Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Reaction to Arsenal’s new Ukraine Supporters’ Club with Simon Collings

Posted on 11 March 2022 by Toby Rathborne

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As the war in Ukraine continues, sanctions are ramping up and as efforts to stop further bloodshed intensify, Arsenal have looked to show their support for those affected.

This morning the club announced that they were forming a Ukraine Supporters’ Club and encouraged fans to donate to help the children and families of Ukraine.

Simon Collings, Arsenal reporter for the Evening Standard, gave his reaction to the show of solidarity and the relationship between sports and politics.

In reaction to the club’s response to the war in Ukraine, he said: “I think you have to applaud the club for setting something like this up.

“It’s been clear football clubs have wanted to show solidarity with Ukraine ever since the war started, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see more efforts like this from other clubs.”

Collings then went on to talk about the influence that football teams like Arsenal have on the world stage.

He said: “Football clubs have a hugely powerful position, both from their global reach but also their financial power, and that is demonstrated more than ever at times like this.

“It will be interesting to see what the final figure raised is as already on Twitter I have seen plenty of fans donate.”

Arsenal’s relationship with the fans

Arsenal have not claimed all responsibility for the Ukraine Supporters’ Club themselves, admitting that the idea came after suggestions from their fans.

When asked whether this was another attempt to rebuild burned bridges with the fans after the fractious Super League collapse, Collings said:

“I certainly think there is greater fan involvement at Arsenal since the Super League failure, but still not enough.

“The new Fan Advisory Board are wielding some influence, however they are still not being consulted or listened to enough in their view – as the recent hike in ticket prices demonstrated.”

“There have been positives, though, like the club listening to fans when they called for the stadium to be upgraded and refurbished. This is another example of how clubs can listen to supporters – and should do more often.”

Apolitical Arsenal

Previously Arsenal have remained firmly apolitical, particularly when Mesut Ozil condemned the treatment of Uyghurs in China.

In response to his criticism, an official Arsenal account posted a statement on Weibo, it said:

“Arsenal is always apolitical as an organisation.

“Following social media messages from Mesut Ozil on Friday, Arsenal Football Club must make it clear that these are Mesut’s personal views.”

Meanwhile, Ozil was scrubbed from video games, websites, and broadcast coverage in China.

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A similar situation arose when Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny posted a message of solidarity for Palestine.

https://twitter.com/ElNennY/status/1391751626503901210?s=20&t=_SMLkvZv95g0mvt-9V6AXg

This time the club told Elneny of the broader implications after a key club sponsor Lavazza Group raised their concerns with his message.

When asked for his opinion on the role politics has played at Arsenal in recent years and their involvement with some but not others, Collings said:

“Well, this is the big question isn’t it. Only Arsenal can really answer the question, but I think people are right to recall the situation with Mesut Ozil. Ultimately, the whole situation – and I included the Chelsea saga in that – has highlighted how football and politics are intertwined.

“People can call for them to be separate or say they aren’t, but the two are inextricably linked and while that is the case scenarios and issues like this will always occur.”

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