Daniel Chapman | Writing etc

Endorsing The Beaten Generation’s Back-to-Front Inside-Out Upside-Down United

Several times over the last twelve months I have referred back to The Beaten Generation’s New Year’s Revolution article, as a reminder of why I’m involved in things like The Square Ball and as an inspiration to keep me going:

Gloriously anarchic, Leeds United fans are hard to chuck a blanket over but in 2010 our voices will crescendo to new, entirely authentic forms. It will be a year of mass individual expression as increasing numbers of bloggers, forumers and social networkers converge with new and existing independent initiatives run in the real world by fans, for fans.

Yesterday TBG published a brilliant follow-up post, Leeds: the back to front, inside out, upside down United, which is again an essential and rousing read for anyone who gives a care about the health of independent fan culture at Leeds United:

So thank heavens for those who do whatever they can to provide and take opportunities for Leeds United fans’ voices to be heard. 2010 saw them crescendo into new, authentic forms and in 2011 authenticity’s struggle with authority will intensify.

He’s right about this stuff, you know. It is a mark of Leeds fans – “gloriously anarchic” – that we can rarely agree about anything. Many times at Leeds attempts at organised protests have stumbled under the weight of the varied and equally valuable opinions they sought to include. But this approach presupposes that a single, unified voice is the best way for Leeds fans to make themselves heard. If we have a multitude of voices and opinions, why try to distil them into one? Why does mass protest have to be group protest? Why not, as TBG says, “mass individual expression”?

Leeds: the back to front, inside out, upside down United where we haven’t a voice because we have too many, yet also we don’t have nearly enough.

These days, we don’t have to sit around trying to agree amongst ourselves about the form and approach of a protest. If you have an opinion, voice it. TenForKen did well raising awareness of issues at the club and presenting ten questions to Ken Bates, whose failure to answer was an answer in itself. But rather than one group asking ten questions, what about ten different people asking ten different questions? Or one hundred people asking one hundred questions? One thousand? Ten thousand?

It’s an approach that works. Before Christmas, a Leeds fan sent an email to the club expressing displeasure at the rumoured sale of academy players. This single act of communication so riled Ken Bates, that he criticised the writer both on Yorkshire Radio and in his programme notes, using the latter also to dredge up an encounter with The Square Ball from seven months previously. A few weeks later, again on Yorkshire Radio, Bates turned a simple question about transfer activity into another moan about nasty letters from fans. One small act by one Leeds fan, one big reaction.

And protest, should you even feel there is anything to protest about, is just one potential outlet for the creativity of Leeds fans. The Beaten Generation highlights, and is an exemplar of, a tangible surge in independent, fan-produced media over the last twelve months:

…throwing a spanner in the works of club-branded media this year will be the accelerated development of a handful of savvy, fan-run initiatives who will find themselves market leaders … Already first ports of call for valued opinion, they will begin to set agendas at Leeds…

I can’t remember the last time I read a match report on the official site. Why would I want to, when I can read Travels of a Leeds Fan, Keep Fighting, Dirty Leeds, Jenber’s Blog, The Scratching Shed, Clarke One Nil, We’re Not Famous Any More, The John Charles Way and others, reliving it all at the end of the month in the White Watching section of The Square Ball magazine? When I can see fan-produced YouTube footage of the parts of the game I really want to see, before LUTV has even edited its highlights? When on forums I can see threads full of quality fan-taken photographs, in spite of the club’s attempt to ban unauthorised photographers? When I can look at MSPaint pictures of Leeds players with breasts?

What these and many other examples of Leeds fans’ creativity and productivity have in common is that they strengthenThe Fans of Leeds United as an entity, independent of Leeds City Holdings/Forward Sports Fund/Chateau Fiduciaire, that grips tight the true ownership of Leeds United Football Club; they are fans of Leeds United, sharing their creativity with other fans of Leeds United, for the mutual benefit of the fans of Leeds United. And having a good time while they’re doing it.

While Ken Bates might like to think that between Yorkshire Radio, LUTV, next season’s 100-page programme and Lucas The Kop Cat he has Leeds United’s brand image all sewn up and sorted, the truth is that Leeds United supporters are taking care of all that for themselves. The result – incoherent, cacophonous, and original – may resemble a white, yellow and blue Jackson Pollock painting more than a slick 21st Century trademark, but it’s our canvas, and we’ll paint it how we like. As The Beaten Generation says:

If you haven’t already, this is the year to start making yourself heard.


Originally on The Square Ball blog