MK Dons on Saturday was a great occasion for Coventry City and its fans. 7000 supporters turned up, drawing with them much needed media focus back onto our plight. We also won and witnessed a couple of stunning free-kicks. If you were there and didn’t get smacked on the head by a broken seat, I’m sure you will agree it was a truly memorable day in our recent history.
For me, there has been no doubt since our victory in Milton Keynes last season that I wanted to return. This desire has only heightened given how little football I’ve been able to attend so far this year. It’s a good stadium, simple to get to, and the opportunity arose once more to attend a football match with my Dad, which I haven’t done since we left the Ricoh.
The assertion from some angles however is that I shouldn’t have done it; we shouldn’t have done it.
Apparently visiting MK Dons is hypocritical. Apparently as a football fan in the situation we’re in, doing so completely negates our argument and stance towards our opposition to Sixfields and why we’re not supporting the team there.
I can’t tell you how much I refute this accusation. Here was my initial response when this was first posed:
MK Dons offers 7000 fans the opportunity to come together – by far the largest away day in the division. I can see why it’s been chosen to make that statement over a couple of thousand somewhere else.
We have enough decisions to make around the morality of watching our own club at the moment, is it really necessary to introduce the added complexity of others into the mix? Should we maintain a list of injustices that have occurred in football over the years? Do we boycott Cardiff? Hull? Or maybe our focus remains on our own “live” situation, and not one of something which has already reached a resolution. I don’t condone what happened to Wimbledon, but there’s only so much a fan can do to influence their own club, without the expectation that we should be moral wardens over every other club too. There are a lot of rotten things in football, but come on, let’s not use MK Dons as yet another high-horse point scoring exercise.
OK, so that’s a pretty high-level rebuttal, but the point remains. That point is about obligation and just how far we as football fans can actually be expected to preside over the difficulties faced by other clubs as well as our own.
What’s the expectation here?
As noble as it may sound, if we’re saying we have a responsibility to show complete solidarity to others, where exactly is the line? What else constitutes a situation worthy of our attention in the form of boycott, or should we each be maintaining a dispassionate list of all the wrong-doings that have befallen football clubs over the years then hold them every single one of them to account?
Clearly this is ludicrous. As wrong as it may be, rotten things are happening to football clubs all over the world, every single day. What I’m struggling to grasp is the guidance which asserts that some situations warrant our attention and action, while others don’t?
Relocating a club is certainly extreme, but so is changing a club’s name. Is that worthy of our action? Should teams be boycotting Hull for what they’re proposing?
What about the destruction of an entire heritage with radical crest and team colour changes? Should the fans be giving the Cardiff owners what-for after all the “crimes” they’ve committed since their arrival?
Everton were almost forced into a new badge which in reality was a bit slicker than the old one. Their fans were livid though. Does badge alteration warrant similar action from the football community?
It’s likely that I’ve already taken this too far already, but I hope you are starting to see my point.
While what has happened to MK Dons feels relevant to us, in the scheme of what has occurred over the 100-odd years of football and within the evolution of the culture within it, there are countless comparable situations – far more than any of us could even be aware of. Does that excuse them from the wrath of those who believe we should have avoided MK Dons?
The reason we don’t address all of these unfortunate events – be they current or historical – is because nobody would ever go to to any matches if we did.
So with all that in mind, maybe in the long run our focus can only realistically be on what is happening at our own club? It certainly feels that way to me. Who’s there to make the rules otherwise?
Don’t get me wrong, the Wimbledon situation was clearly a heinous wrong-doing to their fanbase, but I’m getting really weary of the arbitrary nature of what constitutes being a “good” football fan, and the right and wrong behaviours being thrust upon us, often with very little to base them on beyond a differing perspective and interpretation.
As I look at this current argument about MK Dons, one of the main criteria for raising it seems to be because it is a recent event, which immediately means it’s relevant, and by extension makes it convenient. I say convenient because in our case obviously there’s a similarity in circumstance, but also because it feels as though it provides easy ammunition for those wishing to take their place on the moral high-ground this week.
There’s no denying we’re in a deplorable situation. All any of us wants to do is watch Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena and enjoy it. But the myriad dilemmas we face are making things difficult enough for Coventry City fans as it is, both in terms of our individual conscience and the sheer logistics of supporting a team that’s been moved 35 miles away.
I look at this latest argument and it angers me, because it feels unnecessary to pile this on top of what is already a raft of impossible decision we’re being forced to make. Is this situation not difficult enough to navigate without throwing yet more confusion and guilt trips into the mix; more flimsy and ill-defined “rules” about what constitutes a good fan?
You’ll no doubt get a sense that by even writing this piece I’ve encountered many difficulties in figuring out how I actually feel about it. Assimilating my thoughts neatly has proved impossible because there are just so many arguments and counter-arguments about the perceived rights and wrongs in football, and in the case on MK Dons, there’s genuine difficulty stating outright where the line should be drawn in regards to moral obligation towards other clubs. Moreover, when so much is going on at our own club, who has really got the time to draw that line for us, and how the bloody hell are you supposed to know where to put it?
Everything about football is a contradiction – from one game to the next, from one decision to the next. With the troubles we’re facing bringing our club back to its home city, I don’t know why some revel so much in adding such muddled levels of complexity. We’ve got our own despicable issue to attend to thanks very much. Our own “moral” dilemmas.
At this moment in time that really should be enough for us all to be getting on with.
If we’re going to start attempting to fight outside battles in wars that have already ground to a conclusion, why stop at MK Dons? Will those who’ve criticised Saturday’s attendees hold the same viewpoint the next time we have a trip to the Emirates, given what those poor bastards had to put up with in 1913 when they were dragged from one end of London to the other?
I feel I may be allowing my annoyance to get the better of me here as I attempt to wrap this up, but let’s face it – the entire criticism has no clear boundaries, meaning it can all too easily descend into reductio ad absurdum – or “the disproof of a proposition by showing that it leads to absurd or untenable conclusions”. That’s a rubbish way to have a debate.
Right now, we still have an opportunity to influence an active situation at our own club where decisions are still to be made, minds can still be changed, circumstances reversed and plenty of battles yet to be won. Instead of seeking out confrontation, let’s keep it simple, keep it focused on Coventry City, and stop digging up new ways to pick holes in the logic of those who are already struggling with the minefield of unknowns we have laid out in front of us.