19 Oct 2015

Big Sport: let the crowds make the noise, not Blastmusic

First came the rampant commercialisation of sport – now comes the Americanisation of it too. There is no question that the action on the pitch during the Rugby World Cup has been at times mesmerising and sometimes heartbreaking.

But what on earth do the World Cup organisers think they are doing by blasting the crowd with deafening music whenever somebody scores points? Isn’t that why the crowd has paid (a lot) to be there? Isn’t that their moment? Their time?

Those moments, surely, are what the live crowd is there for. Yet all Big Sport seems hellbent on killing the occasion by deadening the atmosphere with Blastmusic whenever they can. They are quite literally killing the key live element of live sport – the atmosphere and response from the crowd. Without that there is no point in having people pay to watch except for taking their money – which is of course all many in Big Sport really care about: taking your money.

How long before we are talking about the “audience” at football, cricket and rugby because “crowd” is inappropriate for the rows of regimented, cowed, sitting punters allowed to politely applaud once the music has duly faded.

It began in football, crowd-dulling music smashing around the all-seater stadia the instant the final or half-time whistle went.

Then 20-20 cricket became infected in its desperate desire to create a spectacle. Isn’t the smash ‘n’ grab of 20-20 enough then? Talk about having no faith in the sport…

Why doesn’t Big Sport have any faith left in big  sport to be entertaining? What is wrong with what is happening on the pitch and the crowd’s passionate response to it that we have to kill things further and kill the effect of a live crowd to be a live crowd like this?

One of the reasons why German football is such an effective model is because – unlike the English Premier League – they have not forgotten that a the crowd and its support – not controlled by blaring PA systems – is actually an  essential part of the spectacle of keeping live sport live and not a plastic commercial production.

Just take a moment and YouTube, say Borussia Dortmund crowd and look at how far British football has lost the plot. The German shave a word for it – Fankultur. Yes, fan culture – just imagine that. As if anyone in authority in English football appears to give a toss about fan culture or seem to have the slightest comprehension as to what that could mean?

That is why the English Premier League is from time to time subject to pathetic appeals for more noise from managers; to observations like that of Roy Keane about the “prawn sandwich brigade” in comatose Old Trafford and by constant pleas from fans for singing areas – the very existence of all this, proof of a “spectacle” killed by commercialism, silly fireworks and – may God help us – cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders!!!! And why? Why would anybody want to make any sporting  occasion  anything like the US experience? It’s brain-killing dullness and plastic commercialism, interrupted even now and then by something of passing significance on the pitch, is the precise polar opposite to European football and rugby culture.

Fankultur. Is this really where we want to take things?

We can but hope that plans to create standing areas in our football grounds – and any other grounds for that matter – continue to gather pace and gain acceptance.

At least whilst there are still people young enough and interested enough to want to go and watch sport and stand up and shout and sing and chant  and do the stuff that makes a live sporting occasion a live sporting occasion.

Left much longer they will all have been priced out and away forever, leaving the older fans – no audience – politely  applauding after the shattering music has died down and remembering perhaps how it once was when sports stadiums behaved as if supporters’ support actually mattered.

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