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We may never know which is the real Alan Davies: the apparently lovable jester who plays the dumb schoolboy to Stephen Fry’s headmaster on the television series QI, or the would be shock jock who has recently been appearing on the Arsenal podcast The Tuesday Club on a variety of different subjects of varying relevance to the club that he supports. It’s possible – perhaps likely, even – that both of these are little more than personae, which play to appreciative audiences in differing constituencies, but Davies has found, over the last forty-eight hours or so that, in football at least, the audience might not necessarily be who you were expecting it to be and that throwing caution to the wind with your comments might have unforeseen ramifications.
Davies’ comments about Liverpool’s reticence to play their FA Cup semi-final against Everton on the fifteenth of April – the twenty-third anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster – are difficult to get to the bottom of, by no means at least because his club isn’t even troubled by this stage of the competition this year. Quite why an Arsenal supporter should be concerned about the scheduling of a competition which doesn’t involve his club and isn’t even having a knock-on effect upon his club may remain unknown. What we know for certain is that his attempts to apologise (or back-track, depending on your perception) seem to have been rebuffed by a majority of Liverpool supporters, as has his attempt to ameliorate his recent words with a donation of £1,000 by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
There may be an element of debate to be had over whether Liverpool Football Club should be allowed a free date on the fifteenth of April every year in perpetuity on account of the tragedy regardless of circumstance – after all, other clubs have suffered tragedies themselves and played on their anniversaries – but there are ways and means of doing so, a timbre to such any conversation which must understand that the feelings of the relatives of those that died should be paramount, above all other considerations. Football isn’t everything, after all, and it is critical to remember that the aspect of injustice about Hillsborough in particular which remains unsatisfactorily addressed gives this particular tragedy a political or emotional edge that other such incidents in football lack.
Emotive as it is, however, people should be allowed to discuss ongoing issues relating to the aftermath of the disaster, so long as they are not factually incorrect, abusive or insulting to the dead. This was, after all, a tragedy marked a defining moment in the entire history of the game in England, a point of no return for many aspects of the entire culture of the English football supporter. In this respect, Davies’ error may have been in the tone of his voice. In surrounding dismissive of the fact that Liverpool FC has long held a memorial service on the day of the disaster, he left himself open to the criticism – whether justified or not – that he doesn’t understand that finer points of the tragedy and the ongoing struggle for justice for those that died on the fifteenth of April 1989.
Such thoughtlessness can prove difficult to undo (and a tweet sent this morning seems unlikely to win him too many friends on Merseyside) and is indicative of a continuing and at times pathological trivialisation of the long-term effects of the disaster, but it is not deserving of some of the treatment that Davies has received through social media over the last couple of days. It occasionally seems as if there is, hidden from the view of normal people going about their everyday business, a hidden army of people that use social media such as Twitter to send out threats of violence or worse to anybody that utters anything that disagrees with their world-view. It should go without saying that these individuals aren’t representative of the broader support of the club, but those who do not pause to think through the wisdom of their actions before sending threats to anybody through social media and ends up in court or in prison deserves whatever comes their way.
Since the recent trial of Liam Stacey, who ended up sentenced to eight weeks in prison and, of course, plastered all over the national press for his troubles, for sending offensive and racist tweets – again, whether rightly or wrongly – there has been, as if such a thing existed in the first place, even less of an excuse for such behaviour than there was before. Moreover, such threats play straight into the hands of those that would, for whatever perverted reason, seek to debase or trivialise the disaster or the subsequent campaigns for justice for those that were killed that day and any right-minded Liverpool supporter, regardless of their opinion of Alan Davies and his ill-advised comments, should be seeking to distance themselves from them.
In a broader context, however, it is also worth taking a moment that making a mess of this weekends FA Cup semi-finals was avoidable from beginning to the end – not least the sheer, rank stupidity of playing them both at Wembley, as they have been since 2008. This particular state of affairs came to pass because of the spiralling costs of Wembley Stadium, which led to the sale of season tickets which guarantee FA Cup semi-finals – as well as all England home matches – being played in London for the foreseeable future. This has led to the absurdity of seeing Liverpool play Everton at Wembley, more than two hundred miles from their home city. It has also been suggested that the FA were keen to accommodate moving the matches to better suit the clubs concerned but that the television broadcasters and the police – ultimate paymasters and scheduling deciders that that they are – were not amenable to this.
