'I bet you don't do that at home'
Scarborough steward Stephanie Pride says her job has been changed to nannying the fans
My club Scarborough may be giving us stewards red and yellow cards next season. Meaning? Visitors to Scarborough's McCain stadium can expect to be 'booked' for such offences as questioning the referee's parentage, inciting the opposition and other traditional pastimes employed by fans everywhere to relieve the agony and frustration of supporting a typical third division side.
These are changing times for Scarborough - and not just because we have started to play some halfway decent football. Most of the changes have in fact come off the pitch, and are nowhere more apparent than in the changing role of the stewards, the public face of the club.
Before I started working there two seasons ago - mainly as a means of getting paid to go to matches - a former acquaintance and ex-member of the intervention team described to me how he once sent a Chesterfield supporter 'flying down the terraces' to a broken ankle. Today's 'intervention', by contrast, is more likely to involve asking fans to sit down and mind their language - to the accompaniment of hoots of derision.
These days at Scarborough, the new model steward seems to have more in common with a nursery assistant than the kind of glorified bouncer some still see themselves as. It is perhaps significant that our newest supervisor is a mother of three, whose day job involves walking donkeys along the seafront and who was scared witless on her first day with a two-way radio. Now more confident, she chides 'I bet you don't put your feet on the furniture at home' at the gangs of Manchester United-supporting tots who charge around squirting soft drinks at each other as their guardians try to follow the match.
It is not just the kids who get this treatment. While on duty in what is popularly known as the 'cowshed', I am expected to ask fully grown adults to step down from a slightly raised ledge at the back of the enclosure, ostensibly for safety reasons, but probably just to stop me watching the match. Traditionally, the 'cowshed' is home to the club's more vocal supporters, where fans engage in witty dialogue with the opposition ('Come on, Boro!', 'Fuck Off, Boro!', etc) unmolested. Over the past couple of seasons, however, the gap between the two camps has been gradually widened (and policed) to such an extent that it is sometimes difficult to hear calls of 'did you come in a taxi?' if you are standing at the wrong end.
Earlier this year, I was stunned to be asked by the deputy safety officer to report on a middle-aged man with a crutch who was using the words 'bent', 'black' and 'bastard' (of the referee), presumably because he was in a family enclosure. Strong language, we are told, sets a bad example to young people and offends women. As if to bear this out, stewards' children are now banned from attending briefings while it is not uncommon to hear male stewards apologising to 'ladies present' for swearing. (Never mind that most children use demonstrably worse language than their parents or that many women, myself included, find men's apologies much more offensive than their choice of vocabulary.)
So who is pushing this drive against 'offensive behaviour'? Usually it is the whingeing minority of letter writers, aided and abetted by the ground regulations and one or two jobsworths desperate to make their mark on the club. One indication of the current importance placed on 'customer complaints' is the way stewards' briefings regularly start with a rundown of letters received, which range from the trivial (clean toilets!) to the ridiculous ('I expect better treatment as the [fill in appropriate relative] of the chairman') to the actually quite serious, like occasional allegations of assault.
The other perennial subject is what gets past the search teams. Many a debriefing is spent arguing the toss about whose fault it was that somebody got in with a can of pop. Not, as some would suggest, because it is against the ground regulations (although it is), but because the club is still trying desperately to get through stocks of its own brand line of pops before the last remaining player to have a drink named in his honour decides to move on. Apart from cans and bottles, other items confiscated for 'safety' reasons since I began working for the club have included motorcyle helmets, air horns, a cardboard coffin for the unpopular chairman of Hull City and even a garden gnome!
One sign of the times is that current training for stewards places more emphasis on identifying offensive language than on how to prevent pitch invasions or find knives in people's collars. Long sessions are spent defining racial abuse in particular, never mind that it is practically non-existent in my experience (allegations against a former goalkeeper notwithstanding). Apparently it is not just allusions to the race or nationality of a person that is deemed unacceptable these days, but even to their local provenance. Hence the recent disciplining of a Scarborough player for the use of the term 'monkey-hanger' - not, as you might imagine, a racial epithet, but a reference to the apocryphal tale of a monkey that was allegedly put to the gallows in Hartlepool on suspicion of being a French spy.
Of course there are some terms of abuse that are genuinely offensive to people, and I am not sure how a referee's assistant guilty of little more than a questionable offside decision felt about being called 'Nazi paedophile'. In my experience, however, nobody is genuinely upset by the colourful insults and humorous use of stereotypes, and if they are then they probably should not be at a football match. Football supporters are not such fragile creatures. I always remember how one set of visiting Welsh supporters responded to repeated provocations (and an early goal) by singing 'One-nil to the sheep shaggers!'. In the current climate, they might expect to be disciplined for this, although who they could be offending is unclear. The sheep?
