heritage and ownership; but we have supporters around the world, many of whom support Arsenal with as much passion as those born in North London do.

Why, when we've all come together to support our team, must we find ways of re-dividing ourselves due to some supposedly overwhelming desire to wave a flag? I think a ban is a bit harsh - decidedly authoritarian - but I agree with the sentiment behind it. Arsenal football club is not a nation-state: it's more and better than that.


Anonymous said...

So repeatedly banging on about Israel transcends national boundaries does it? It smacks of hypocrisy when the irritating advertising hoardings constantly show those advertisements. Another point is that how would any of our foreign players feel when they see the flag of their nation? It must really gee them up, I've seen brazillian, swiss, french (of course!) and even ivory coast flags at the arsenal ground.

Anonymous said...

Sod the nations - support the club.
(ps. "1961, OH DEAR!")

Anonymous said...

Arsenal aren't paid to advertise greek cypriot nationalism nor palestine nor anything else to do with national flags, they are paid to advertise things on their pitchside boards and one of those things happens to be israeli tourism. So to compare people brining flags into the ground and arsenal being PAID to advertise something is ridiculous. It's not as though arsenal are positioning themselves politically here it's a money game.

gunner6 said...

You have got this the wrong way round I am afraid. The club has let a minority dictate what the majorities can do. And that is unacceptable.

Flags are flags. Support the club yes. But it makes a player filled with pride to see their national flag being flown on the stands.

There are plenty of rivalries and historical conflicts associated with every flag. When you let these things divide the fans and not try to reconcile the present, then what good is it to talk about peace?


Goonerboy said...

Gunner6: I think we both want the same thing, but we're coming at it from different angles.

gunner6 said...

I know where you are coming from i.e. support the club without the need for national flags since this is Arsenal football club and not a country.

Thing is, what is stopping other people from complaining about other things that are just as offensive to them e.g. wearing a t-shirt depicting anti christ?

Once you cross that line, there is no turning back without being a laughing stock of the sport.

In a country where speaker's corner was created, it just doesn't make sense to ban a flag.


Anonymous said...

Flags separate us, we are all arsenal we are all there for one purpose to support one team, it is a shame people have exploited the flag bearing to show there personal beliefs, lets stick to the football.

Anonymous said...

the club have to protect themselves. There have been reported death threats between these Greek/Turk factions over these flags. If the club took no action, and serious or death resulted, the club would probably face serious liability for not taking action to prevent a foreseeable escalation.

Besides, as someone said, Sod the countries, support the team!

Anonymous said...

More disagreement than agreement with you for once GB. Nothing pisses me off more than to see the old apartheid South African flag being waved at Twickenham (That's the place where they play with that funny shaped ball btw).

But to ban it? I don't like it but as long as I know that the flag waver is a moron, should it upset me that much?

Where does the thin end of the wedge start and stop?
No singing.No swearing. No standing. No bloody football just now..."people get so competitive and beastly at football. We, the p.c.'s who know what is good for the people really must have it banned." Bah, humbug.
Gooner for 59 years.

gazzap said...

fans from supporters clubs for decades have brought in the flag of their country ie the french supporters club, the irish supporters club etc. there is a lot of history and tradition there and it is being wiped away in the blink of an eye. it is causing a lot of upset to THOUSANDS of fans whereas the offending turkish flag offended a handful.
some fans are becoming truly detached from the club over recent issues caused by decisions from the top. that includes things like being kicked out for standing or swearing or smoking. The club is alienating loyal fans in their droves and thats not good enough. do we know any other club that has acted as draconian as this? the board need to stop meddling and let the fans enjoy the day as it comes and be a bit more sensible about things.
ie standing should not be an automatic chucking out offence but clearly if only one fan is standing up and the people behind them cannot see then they should be asked to sit down, like the good old days.

with that flag, they should specifically ask the turkish cypriot not to fly it in the stadium as it could incite anger from greek cypriots. if they refuse kick them out/take their tickets away. the club would be offending 1 or 2 people not 30,000!

not many flags can be construed as being inciteful but this one can and therefore is a one off and could be dealt with on a localised ad-hoc basis.

gunner6 said...

