Since the awkward opening days of the European Championships in France, when a minority of England fans behaved less than immaculately, it has been striking that media coverage of them has been almost non-existent. I say almost because at least BBC Radio Five Live, which has been amongst the fans from the start, has repeatedly given credit where credit has been due. All I keep hearing elsewhere are those wonderful Welsh/Irish/Icelandic fans, but absolutely nothing about ours. And why’s that? Because it’s not news.
I do understand why racist chanting, fighting and bottle-throwing was news early on. I also understand that, just because our hooligans were not as bad as, say, Russian hooligans did not wholly absolve them of any criticism. That there has been no reporting of transgressions for over a week now suggests to me that our fans are having a great time in France, mixing freely with locals and fans from other countries.
I could say that the good news I have received has been merely anecdotal. People have been tweeting, posting on Facebook and texting me. It’s all been good and I am slightly jealous (though not jealous of reports of €10 for a pint of lager)! But it’s not ‘merely anecdotal’ because we know, don’t we, that if things really were kicking off in France, the Sun and the Mail would have told us by now.
I am not saying our supporters are better than anyone else’s, but they are certainly no worse. I hear about all this Welsh and Irish passion, but do English fans care less? Don’t be silly.
I am at the stage where I am not enjoying England’s games. This usually happens some way into a tournament but happened to me as soon as a piss poor Russian team equalised in our opening game. Far from criticising our fans, I have great admiration and sympathy for them. We know we’re not very good, but the euphoria of a major tournament can make us believe otherwise. It’s one thing sitting in your living room, suffering England’s pain, but imagine being in the crowd as (insert the name of any player) misplaces yet another pass or blazes a shot hopelessly wide or over. When it’s over, I can slump in my chair, turn the telly off before the interviews begin and open another bottle of wine. If you’re there, you are living it. How hard must that be?
Even if I could afford to follow the national team, I would not do so. I well know the solidarity of being away with the lads, but this tournament goes on forever. And by next Monday, I’ll be optimistic that we might scrape past mighty Iceland, with the inevitable consequences.
Our fans are just getting on with it, having a great time and, so I am hearing, being a good advert for England. Now this won’t do for the tabloids who would much prefer to report on a punch up and elevate it into full riot status.
In this instance, no news is not good news. No news is not news at all. How about it, media owners, showing us the good side of England football fans? The good side is far bigger than the minority bad side. We should tell the world about it, but Rothermere, Murdoch and co don’t want the good news get out.
But don’t take my word for it: Google ‘England fans in France’ in images.