At the time of writing, following West Ham, the divisions among fans regarding in-stadium protests are clearly still simmering. There are various accounts on Twitter of those choosing to walk in late getting varying degrees of hassle for doing so:
“I was booed for walking in on 11 mins by a chap who went for a pint on 38 mins and left on 80 mins”
“Someone in my block had a go as I walked in”
There is a clear split between those who will protest, those who won’t, those who are apathetic and those who are arseholes who’ll find issue with anything after a couple of pints.
The participation in the 11th minute walk-in was low, although fair play to those that took part, and that doesn’t bode well for the planned boycott against Wolves. I’m assuming that 99.9% of us want Ashley out (statistically, there’ll still be those that don’t), but the renowned loyalty of NUFC fans is the very thing that dooms any in-stadium protest to failure.
With no NUFC fan groups commanding serious numbers, like the barras bravas in South America or ultras in Italy, we effectively have 52000 individual match-goers. Obviously, there’s groups of mates, fellow travellers etc., but no large scale organised groups.
In Argentina, for example, if the barra said they’re boycotting a match, then you would have many thousands of participants guaranteed by virtue of the way their organisations are run. The Magpie Group (TMG) therefore have a hugely difficult task in both publicising and attracting support for mass protest.
Therefore, it’s reasonable to suggest that future protests move away from actions that require large numbers and consensus among fans (i.e. walk-ins, boycotts and SD protests).
In a previous article about the Wolves boycott, I mentioned the issues of polarisation of fan opinion and also timing. If anything, I think these two counter arguments to the boycott are now even stronger. It’s also worth saying that protest groups sometimes need to be reactive as well as proactive, i.e. recognise when things aren’t working as well as hoped, and change direction accordingly.
Given the low numbers participating yesterday and an apparent lack of appetite for the boycott, in my view it is better for TMG to take some time to reflect, and consider a change of direction.
Convincing 52000 match-goers and thousands more around the globe to unite behind mass protest action is proving to be an impossible task. The ultimate goal is to drive Ashley from the club, so is it time to focus on the types of action that don’t require mass support?
There are plenty of actions that can be taken against Ashley directly that can be achieved by smaller groups, the success of which doesn’t depend upon the participation of thousands. There are too many variables involved when trying to unite an entire fan base. In some ways, this is a simpler approach and more efficient in terms of organisation and participation – plan it, do it, publicise the successes.
I agree with the concept behind TMG, and think that any group that aims to harness fan power within the club is a positive thing. However, the danger they now face is that any traction and support they have gained risks diminishing because they’ve pinned all their hopes on actions that require a certain level of participation to be deemed a success, yet the fan base is fragmented. In my opinion, a late change of plan would serve the group and wider cause better than focussing on a boycott that has proved so divisive and is at real risk of being a failure.