Global support, Wrighty, and change….
How global support has changed from the past….
Ian Wright (Wright Wright) is a certified Arsenal legend, and a major reason why I am a Gooner. He not only scored a bag load of goals. He did so with class, tenaciousness, and guile, and to point where he became our highest-ever goal scorer. Of course, another certified legend holds that record, though Henry’s greatness does not and never can undermine Wright.
That said, Wrighty made some comments of late which were…in my mind ill-advised. He has since apologised for them, but then it has raised some interesting points. In a spat with a fan online, he lambasted foreign fans as being fake, which strikes a chord given Arsenal’s global presence.
For me, whilst issue has blown over somewhat, they represent some deep and long-held views of overseas fans, which are increasingly becoming outdated. It also shows how Arsenal, as a global footballing brand, can reach out to Gooners in other nations.
Wrighty’s comments echoed, in my view, an outmoded view of global fans. Twenty or thirty years ago, it was the case that overseas fans were not as knowledgeable. Or that they didn’t comprehend the nuances of football. Football certainly was global in the 1990s, but not in the same context as today. Europe, South America, and Africa were and still arguably are the footballing strongholds of the world. North America and much of Asia were still backwaters in many ways.
However, this is changing. In 1994, many Americans couldn’t care less about the World Cup. Now, football is gaining respectability as a major sport, with MLS even gaining some measure of respect in Europe and around the world. Football is a fast growing sport in Asia, particularly in China and India. It has long been a mainstay in the Middle East, the Arab Peninsula, and South Korea/Japan, and is now moving into newer countries.
This has changed though, due to the Internet, globally available and pervasive news media, fan channels, and 24/7 sports media. Fans in all countries can now gain insight, which they couldn’t in past decades.
The world has moved on, and to be fair to FIFA (amidst its integrity issues….) its goal in moving into new territories and countries has paid off.
Arsenal, as a global football club with one of largest global fanbases, should acknowledge that many people around the world are football-savvy. We all represent, from the UK to the USA, and from Australia to Austria, a united family dedicated to our club.
Due to ubiquitous football content, fans from most countries can be up to date with the latest banter, news, and views on all top teams.
It’s possible to read websites, go on Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, or subscribe to club social media accounts to get info.
There are also live streams, and global TV rights to view. A Gooner in Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, the USA, Canada, or China, can catch up with the club in all of these media.
So the global community of Gooners is truly global, and connected.
This is evidenced by the turnout our team got in Australia, and does get in many countries. In our Europa League games, we’ve had sections of Arsenal fans from foreign countries. There are also numerous cases of fans getting up in the early hours to see our games. Some prominent Arsenal podcasters are also foreign-based. Check out Bergkamp Wonderland (with an Aussie and a few Americans no less), Arsenal Vision, and Arsenal America, for a few examples.
Who is “more Arsenal”?
There are numerous UK born and bred fans that for whatever reason cannot attend games. It may be due to work, illness, distance, or family. A Gooner in Glasgow would face natural difficulties in attending games. A co-host of “Same Old Arsenal” podcast, Craig, lives in Ireland, and states he has small children and naturally cannot go to many games. However, he has been a die-hard Gooner for years. And a plane from Ireland is not that far, and the round trip could take well within a day.
There are even London and South-East England-based fans who cannot attend games for various reasons. Again, this could be due to working, familial commitments, or related points.
So a fan who works irregular hours in St. Albans (in Hertfordshire, and incidentally very near our training ground), Croydon in south London, Edinburgh in Scotland, or Mumbai in India, could have similar predicaments. This does not undermine the “trueness” of their supporting means.
Don’t ignore the global family
I’m a member of several foreign-based Arsenal groups on Facebook. And their passion is as strong as us UK-based fans. I used to live overseas for a while, and many fans there love English football, and are as passionate towards the players and our club’s history as we are.
If anything, this issue can be an opportunity for the club to further engage with the global fans. For instance, why not arrange more tours, or even trips to the stadium? Why can’t Iwobi do a live Q&A to Nigerian fans? Or Elneny to Egyptian fans? Or Alexis, for however long he remains with us, to Chilean Gooners?
In every cloud, there can be a silver lining. It’s a very old cliché, but true in some cases. Whilst Wrighty has apologised for his statement, it can boost the club in its own commercial links, and goodwill to the overseas fan base.
It may also seem like a radical approach, but this could be opportunity to greatly increase the capacity of the ground. Maybe offer low-cost subscriptions or concessions to foreign fans, or any fan (UK-based or overseas) via a lottery system?
Foreign fans are no mugs indeed, as they may have been in the past. And if people believe foreign fans cannot be passionate, check out this link. The USA is a fast emerging football country, and the moving of Columbus Crew is testament to their passion.
We need more things to bring Gooners together. Many of us UK Gooners see all Arsenal fans as a family, and whilst Wrighty (I hope) doesn’t get sustained flak for this, this entire issue can bring us together as a united family. Whether we are Wenger In or Out, we can see that we all share the same passion, and desire, to see us succeed.
If anything, this symbolises how due to the Internet, we’re becoming more aligned in our values, passions, and needs around the world. Let’s use this as an opportunity to build, grow, and see Arsenal succeed.