Media Muppet articles are normally reserved for dumb transfer rumour stories, but the Birmingham Mail has topped any of those with this sensationalised ‘social conscience’ plea…

Who?

The Birmingham Mail

Headline:

The Mail Says: Why Aston Villa v Birmingham City match must NOT be played on a weeknight

Spiel:

The Highlights…

As thousands of football fans look forward to next month’s Second City derby, the Mail calls for the date and kick-off time to change to avoid violence

But can West Midlands Police really be confident that next month’s Villa v Blues cup tie – scheduled for a Tuesday night – will pass off peacefully?

With regret, the Mail fears not.

Today, we urge that the Villa Park match be moved to the Sunday lunchtime spot normally used for league encounters between these two great rivals.

For recent history tells us that midweek Second City derby games rarely end well.

In December 2010, the last evening kick-off between the pair saw shocking violence which left St Andrew’s looking like a “war zone”.

 

 

Flares and seats were thrown, dozens were arrested in the days and weeks that followed and 27 people were injured.

For the Rugby World Cup is coming to Villa Park just four days after the match, with the southern hemisphere giants of South Africa and Australia playing there on consecutive days.

The full opening of the revamped New Street station and the Grand Central shopping mall at around the same time should only add to Birmingham’s feelgood factor.

Against such an optimistic background, should we really risk the kind of scenes which tarnished the city’s good name back in 2010?

True, the game has already been picked for live coverage on Sky TV.

But this need not be a barrier to the time and date of the kick-off.

Villa’s recent Premier League fixture against Manchester United was also televised despite being moved to a Friday night so police could monitor an English Defence League rally the next day.

For the sake of Birmingham’s reputation – and the vast majority of Villa and Blues fans who just want to cheer on their team in safety – the match must be moved.

Evaluation

1. What’s the motivation here? Is it really social concern or an attempt to be controversial in order to attract readers (click-bait) and advertising?

2. Has any thought been given to the impracticality of rearranging the game to a weekend? Certainly no real thought has been given in the article. I’m sure the Premier League wouldn’t be happy with that. It would present the need to rearrange a league game that would have taken place that weekend, which also affects another club and their supporters. Then there’s the issue of the Villa vs Blues cup game being selected for live broadcast on television (which we’ll deal with that later).

3. In the previous round of the League Cup, the West Midlands Police dealt with five home ties with all the area’s main clubs playing on the same night. They seemed to cope with that ok, which was potentially trickier than policing a single game between Villa and the Blues.

4. The main reason the scenes of 2010 happened was because the organisation at St Andrews by Birmingham City was below par. Because of this, they were fined £20,000, with a further £20,000 suspended. Which begs the question if that was a ‘war zone’, why on earth were Villa fined £200,000 (ten times the Blues’ original fine) for on pitch celebrations? The FA STILL has not publicly explained this.

 

Because of Villa’s fine last season, I think it’s safe in saying, the club will pay special attention to this game, especially with it being live on Sky TV. Thus making Birmingham Mail’s sensationalised outcry ill-founded.

5. Any result of the match is unlikely to provoke the scale of celebrations or emotions that the game would if it was in the later stages of the tournament – i.e. from the quarter-finals onwards.

6. In 1993, Villa and Blues played a two-leg cup tie in the League Cup, that was the first time the teams had played for five years; apart from the standard minor incidents there wasn’t any issues resulting in a media outcry. Ditto five years previous to that, when the clubs met three times in cups (if you count the Simod Cup) including another two-legged League Cup affair (last cup meetings before that was in 1963).

If the police and clubs can handle two games between the teams in the League Cup back in the 1980’s & the early 1990’s, before all-seated stadium and mass CCTV, then a one-off at Villa Park shouldn’t be a problem.

7. In the eyes of the press it seems only football supporters seem to be able to ‘tarnish the city’s good name’. While a revamped New Street station and the Grand Central shopping mall “should only add to Birmingham’s feelgood factor”. The reality of that sentiment is somewhat far-fetch in terms of practical day-to-day reality. What happened in 2010 didn’t affect anybody bar the supporters at the ground, and it hardly has the knock-on affect of tarnishing the city’s name, unless the media (i.e. Birmingham Mail) keep scandalising it.

The same cannot be said of the revamping of New Street station and Grand Central shopping mall, which has for a long time now made travelling to/from/through the city or simply navigating your way around while shopping, a serious pain. Birmingham’s reputation at the moment as a city to visit because of the inconveniences caused by the building work at News Street has done more to tarnish visitors’ views of the city than any football match has.

8. Again, the media are facilitating the myth that all football supporters are hooligans. It’s the same mentality that sees UEFA enforcing mass punishments  – like forcing games to be played behind closed doors – that lead to  punishing all supporters because of the actions of a few. As a result, you are also empowering the minority of trouble makers, who know their actions can have an impact.

Maybe the Birmingham Mail would like the Birmingham derby to be played behind closed doors? With Sky TV broadcasting live, it would be the ultimate modern day football experience – TV football with no fans.

9. Speaking of Sky TV, I’m sure they’ll be delighted with the suggestion of rearranging the fixture to a weekend, when they already have a full league program of live games on weekends.

10. The Birmingham Mail states that the TV broadcast of the game shouldn’t be ‘a barrier’, because ‘Manchester United was also televised despite being moved to a Friday night.’ This was because it was already a weekend fixture and it couldn’t be moved to Sunday, due to United’s European game. For the record, the Premier League weren’t too happy about the Friday switch and ultimately the police were being over cautious with the situation, as the EDL march that caused the switch on the police’s request, ended up being attended by  only around 160 people.

Put it this way Birmingham Mail, Villa vs Blues on a Tuesday night, will be a more subdued affair than if it was on a Friday night!

Media Muppet Rating: 10/10

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