The atmosphere at Wembley – an enigma or not??

21 10 2010

Regular readers of this blog, prepare to be surprised. I am going to attempt a semi-serious blog about sport.

Since the new Wembley opened, I have been twice, bizarrely in the last week or so. I was “lucky” enough to witness England vs Montenegro and Saracens vs Leinster. Two different sports obviously, but there was one thing that struck me as even more different – the atmospheres at the respective matches.

The England game, a competitive game I hasten to add, attracted more than 75,000 spectators – not capacity, but that is still a full Old Trafford, meaning a LOT of people. The rugby match was viewed by around 45,000 fans – which is a great figure for a Heineken Cup fixture.

However, despite having 30,000 more voiceboxes, the football was like a library in comparison to the rugby. It got me thinking why is this the case?

The first thing that struck me is that I felt that the fans seemed to feel a strange hybrid of emotion. There still seemed to be a bitter resentment from the World Cup, yet, despite the performance, they still expected England to steamroller the oppostition. And when they didn’t, this resentment reared its ugly head and clearly got to the players. The band tried to rally the troops, but it ended up sounding more like a troupe of buskers in a echoey subway unfortunately to the extent where it got a bit repetitive and irritiating.

On the other hand, at the rugby, everyone seemed considerably more engaged and eager to back their team. So why was this? Admittedly, club teams do not get to play at grounds that big very often and the tickets were very cheap, meaning it was a grand day out for many. But I feel the key was that people felt it was a real CONTEST. Leinster are European Champions. At one stage last year, it looked like Saracens were going to win the league without losing a game (and they only narrowly lost the grand final). So it was a potentially evenly matched contest and both sets of fans rose to this occasion admirably – plenty of “standing up for the saracens”, and the Leinster fans were in fine voice.

It’s not to say that Wembley can’t deliver spine-tingling atmospheres. I’m a Sunderland fan and have been since late 1998, not long after the epic play-off final between Sunderland and Charlton. I have a couple of friends that were at that match that day and they say, despite the heart-breaking result, it was a day that will live with them forever, because of the occasion and ultimately, the atmosphere. And I’m pretty sure Blackpool fans would agree there.

Yes, this is comparing club with country, but there are still 75,000 people (at least) turning out to support their country and they should at least do that. Support.

I asked some of the members of the Football365 Forum for their opinions on this and received some interesting insights.

Gah highlighted that England fans can create atmosphere at Wembley, citing the equaliser against Croatia to make it 2-2 in the Euro 2008 crunch qualifier (again, this made it a CONTEST).

Shane Falco and Lt Col Kojak Slaphead III both observed that the problem has a lot to do with the location and that tieing these kind of matches to one location, so far away from many, is a handicap. They felt that taking games round the country allowed so many more people to make a day of it, similar to the Saracens game, and that this should be re-implemented at least for friendlies and possibly some qualifiers.

Nuts ‘n’ gum said “I went to Everton v Manchester United FA Cup semi-final.The Everton fans were unbelievable, and the noise when Jagielka scored the winning penalty was fantastic. Never heard anything like it at Wembley. The England crowd is very weird, they sit back and want to be entertained, the goals are cheered out of relief and expectancy rather than joy.”

So what needs to be done to remedy this veil of silence that has descended upon the national team.

For me, there needs to be an acceptance that England is not the powerhouse it was even touted to be, both by fans and the media. We are simply not in the same league as the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland and we have no god-given right to be there, just because we did well 46 years ago.

The media aren’t really helping this cause. Anyone remember the front page of The Sun when England’s group was drawn in the World Cup? Check it out here.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing....

For all it’s foibles, The Sun remains the most highly influential paper out there today and this really doesn’t help. There is one thing getting behind your country and another just assuming that because you are from that country, you are the best. The media need to clear these seemingly blurry lines

Yes, admittedly Montenegro are a very lowly ranked team and despite our weakened team, England still could have beaten them. However, we need to prove ourselves again and properly start from scratch, not just assume we can thump everyone because we comprehensively beat Croatia a couple of times in the run up to the World Cup. I think the sooner the fans accept this, and start treating ALL opposition as just that, opposition, not just cattle fodder, the sooner international matches will get their spark back.

Admittedly, they could just start selling booze at the football, like they do at the rugby, and risk the rucking. I had a Coke and a bag of Minstrels at the football – it felt like I was at the cinema, except with a few broken speakers…

GFC 4EVA

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3 responses

21 10 2010
Diamo

Egg-chasing is for poofs. And they always make a lot of noise (ref: Diva Fever)

22 10 2010
CarsmileSteve

(hello, found you via a random tweet)

i think the thing that the sarries match had that england matches don’t was A MAN IN AN ANTHROPOMORPHIC CAMEL SUIT ON A SEGWAY CARRYING A CHILEAN FLAG which one really doesn’t see every day…

…but joking aside i thought leinster fans made much more concerted noise than sarries who don’t have much in the way of chants (i’ve been up to vicarage road a few times over the last three or four seasons) and it did feel like every dubliner in london had come along. also blocking a lot of the (hardcore?) leinster fans together helped.

england matches i’ve been at wembley to have all been awful, including that croatia match, where the croatian fans out-sang and out-supported the rest of the stadium by a country mile. england fans are just awful, i can barely even watch the team any more, it’s too painful…

1 11 2010
Diabetes Diet

Very good entry. Anticipating the next.

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