Such rumours no longer cause a great deal of outrage, though – merely a wearied sigh and a shake of the head. So it is that this weekend of FA Cup semi-finals could a regarded as a microcosm of much that is wrong with match day arrangements in 2012. The best interests of the television companies, the police and those responsible for the mortgage on a stadium which long since came to resemble an expensive folly have all been taken into account. Match-going supporters, on the other hand, are being treated as at best an irrelevance and at worst an inconvenience. Why else, we might contend, are Liverpool and Everton playing on a Saturday lunchtime whilst the match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, two clubs with a fractious past at whose matches there has been depressingly regular trouble in recent years, is being played on a Sunday evening? Such absurdity is a part of modern life, but we can rest assured that it will be supporters – likely all supporters – will be blamed should there be unrest on Sunday.
This Saturday’s match between Liverpool and Everton will be marked by a commemoration for those that died watching a match in this very round of this very competition twenty-three years ago this weekend. Ultimately, Liverpool supporters may be best advised to do what they can to ignore the thoughtless comments of those that should know better and to retain the focus of their ire upon a subject which, in spite of baby steps in the right direction in recent months, remains agonisingly out of reach. When tomorrows chip wrappers are discarded, all that really matters is the ongoing fight for justice for those that died twenty-three years ago this weekend.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
If you don’t know why Liverpool refusal to play on the 15th affects Arsenal then you didn’t hear what he said. It affects Chelsea’s semi final and their rest before the Barca game and our coefficient. Therefore affects Arsenal.
Slow news week or something?
It’s unfortunate that Alan Davies made a fairly valid debating point in a bit of a ham-fisted flippant way. He’s apologised for it though, and admitted that it was the problem of immediately switching from a ‘banter’ issue into a far more serious issue – the further you go through the podcast clip, the more serious the debate gets – it’s the start of the debate that errr “gets on my tits” to borrow from Mr Davies. I genuinely think he knows he’s cocked up and is sincere in his views and his apology.
His general point is a valid one – and I think came from the issues of needing to shuffle fixture lists all over the place this weekend, that means that Chelsea have got two huge fixtures now crammed together. When we consider that Rangers, Bradford, Manchester United and Liverpool (twice with Hillsborough and Heysel) etc have unwanted anniversary dates what determines when a club should be allowed a ‘free date’ and when they should be told “no, a fixture list is a fixture list”. And to what lengths do we bend and break that fixture list to accommodate that and other requests, given how it will ripple and affect other clubs?
I think you can (or should be able to) have that debate without being told that you’re somehow against the JFT96 campaign. The two aren’t, as I see it, mutually exclusive. He’s a silly boy in the way that he put his comments across early on in the podcast, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t back the campaign itself.
Finally, certain Liverpool supporters don’t exactly help themselves by sending him death threats (and we’re not just talking singular ones) or barbed comments about the death of his mother. If you’re going to try to take the moral high ground then it’s best not to try to do it from the gutter. As one Liverpool fan said earlier today, there are far more deserving people to get angry with for anyone wanting JFT96 to reach its aims.
Very good article, thanks. Davies’ tone and the mindless nature of some of his comments betray his dislike of Liverpool – which is evidenced elsewhere in his (ludicrously fortunate) career.
As this article suggests – if you have a problem with Chelsea having to play on Sunday evening then look to the corrupt and grasping FA and soccer’s dependence on money from television rather than criticisms of lfc for being sensitive to the families of 96 fans who have still never had justice.
Of all the football tragedies named above The Hillsborough disaster is unique in that it is the only one where resolution was not found quickly, and blame was not apportioned properly (Munich, weather conditions, Bradford, smokers/wooden stands etc…) With Hillsborough too many people rather than admitting they could’ve done better, pointed the finger at others, and too many sensationally shouted from the rooftops with precious little knowledge of the facts of the day. Football supporters were sadly an easy target in the immediate aftermath. These errors have been covered up and buried ever since, and the time for resolution is well overdue.
Growing up I found amusement in celebrating my birthday with Sam Fox and Dave Edmunds. For the past 23 years this has not been the case. This Sunday, whilst others mourn the centenary of the Titanic, like every other birthday I will catch myself at some point, staring numbly into the distance wondering about that day, and pondering the close calls many of us had in the 70s and 80s attending matches.
So Liverpool aren’t ready to play on the anniversary… this is hardly an extraordinary position. How many other people feel they cannot rest until resolution has been found, whether through bereavement or not? Others may want “open debate”, but let these families find their peace first.
Not sure if my previous comment made it through as it was sent from a so-called smartphone, but in any case, this blogpost here is essential reading: http://www.anfieldroad.com/news/lfc/2012-04-11/5847/alan-davies-can-offer-something-worth-more-than-1000.html/ alongside your post. Thanks again.
[…] The latest person to get caught up in the sticky web that is giving an opinion on something related to the Hillsborough disaster is funny man Alan Davies. Fall out! // 200% […]
Not sure that everyone getting hot under colar has listened to the full podcast. Seems typical of today’s media feeding frenzy based on a small quote taken from a 45 minute cast and little or none of the true context taken into consideration.