Agree with Bah Humbug (you didn't have a name....) and Gazzap. Supporters from all over the world bring flags to show where they are from and pride themselves on the fact that they are finally at the Emirates Stadium watching Arsenal for real. Not many supporters have this priviledge. many season ticket holders and local supporters who get to watch matches from time to time doesn't realise what an honour it is to be there even if it is a Carling Cup match. So we bring our flags showing how international the ckub is.

I am sure everyone is offended one way or another with some country. But to ban the flag when the sport should be uniting everyone is hypocritical. Why stop at Arsenal? Let's spread to all clubs, Premiership or Conference league, to adopt this policy.


Anonymous said...

Agree with the first commentator: the flag ban does not square up with the club's acceptance of money from the Israeli tourism board. Personally I find the Israeli sponsorship deal intolerable given that governments atrocities this summer.

Goonerboy said...

I agree with Gazzap that the main problem I have with the ban was the authoritarian way that the club took the decision. No consultation, just a little press release and it's all gone and decided. The fans should have been consulted. We're the ones who sit in the stadium, and I'm sure with a little dialogue the issue could have been more dealt with in a matter more preferable to everyone.

I know it means a lot to people to show how far they've come to support Arsenal - I did sympathise with the French guys who wern't allowed to take in their banner - but can't you just make a banner with where you're from on it and then the club badge on top? Why the need for the national stripes?

I just think there's an arena for national flags and that's international football. I would hope the players are spurred on by pride for Arsenal without needing a reminder of where they were born.

Anonymous said...

not sure i agree re: israeli atrocities whe u consider that israel is fighting to keep existing!

but moving back to the whole flag debate - personally i am astounded that the arsenal have done this - whats next - england hats / caps?

gunner6 said...

So it is ok to wear a t-shirt with offensive remark then? Maybe those offensive supporters should print the flag on a cap and the other offended supporters to get the club to ban caps.

Question is, you can never draw a line on this. So why do it in the forst place?

As for the question why the need to bring flags into the stadium, why not? The club have always pride itself in the diversity of its supporters and players. Banning flags just make the club look backward and uncompromising.

The image has already been battered. Politically correctness has been going on for far too long in the UK. It is time to stop.


Anonymous said...

To the poster about Israeli "atrocities"- you are talking anti semitic anti zionist nonsense! Israel has a right to defend its borders and people

Anonymous said...

"The right to defend its borders" that does not extend to bulldozing people's houses and properties, collective punishment, withholding water rights, abductions, torture, killing women and children, imprisoning minors, using attack helicopters and tanks to destroy towns, destroying crops and livestock, not allowing the right of return, illegal settlements and a down right racist and fascist policy of Zionism. Anti-Zionism isn't anti-semitic and this is just to stifle the debate. The Palestinians are paying the price of what Europe failed to do when Nazis were engaged in killing Jews and others. The holocaust was not the fault of the Palestinians.

Goonerboy said...

Right, I don't want to be one to stifle freedom of speech, but I really don't think, despite the nature of the article, that this is the forum in which to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There are several other overtly political websites/forums to go to, if you wish to discuss these matters.

Anonymous said...

It personally offends me when I see a Man U, Chelsea or Spurs shirt in the ground.

There is a huge risk of people being offended and a very real risk of tensions leading to violence.

Surely we should confiscate those shirts on the way in. Especially as its now about -2C.

Goonerboy said...

Yes Rocky, but, unlike Turkey and Greece, Arsenal and ManU, Chavs etc. have never actually fought a war. Flags and football shirts aren't comparable.

Anonymous said...

Intresting debate. I've looked at both sides. Seems like we're heading towards the sanitation of watching live sport. No personality, just grey people of no race or background. Robots almost. See movie Equilibrium. No emotion or things that promote emotion allowed.

Anonymous said...

It is funny how Israel is allowed to defend it's existence but they have all but destroyed Palestine and the Palestinians.... Are Palestinians allowed to exist? Maybe some posters here have forgotten that an illegal military occupation is still taking place and has been killing and exploiting Palestinians for over 40 years.... Hey but why let facts get into the way of Israeli crimes.... I am as much a gooner as any one out there but I will be more than happy if Arsenal don't win a thing while accepting blood money...