Sex and power
It is assumed by some that if the game becomes more skilful and less physical, women will be able to compete on a par with men. As Jack Tarr, who chairs the English Schools Football Association girl's committee, put it after the Vimto Trophy under-16s final, 'Don't forget there are 120 years of history to catch up with the boys. I have seen the last two finals and the standard here was far higher'.
If the women's game received the same resources as the men's, no doubt it would improve. But could women ever be as good as the men at the highest level? Or does the physical advantage that men have mean that they will still outperform women on the football pitch?
Studies show that, with training, women can achieve 75 per cent of the power of men in the arms, about 80 per cent in the thighs and 65 per cent in the back and hands. This means that women cannot achieve the same power as men in key aspects of football: running, kicking, throwing, tackling, jumping or diving.
The significant differences in skeletal composition include broader shoulders and longer arms. This means men can throw the ball further and have a longer reach when diving in goal. Oxygen intake is also important. It takes an average man seven litres of blood to pump one litre of oxygen around the body, while the average women needs nine. This limits the endurance of women in all but the very longest of events, as a better oxygen flow around the body delays fatigue setting in. This difference is smaller between male and female athletes but is still significant (see T Lang, The Differences Between a Man and a Woman, 1971).
It is true that over longer distances stamina of the kind that women have becomes more important than strength. But football is all about power and pace over 90 minutes, which is why the fittest females would not be able to match the fittest males.
Among pre-pubescent children, where skeletal and muscular differences are less significant, if anything the earlier physical development of girls could give them an advantage. But past puberty, just about the only physical advantage women have over men on the football pitch is that they don't have testicles to cover when making a defensive wall.
By Dan Travis and Alex Standish
FA for the fans
by Carlton Brick
Any England fan hoping to get tickets for France '98 while avoiding the lottery of the jammed phonelines, had to be a member of the Football Association's official England member's club. For £18 a year, the England travel club member gets first refusal on tickets for England matches overseas, including the World Cup (subject to availability of course). Ticket in hand, your face painted red and white, and the unforgettable (unfortu-nately) 'Three lions' in your throat, you set off across the Channel, with four weeks of wine, women, song and soccer on your mind.
But there is one snag. Having paid their subscription fee, for the privilege of paying more money for their ticket, members find that they have bought into not just a travel club, but a semi-religious order. They are bound by the rules and regulations of the member's club - bound being the operative word.
There are 19 rules, number 12 of which stipulates: 'A member shall not drink alcoholic drinks on coaches, charted trains, boats or planes on which he is travelling to or from a match. A member shall not drink alcoholic drinks or carry alcoholic beverages in any street or public place on the day of a match or at any time when attending a match or travelling to or from a match.'
Rule 13 adds a dress code to the drinks ban: 'A member shall not wear clothing which is con-sidered by the Foot-ball Association to be inappr-opriate, indecent, abusive or prejudicial in words or design.'
In addition there is a special FA rule for the World Cup: 'No ticket-holder shall, while attending a match or upon arrival at the stadium where the match is played, display, wear or carry any documents, leaflets, signs, symbols, banners, devices or equipment or other items of any nature, shape or size of a political, ideo-logical, religious or advertising nature or any commercial slogans in such a way that the item(s) con-cerned are visible to others.' See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil!
If you have a ticket, but take yourself and your football seriously, my advice is don't go. Stay at home with a cold beer and a hot TV. It will be a lot more fun than the Sunday school outing planned by the FA.
Carlton Brick is coordinator of Libero!, the football supporters' network
Whatever happened to the tartan terror?
It is a standing joke in Scotland that 'the English think we're kidding when we say we don't like them'. And it is a source of consternation to Scots that, despite their best efforts to be fierce and rebellious, the English seem to like them anyway. This is more apparent than ever these days in discussions about Scottish football supporters.
While the more tiresome Scots still like to whinge about 'English sterotypes' of drunken Scottish fans rampaging across Wembley, it is clear that perceptions have changed. The Scottish fans have become the fun-loving good guys, exemplary little brothers for the English rowdies. With the absence of 'big Jack's army' of loveable Irish fans, it seems that the Scots fans will be the ones to be patronised and patted on the head in France as the media's idea of model supporters for modern football.
Perhaps the turning point was 'the game that never was', when Scotland was the only team to make it on to the pitch for the World Cup qualifier in Tallinn, Estonia. The home team's failure to show up did not seem to bother the Scottish fans, mainly because they were under the impression that this meant an automatic victory. Pictures of tartan-clad revellers merrily exposing their arses to the cameras were beamed approvingly back to British living rooms as an example of what football is supposed to be about.
