Bolt on the Landscape


What strange times we are living through. Starting in 2008 with the financial crash, through extreme weather conditions to the current Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. It seems to me to be a dystopian nightmare straight from the pen of J.G. Ballard. Encapsulating competing theories of science, conspiracies, polarised political views, re-appraisal of history, risk and the breakdown of world order. Well, never mind there’s still the football.

Who would have imagined that football clubs would have to resort to cardboard cut-outs of supporters bolted on to the seats as a backdrop to games played at the elite level, that football commentaries would have library archived crowd noises or that Pools would have started the season so well (as I write this that is, as we know all too well, no one can predict the future). P.S. I’d started writing this before the Torquay game, subsequently it would seem not everything has changed.

The Covid-19 pandemic, depending upon your political and environmental viewpoint has had some benefits. Of course it is disastrous for many both in terms of health but also wealth and especially for the jobs market. Many who had just been keeping their heads above water now face an uncertain future.

It is ironic that the present government, viewed by many as a hard-line right wing one, were voted in by a large majority and are now deploying extreme left-wing policies of massive borrowing and curbs on freedom to fight this pandemic.
"It’s a sad and depressing thought I know - football as a television-type spectacle only"

The benefits may be seen as improving air quality, reduced demand for using finite natural resources, a renewed sense of people working together especially at a community level and a hastening of IT solutions to age old problems. Which brings me to Hartlepool United.

I realise that there is nothing that beats attendance at a real live game but since clubs have been allowed to live stream matches this has brought in a funding lifeline and made games accessible to many who may otherwise be excluded. This includes people that would not normally be able to attend matches such as people with health issues, disabilities, exiles and an additional number of away supporters. There is the additional bonus of reducing pollution of those journeying to games whilst encouraging those that wouldn’t have considered travelling, now being able to pay to see a game.

Of course there is a financial downside with no sales of food or drinks, no programmes, no purchases from the club shop. The human downside is fewer jobs at the ground, not seeing friends, loss of atmosphere, isolation and not being part of a bigger group. Local businesses also suffer such as pubs and eateries.

Against these are benefits in not having to employ police and stewards, cleaning of the ground and a reduction on wear and tear.

So, what of the future? For many people who have been working from home due to the virus this could continue, possibly for at least part of the working week. New patterns of shopping are being seen with on-line purchases increasing rapidly. Enterprising smaller businesses are organising home deliveries which may all become the norm. Even the wearing of facemasks could prevent the spread of other less severe diseases.

So, if this situation were to be with us long-term, clubs may not need to have such large stadiums and relocation to a different type of stadium altogether may happen. It’s a sad and depressing thought I know - football as a television-type spectacle only, played in front of cameras with just management teams and medical staff in attendance.

Let’s hope that a successful vaccination offering long-term immunity or at least an effective treatment is available soon and that we can get on with our lives.

I would still like to have the streaming option available, maybe as part of a season ticket whereby people can either attend or stream a game. Those without a season ticket would be able to stream at a slightly higher cost as is the case of attending a live game.

As Marx once said “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”. That’s Groucho Marx, not Karl by the way.

On a slightly different note, a massive ‘well done’ to players and supporters whose combined efforts provided food and money for those in need during the half term break – a magnificent community effort.

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