Anonymous said...

Personally i think it's a ludicrous ban. As the poster above me stated (the movie buff), when people start having problems with skin colour what do we do then? the fact of the matter is, our deal with the Israeli's did offend and we just brushed it all under the carpet. I don't give a shit about who it offends. Football is offensive, that's the beauty of it. there's nothing more satisfying than shoving a result down a smug Spud cunts throat or swearing at Judas's in song from the stands.

Football isn't something you do, it's something you live; Take the rough with the smooth and stop the nonsense.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe this is the best solution. It's certainly the most convenient to the club. No need to think matters over, no need to consult anyone, no lenghty debate with fans' groups, just make a decision and everything's fine. With a bit of luck no ticket revenues will be lost, so no problem as far as they're concerned.

Somebody up there must be thinking he can hide by closing his eyes.

So I'll ask this of all who think this was the best decision to make: has the real problem been solved?

Anonymous said...

Anon....I have to reply in complete disgust at your misinformed comments. I appreciate your point of view but what is your opinion based on?... Have you ever been to Israel?...
Your blase remarks about killing women and children and torture show a seriously simplistic view especially when not put into any kind of context.
So if this all bothers you so much, and if you're happy to see us win nothing whilst accepting "blood money" (do you know what that means?!!).....
What have you done to help the victims?..apart from come on here and spout a load of ignorant crap which has nothing to do with either the article or The Arsenal?..

Goonerboy said...

Why do you need a flag to show passion?!? That's my point. It's not PC, it's progressive.

Anonymous said...

why not just ban flags that don't represent any of the players?

Anonymous said...

As a South African gooner, I must say that I agree with the sentiments of the article.

At the same time, I think that the use of national flags is a way of personalising the support shown in a "look at me, I'm an arsenal fan and an Ivorian" kind of way. I think the unfortunate consequence of this is that we'll lose this element of individuality. We've all looked with horror at stadiums full of Maoist Chinese waving identical flags in unison. I'm not saying we'll end up like this, but evry little bit means something.

That said, if the club feels that through this decision, they are eliminating the possibility of an inflammatory atmosphere developing, then I support it.

What I would hate to hear though is that this is a knee-jerk reaction to a complaint by a hyper-sensitive minority group who in no way represent the best interests of the club.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 3.28pm and 3.13pm - "fighting to keep existing", "defend its borders" ????

Wake up boys and smell the coffee - have a look at this and go onto the United Nations website and see how many resolutions have been passed against Israel - luckily their chums in the white house always ensure that nothing happens on that front.

Also, when over 80% of casualties (see red cross and Amnesty sites for exact figures) are Palestinian, thats not self-defence !!!!

Regarding the flags - im actually split on this issue because at the end of the day, we are all Arsenal supporters and this kind of thing should not detract or get in the way of getting behind the team, however whilst for some people seeing a Brazil flag, for example, is great and would no doubt please the Brazillian players at the club, what about our Argentinian fans ??

How would they feel ??

Also, if a Scottish Gooner was to come down to the Grove and start waving a Scotland flag - im pretty sure that wouldn't go down too well with the vast majority of fans !!!

I think as usual the club has made the right decision and there was no need for consultation with fans etc,

However, one decision the club has definitely got wrong is to take money from a regime like Israel and promote it as a tourist destination - this is bordering on hypocrisy as this act in itself alienates hundreds and thousands of people as Israel, see above link, is hardly a country a club like Arsenal should be alligning itself with.

I agree with the person who said its a money game but would we take money to promote Iraq or Iran or North Korea ?

Would we take money from an abortion clicnic to promote their services ?

Of course we wouldn't and we would be wrong to do so and just as with the flag issue, where Asrenal have acted sensibly and requested all flags be left at home so that nobody can take offence - i think Arsenal should follow that up by returning the money from the deal with the Israeli Tourist Board and ending the horrible agreement whereby 'Think Israel' is flashed across our beautiful new stadium - when i think Israel i think as do millions across the globe.