MOMS has never actually had the time to really write anything about the surfer flag we helped organised back in May. We could write a book on the adventures of this flag, but here’s a brief bit of context and information to set any misinformation straight…
Earlier this year, the Football Association banned Aston Villa supporters’ giant crowd-funded surfer flag from the Villa vs Arsenal FA Cup final at Wembley. This was mere months after the Football Association’s new CEO Martin Glenn had declared “Football must work together to put fans first.”
The flag, which over 200 Aston Villa supporters contributed to the £3000 cost of, was a direct play on the Sex Pistols iconic album cover ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’. While the Pistols faced censorship issues over the word ‘bollocks’ in 1977, 38 years later, we were fighting similar censorship over the word we replaced it with, ‘Arsenal’.
Those who know the original Sex Pistols album that the design comes from, will know Birmingham is name-checked in the song ‘Bodies’ on the album, while lead singer John Lydon is a huge Arsenal fan (which was one of the humourous elements at play).
Also, the idea of the flag was it was playing on the underdog spirit of punk against the establishment. Villa were very much the underdog (as they are in today’s game) and Arsenal were the ‘Sky Four’ establishment.
We received widespread support from both the national press (see below) and football supporters across all teams (6,500 signed a petition within a couple of days) calling for common sense on the issue.
In the words of US Fox Sports TV presenter Nicole Dabeau, ‘Just let them fly the dang flag, FA!” summed up sentiments on the issue. A poll in the Daily Mirror saw that 91% of voters were in favour of the flag.
We were glad when Aston Villa announced this week they had decided to allow us to use the flag as the pre-match surfer in the Holte End at the Aston Villa vs Arsenal match today. It’s some reward for the 200+ supporters that went to a lot effort (that’s an article in itself) to do their best for their club for the final; effort which wasn’t exactly replicated on the pitch on the day.
Arsenal supporter groups who had called the flag “a well designed idea with no intention to cause any offence or incite bad feeling” in their statement in May supporting the flag, also said the FA’s reaction was “another example of the sanitisation of our game by the authorities; trying to remove any aspect of friendly rivalry between the clubs.”
And for making a decision to resist following that trend, Aston Villa as a club should be applauded for their action of putting their supporters first in this case.
We hope the spirit of the flag is channeled by the team to show some real fight for today and the rest of the season, because waving a white flag is not an option.
My Old Man Said
It should be noted that we insisted on consent from the club before committing supporter funds to the flag. While the club were uncomfortable with the design (because of the Arsenal reference), they said they wouldn’t stand in our way and appreciated a supporter flag would be a little edgier than a club-created one.
Unfortunately, they didn’t clear the flag with Wembley before giving the consent. The final was a very controlled and staged-managed show due to the global TV audience, and everything had to be cleared by Wembley.
The club also had their own issues with Wembley earlier over the semi-final mosaic and their surfer flag (that’s originally why the club didn’t want to bother with one in the final).
At the end of the day, lets just say the FA and Wembley didn’t exactly make life easy for us all with their inconstancy.
To make the flag in the UK, we were quoted it would have cost £12,000. You could have brought a pretty decent car for that!
Some of the flag was on display at the City Ground this summer in Villa’s friendly vs Nottingham Forest. Forest normally never allow away supporters to display such flags, but they understood the injustice of what had happened at Wembley.
We thank them for their understanding.
Support of the Flag
Arsenal Supporter Groups Statement of Support
Football Supporters Federation article in support of the flag
National press support example for the flag:
Fox Sports – Aston Villa petition to get banned flag in Wembley (Video)
Daily Telegraph – Aston Villa FA Cup final flag banned for including the word “Arsenal”
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