Eccentric women in face paint, squaddies in silly hats, the bizarre cult of Colin 'Braveheart' Hendry: doesn't it make you proud to be a football supporter? What do you mean, no? Personally, I've always thought Scotland supporters were a funny lot. Scots have suffered enough humiliation over the years watching Rangers and Celtic falling apart in Europe without having to watch Blackburn Rovers do the same thing in tartan jerseys.
While some have faith in Craig Brown's renaissance (all this nonsense about playing as a team instead of just thumping the ball up the field and running after it with scary faces on!), the fans that really hit it off with the media are the ones who don't expect to win at all, the ones who just show up for the carnival. In this capacity, the 'tartan army' has become the international equivalent of the Partick Thistle support: a safe camp for those 'football fans' who don't really approve of winning anyway.
Given the inevitability of the results in France (the traditional scoreless draw in the opener against Brazil, a glorious victory over Norway followed by a severe gubbing at the hands of Morocco), the only hope of restoring national pride rests with Duncan 'Disorderly' Ferguson. The original Scottish 'heid-the-bal' has long been excluded from the squad, but if he can make it to France as a spectator then perhaps the fans will 'Rise and be a public nuisance again'.
TV guide to the pundits' code
by Ed Barrett
Football and clichés go together like Ronaldo and Romario, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the World Cup. This carnival of clichés pairs know-nothing pundits with countries they have never heard of and continents they would have difficulty locating on a map.
How do they cope? Simple: they fall back on the national stereotypes handed down through the mists of time, from Wolsthenholme to Coleman to Motson. Thousands of hours of foreign football are broadcast in Britain every year, and dozens of foreign players grace our leagues, yet Belgians are still 'the Belgiums' and Moroccans and Nigerians are all just 'Africans' to us.
England 'gave football to the world' but the world rather ungratefully brought in all kinds of fancy tricks and started to beat us. So we console ourselves that although our players may not be the most skilful, they nevertheless uphold standards of 'commitment' and sportsmanship (English players are 'physical', never dirty). The fact that England have been out-run and out-fought many times is simply ignored.
The English are always brave, 'honest', have a terrific work rate and always show 'character'. Tony Adams is all heart. Paul Ince, like Terry 'Captain Courageous' Butcher before him, will be forever remembered for his blood-soaked head bandage rather than his footballing abilities.
English players are not expected to display flair or skill - indeed, true talent is traditionally regarded in much the same way as diving, spitting and other such 'foreign' habits which have been 'creeping into our game' for as long as anybody can remember. So in the unlikely event of Beckham bending a 30-yard free kick into the top corner, or Gazza beating five men to score, Motty and Co will follow the strict rules drawn up to cover such events, and sourly note that 'if a Brazilian had done that, we'd all be applauding it'.
If England is eliminated, teams with players from the premier league will be treated as honorary Brits, and cited as proof that our league is the best in the world. Also, the English referee will become eligible for the final. If selected, this will confirm that our refs are also the best. If he isn't, the foreign ref will be compared unfavourably to him.
In emergencies, such as England failing to qualify, loyalties are transferred to Scotland as representatives of 'the British game'. Scotland's past performances have been a combination of farce and heroics, invariably resulting in a first-round exit. As with those other occasional 'British' representatives, the Irish, attention is therefore focused on their 'marvellous' fans, whose good humour, kilts and bagpipes are contrasted favourably with the aggressive English: 'Win, lose or draw, these fans are going to have a party.'
Germans are viewed with a mixture of resentment and admiration; superiority and inferiority. German teams down the years have boasted such artists as Beckenbauer, Netzer and Schuster. Yet their technical gifts count for nothing compared to their reputation for discipline, organisation and determination. They will forever be an efficient, 'well-oiled machine'. They will 'keep going for 90 minutes'. So remember: 'Never write off the Germans.' You do so 'at your peril'.
The English attitude to the Krauts is superficially bullish ('Two World Wars and one World Cup'). But the fact is that England's record against them since 1966 is abysmal. The penalty shoot-outs of '90 and '96 have raised the rivalry to new levels - but only on the English side. The Germans, by contrast, treat England as a medium-sized stepping stone on their path to glory. Each time they wheel on Beckenbauer to pay tribute to Bobby Charlton, it only serves to underline how long it has been since we were genuine contenders.
Treated as a third-rate Germany: methodical and steady, but lacking in talent.
The Spanish 'never punch their weight at international level', and are perennial 'dark horses'. This lack of success means that they tend to avoid the usual anti-Latin flak. As long as they don't beat England, or start a fishing war, this sympathetic attitude should persist.
