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Football punk'd

Football punk'd

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Published by Stuart Fuller
Jamie Cutteridge explains how football is now the only bastion left of the punk movement
Jamie Cutteridge explains how football is now the only bastion left of the punk movement

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Published by: Stuart Fuller on Jun 20, 2011
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06/20/2011

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Football punked
 Jamie Cutteridge looks at how football is the only true living, breathing punk movement.
Sometimes, a slow death of a movement means that it is difficult to define when something isdefinitely gone, and some kind of crystallising moment is necessary. For example, the freshness of New Labour seemed to disappear somewhere around the beginning of this century, but the death of the movement was confirmed when Ed Miliband of the old left was elected leader last year. ‘Punk’this movement based somewhere within the realms of anarchism seemed to start dying as soon itreached any form of public consciousness (almost by definition, once it lost its underground andsubversive nature, it lost its raison d’etre) but could never truly be said to have been killed off until acouple of years ago, when Jonny Rotten appeared in an advert for Country Life Butter.Now Rotten is well within his right to whore himself out towhatever dairy product manufacturers he likes, but it proved acultural marker for many, as those still living in a world wherepunk was still relevant were rudely awakened. Our western,capitalist, culture has an ability to take any subversivepowerful movement, and turn it into something easily sold,packaged and marketed. The niche of society that wasprevalent in the punk movement then turns to find a similar subversive movement.I propose that football can fulfil this place in society. The birth of punk in the 70s was led by a sectionof society who felt under-represented in the wider culture. Music seemed to only confirm thestructure already prevalent in society (as Marx would say, the Ruling ideas are, in every epoch, theruling ideas, i.e. we live in a world where those with power only present ideas that confirm theirplace in society). Under-represented and angry about it, the era of punk music was born, as peoplebegan to step away from the musical norms and what was popular, instead choosing to expresssomething different, some subversive, something, in the eyes of many, dangerous. The punkmovement became about more than just the music. Simple power chords and angry lyrics were nolonger enough, and punk was identified by people’s attitude, appearance and social calendar. Farfrom being a musical genre, punk became a holistic lifestyle, one born out of opposition to those inpower.Over recent years (fuelled by the internet, blogs, and twitter) a number of football fans have begunto look further down the league, away from the mainstream for their football entertainment, in asimilar fashion to how the early punk pioneers stepped away from the musical hierarchy. Thesimilarities do not end there. These fans are displaying their dissatisfaction with thecommoditisation of their game.To fully understand this shift, one must look at the early foundations, upon which the game wasbuilt. Traditionally, football was built around and within local communities, and as football grew,clubs sought to maintain this link with their community. However, when football began for real in1992 (©Sky Sports) a light seemed to switch on in the head of owners that there was a lot of money
 
to be made from this sport, and that perhaps those on the doorstep of the club were no longer theirprime audience. (In fairness, this was no overnight realisation, and football had been moving in thisdirection pre-92, but perhaps the birth of the Premiership serves as some sort of watershed.)As more and money was (and is) pumped into the game, it moves further away from the communitybasis. Players earn more in a week than many fans will earn in a decade, and perpetuate this gulf byappearing more and more out of touch with the ‘average’ fan whilst clubs see fans as consumersrather than a valued part of soul of the club. The matchday experience is all about exploiting theattendees for all their worth rather than facilitating an enjoyable day out, whilst endeavours withinthe community seem more like nods to bygone years than genuine philanthropy. If one comparesthe matchday experience and prices to the non-league game where prices structures are in placepurely to keep the club afloat rather than make a profit from the fans. The community aspect is bothmore central, and better expressed amongst lower league clubs. In many ways this is purely practicalas community it naturally easier to build between smaller groups of people, but from both what I’veobserved, as well as collected through a recent research project there is more of an effort within theclub hierarchy to maintain the historical community. In many cases the community endeavours arespearheaded by the manager, who sees their remit as bigger than just on the field matters, butinstead as an ambassador for the club as whole. This is yet another mirroring of the punk movementwhere the lead singer could also the band’s main promoter, flyering, sticking flyers and fanzinewherever they could find space.In some cases, (such as FC United of Manchester andAFC Wimbledon) the importance of community iswritten in the very charter of the club. Perhaps thesetwo are the best examples of ‘punk’ clubs within thiscountry. Both were set up as a mark of protest, orreaction, to something that had happened to the clubthey were previously connected to. This parallel withpunk’s heyday seems to stand-out, and whatever one’sview on FCUM, they must be applauded for doingsomething about the issue impacting them.Both these clubs share an affinity with perhaps the ultimate punk club, St Pauli. In the mid-80s theclub shifted to take a firm position against the right-wing nationalists and hooligans prevalent in thefootball culture that surrounded them. Their remit has since winded to tackle homophobia, racismand sexism. Perhaps more than any other example, this is a punk football team, one that is at oddswith the world around it and fighting the problems that it sees. Joe Strummer would be proud, if hecared about football.
Perhaps the man that encapsulates this more than anyone is the great Danny Baker. Here is manwho was there in the middle of punk’s heyday, a man rooted in musical folklore (despite not actually killing Bob Marley), but a man who, more than many still carries that punk aesthetic in his approachto football. Danny is clearly a man who loves football, but a man who realises that football is not about money, but about an entirety of experience, the little things that no-one notices (or one fanswooden bow tie ) are equally as important as the 30 yard screamer. For some reasons in the midst of a world where football is defined by how close one is to a Champions League place, or the contents of 

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