How safe is your stadium?

by Dexy Longshot

Monday, December 15th, 2008

On the attack

My heartfelt apologies to anyone who is loathe to the idea of talking about anything else than our sport of choice. Please understand it’s hard for me to let go of the image I carry of a Surrey boy who went to a pretty up-its-own-arse state school which has a reputation of masquerading as a private school, but that’s exactly my history. There were the rabid taunts from other, less well-to-do schools of our deckchair-themed blazers and faux upper crust reputation. But worse than that, our Games lessons consisted of the middle-class sports, rotated by the seasons: rugby in the winter, cricket in the summer. To get a kick about was a luxury.

I was proud to be fairly useless at both rugger and crick, but events recently have caused me to cast my mind back to the days of the oversized leg pads, the itchy seams of the white jogging trousers and the dread that comes with loading your pants with the infamous box. While all of the ‘big’ British sports are in full swing for their respective calendars, it’s cricket which has grabbed the headlines recently, and for the wrong reasons.

Recent terror attacks have left the sport in the grip of a sobering paranoia as England take a gamble to do their tour of India under the sustained threat of further violence. It’s to the extent where police snipers have trained their weapons to the crease in case of any extremely unsavoury pitch invasions.

And this is where we come back to football. Would you feel comfortable going to a match under such a heavy-handed armed guard? Visiting an alien location is a nerve-wracking experience; even it’s just playing away at Leeds. But in the wake of terror attacks, would you feel at ease knowing your team are travelling to a place where the threat is real and a stadium packed with tens of thousands of fans a glorious target for potential anarchy?

Perhaps I’m going overboard on this. Apologies if I give the appearance of a scaremongerer, telling you to get your football kit sewn on to the outside of a hazmat suit. But a chilling novel by Chris Cleave entitled Incendiary, which has since been made in to a film, tells the graphic story of a live Arsenal game descending into a tragedy as a capacity crowd at the Emirates is annihilated by 11 suicide bombers. By a disturbing and unfortunate coincidence, the date of the book’s publication was 7 July, 2005. Ring any bells? You really can’t say it won’t happen until it does.

It makes you glad that the UEFA catchment means that British teams and national sides only have to venture outside of the relatively safe European countries in exceptional circumstances, friendlies which are easy to cancel or for the World Cup finals. But it adds further to the already burgeoning argument against the 39th Game idea, with countries in the Far East keen to see Premiership teams on their doorstep but with the locality to terrorist cells making it a dangerous prospect indeed.

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  • Stevie

    my mate has actually gone to India to watch it. I thought he went a few weeks ago.

    it’s the English way to not let anything get in our way.

  • dexylongshot

    I’m actually going out to Mumbai over the xmas and am quietly bricking it. Me and my mate booked up a relaxing 3 week hols of Mumbai, Goa and then onto the beaches of Thailand back in August (purely for football reasons i can assure you). A fortnight ago, we were both having 2nd thoughts as the news trickled through on Sky. It seems to have all calmed down now and the threat has died down. We’ve been informed that India is more secure than ever but I will still be feeling a bit on edge when I’m at the Airport and train station. Thanks for the book tip J, i’ll get that at the airport.

  • Darren

    Jay, we need you for our quiz team on Monday nights! You obviously know your stuff.

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