As with the Scots, their fans are patronisingly lauded for their friendliness - the blueprint being the dreadful Danish 'rolligans' with their silly hats and goodwill mission. They are regarded as honorary Brits because they speak English, watch our football and play in our leagues. They also 'play an English game' and can be relied upon to produce at least one huge blond striker who can be dubbed an 'old-fashioned British-style centre forward'.
The French are 'proud', 'technically gifted' and, as hosts, 'can't be written off'. There will be much dark talk of the coach's alleged reluctance to pick English-based players, but they will be sentimental favourites with the pundits thanks to the stirring deeds of the Platini-Giresse-Tigana side. Deep down, though, the French are not regarded as a true football nation, and their exit will be greeted with gleeful 'Hop off you frogs!' headlines.
Football in Italy is a 'religion', not a game. Serie A (never 'the Italian league') is 'the most expensive/glamorous league in the world' but - despite their clubs' domination of European competitions - this should not be confused with the best/hardest/most exciting league in the world, which is of course, our own. The Italians, as always, will be 'there or thereabouts' in this World Cup, but 'anything less than victory will be seen as failure' by their 'demanding public', who have been 'brought up to expect success'. Confusingly, they combine skill, style and romance with cynicism, negativity and discipline. Italian defenders are always 'uncompromising'.
'Flair' is the key word here. Dutch sides have been built on the 'Ajax system' and 'total football' - two phrases the pundits repeat like a mantra. Most of Holland's stars play abroad, and their big-money players always ensure that there are 'internal divisions' in the Dutch camp. At least one will be sent home, and others will refuse to come at all because of 'disagreements' with the coach. Nevertheless, they will be 'in with a shout'.
Brazil are favourites in both senses. As reigning world champions and possessors of Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and the rest, they are expected to retain their title. They are also, we are constantly told, 'everybody's favourite other team'. They 'play the game the way it should be played'. They play the 'beautiful game'. And they play it to the rhythm of the Samba.
Brazilians are 'colourful' and 'exuberant', and the cameras will always pick out a group of pretty girls dancing in the crowd and also a fat moustachioed man with a drum. As with the Italian fans, 'nothing less than victory will do'. If their team should lose, 'a nation will mourn'.
Brilliant technique, wonderful flair, but undermined by their 'cynical attitude' and 'brutal streak'. For English viewers a passing reference to the 'animals' of '66/'hand of God'/Falklands war will suffice.
OTHER SOUTH AMERICANS
For commentating purposes, 'South America' includes Central America. As with Argentina and other 'Latins' they are temperamental, underhand and volatile, but 'full of ability'. Will always have a Valderrama/El Loco-style eccentric in the side to raise a laugh or allow Ron Atkinson to make a joke about what Brian Moore would look like with a crazy haircut.
Sadly, they have 'more important things to worry about than football', though the players will be 'endeavouring to give their people something to smile about'. The World Cup is a 'shop window' for individual players, and they will be 'out to show the world what they can do'.
'Athletic' and 'well-organised'. Talk will concentrate on the eternal problems of the US league, and Lalas's rock band.
These two countries are co-hosting the 2002 World Cup, and they will be treated as interchangeable. They will inevitably be referred to as 'nippy' and industrious.
In the absence of any real knowledge about South Korea, expect lots of reminiscences about knocking out Italy in 1966 (even thought that was North Korea). Whatever they do, they will 'play the game in the right spirit', and 'win a lot of friends'. Since commentators know nothing about Japan, they will mention the 'J League' as much as possible, and refer to 'Gary Lineker's Grampus 8', in the way they used to talk of 'Chris Waddle's Marseille'.
Again, in the absence of any real information, expect talk of 'surprise packages' and 'unknown quantities', plus a few cracks about ayatollahs and mad mullahs.
As above, except with tales of how some long-forgotten former Bournemouth manager is employed by an oil sheikh to train his personal team.
Too early to say exactly which clichés will attach themselves to the 'reggae boyz', beyond references to support back in Brixton. Probably some variant on the African happy-go-lucky, here-for-the-party theme. Players based in England will bring 'valuable experience'. The rest will be 'instinctive'.
They are 'a breath of fresh air'. They 'play with a smile on their face' and are 'happy just to be here'. Their enthusiasm is infectious. The first round is 'their Cup final', but they are unlikely to get to the final stages because their 'natural ability' is undermined by being 'naive in defence'. Although they have now been 'emerging' for nearly three decades, they will once more be tipped to 'win the World Cup within 10 years'.
Reproduced from LM issue 111, June 1998