Repping Fans at Behind-Closed-Doors Games
Aston Villa this week put out a call for supporter flags to ‘deck out Villa Park ready for the return of Premier League football’. Thankfully, if you’ve been listening to the MOMS podcast, there’s been no talk of cardboard cutout fans, robot fans, sex dolls and the like…just yet.
Interestingly, in the build up to the restart of the season, the club haven’t sought agency with supporters groups or the Fan Consultation Group to discuss what fans actually think about the behind-closed-doors situation. Surely fans should have been asked how they could potentially be represented at games at Villa Park?
Perhaps it’s not surprising though, as it’s systematic of how the football authorities and TV companies across the board have made little visible effort to engage supporter opinion on what they thought about football in Covid-19 times.
We’re supposed to be the ‘lifeblood of the game’, or at least that’s what they call us in marketing material to hype and sell the game.
The Football Supporters Association this week compiled feedback from Premier League Network reps (including My Old Man Said) to feed back to the Premier League, for a meeting they had yesterday (Friday). Considering the Premier League had three months to do that and the decisions have already been made, it certainly seems too little, too late.
Instead, the TV product of English football will be driven by marketing departments rather than supporters.
It would have been a marketing department that named Wolves’ ‘matchday experience group’. The term ‘matchday experience’ is a term right out of the football marketing handbook and frowned down upon by any genuine supporter or ultra group. Its contrived nature is the opposite end of the spectrum from genuine spontaneous supporter atmosphere. Although, you could argue the fact that it exists means that supporters are no longer doing their job (or aren’t allowed to), when it comes to bringing the noise and atmosphere.
At least in Wolves case, the group was consulted and put forward the idea to follow the lead of Borussia Monchengladbach in creating a cardboard mosaic of fan faces to fill their Sir Jack Hayward stand. Fans could take part in the idea by purchasing a ‘Restart programme’ for £7 (plus postage) and uploading their photo to the designated website. Their faces will be there for the remaining four home games Wolves still have to play.
To be fair to Borrussia’s effort, their 13,000 cardboard fans did look better than an empty stadium, although ultimately it’s just serving the TV product. It’s zero compensation for a supporter not being there, unless they get an extreme close-up of their cardboard face.
Villa Flag Initiative
There’s the possibility that Villa will leave the ‘We Are Villa’ flag draped from the Holte End roof, as long as it isn’t getting in the way of TV camera views.
Whether that is a goer or not, the club have recently put a call out for fans to send in their own flags in, which is perhaps the less gimmicky and most authentic of all possible gestures acknowledging fans.
Putting a flag up has the same representational purpose whether supporters are there or not, so it’s pretty natural.
There’s been a long traditional of putting flags on empty blocks of seats. MOMS once folded down its massive surfer flag that had been banned from the 2015 FA Cup final and covered a top tier of seats at the City Ground, when Villa played Forest in a friendly (there’s pics on the MOMS Instagram page somewhere.
If you have a Villa flag you would like to send to us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org (our Supporter Liaison Manager) with an image of your flag, details of its size and its fixing method.
Lee will then confirm if your flag can be accepted and how to get it to us at the stadium. Flags will need to be at Villa Park on or before Friday 12th June.
Please do not send your flag to Villa Park without prior consultation as we will not be able to accept unknown deliveries due to the current circumstances and your flag may become lost or damaged.
Please note we may not be able to accept every flag or display all of them inside the stadium.
The club also put a disclaimer on their site, that ‘the club will look after your flags but cannot accept responsibility if they become lost or damaged’.
Funnily enough, they managed to somehow lose the aforementioned MOMS supporter-funded surfer flag after it surfed on the Holte End (see main pic). God knows how, at 20 x 20 metres, it was one of the biggest English supporter flags ever made.
So double-check with them, where the club will be storing your flag!
That said, don’t be put off, as it’ll be great to see any Villa supporter flags on TV during this odd period of behind-closed-doors games.