Arsenal, Manchester City and the linesman who spoke for most of us

Jake brightens up the site again
Jake brightens up the site again

The FA, we are told, has been “letting it be known” that John Brooks, an unlikely hero of the modern game of football, has been removed from FA Cup duties tonight and Premier League action at the weekend because of “the pressure of media interest in him”.

Is it or is it not a punishment? It sounds like one, however dressed up in weasel words.

Brooks was a linesman for Sunday’s tempestuous game between Arsenal and Man City at the Etihad. He was overheard on TV telling Man City players during the post-final whistle handshakes: “They paid 62 quid over there, go and see them.”

Can anyone think of a good reason why he should not have said such a thing? Was he not just expressing a thought most us shared? City sent back 912 tickets at £62 a shot, an obscene price many supporters were simply not prepared to pay.

Arsenal’s outrageous greed had not only backfired commercially but prompted a match offical to pass on a hint of solidarity to fabulously paid footballers.

That his remark was picked up by broadcasters should not matter a jot. He did not seek publicity; it came to him.

Far from seeking to sanction him – oops, I meant to say “protect him from the limelight” – the FA should be revering the man. Football has detached itself far too far from the reach of ordinary people. It needs to reconnect and Brooks’s comment got close to reflecting that need.

Not much to do with Sunderland, you may think. But this is how I introduced a rant at ESPN on the subject:

Older football supporters are fond of harking back to the glory days when they’d take the tram to the match, have a couple of pints and a steaming hot pie, buy a programme, hand over cash at the turnstile and get home again in time for tea, having stopped only to buy the Football Pink, with change left over from five shillings.

My description of a typical matchday experience may owe a little to the imagination but – minus the tram and the beer, and with some adjustment to the financial aspect – is not worlds away from how I once spent every other Saturday with Roker Park as my destination.

If anyone shares or challenges my strong views – and please read the piece in full at this link: – I would be honoured if you were to add comments there, or here.

This is how I ended the article:

But don’t take a reactionary old Sunderland supporter’s word for it. The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has said he does not blame City fans for not taking up their full ticket allocation.

“I think they are sending Arsenal Football Club a very clear message,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live programme.

Whether football in general, or Arsenal in particular, will take the slightest notice is another matter.

9 thoughts on “Arsenal, Manchester City and the linesman who spoke for most of us”

  1. One time not so long ago the cost of going to the match was incidental. It was working man’s theatre. Sadly no longer. This man was removed from his officiating because he had a heart. Those who run football had theirs removed and replaced with a calculator years ago.

  2. With the tax rate cut from 50% to 45% these lucky footballers will be raking in even more.Good on the assistant ref. for his actions.Nice to see some decency left in the game.

  3. In the premiership clubs don’t make most of their revenue from gates, they make it from TV. We’re about 7th best for attendance figures and if I remember rightly over half of our revenue derives from TV deals. For Wigan it’s about 80%

    • Just been looking at the “Swiss Rambler”s excellent blog on this ( forecasts that only 3 clubs will earn less than 50% of revenue from TV when the new deal comes in. Here’s a quote from his blog:
      “In 2010/11 television accounted for a staggering 70% or more of revenue at clubs like Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion. Without this money, these clubs simply wouldn’t be able to compete and might even struggle to survive.

      The new television deal brings more clubs into that category with over half of the Premier League earning more than 70% from this revenue stream. At the extreme, Wigan would earn an almost unbelievable 92% of their total income from TV in future – they might as well let fans into the stadium for free, especially as they will be constantly messed about over kick-off times to suit television schedule”.

  4. One of the best predictors of success in the PL in recent years has been the wage bill of the individual clubs.

    Teams still make the majority of their income from gate receipts and people are still willing to pay these high prices.

    It seems illogical to me that you should choose this article to complain about ticket prices, when these are high only so that teams can pay the obscene salaries these players demand, particularly when their greed and arrogance is exactly what this chap was pointing out.

    So if you will forgive the americanism, Is that really what you got out of this incident?

    • The greed and arrogance goes right through the game. It is as reasonable to point out the obscenity of ticket prices as it is to draw attention, as I did, to the fabulous earnings of players

  5. You are under the same misconception as most people in that this is simply an Arsenal problem. Man City charged Arsenal’s away fans £58 earlier this season and Southampton’s £52, Southampton fans paid £35 to watch their team at the Emirates. It’s partly Arsenal’s grading system that means big games are charged much higher than “lesser” games and the premier league rule that you can’t charge away fans less than you do home fans.

    Also the returned tickets were not offered to Man City fans who are not members of their travel club and were snapped up immediately by Arsenal fans therefore not really sending a message to Arsenal’s board.

    All premier league clubs’ tickets are far too expensive.

    • I didn’t read the article as saying it was an Arsenal problem – only that the incident occurred at the Etihad. Most of us would agree that on the whole Premier League prices are expensive.

      Maybe not in the same price bracket but there was outrage in the North East when defeated FA Vase finalists West Auckland, raised their admission price from £6 to £10 for the visit of Darlington in the Northern League so the issue of admission prices is a sensitive one at any level.

      This linesman should be lauded for reminding players who earn more in a month than most people earn in a lifetime that they have a responsibility to at least show some gratitude to those who follow their team.

    • No I’m not “under the same misconception as most people in that this is simply an Arsenal problem”. Arsenal made this particular rod for their own backs. It is, as the piece makes abundantly clear, part of a rotten problem afflicting the whole of football. But some clubs are better than others at showing the ugly face of the corporate game.

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