Against modern football

New fanzines give voice to fans tired of being taken for granted.

STAND (Against Modern Football) is a fanzine that was born in the summer just gone after a discussion between a few like-minded souls on an internet forum. The debate started after a post about the controversial "re-branding" of Cardiff City from blue to red at the behest of a Malaysian businessmen who believed it would help the "brand" in Asia. This wasn’t just a decision that dismayed tsupporters of the Welsh club. Fans of all football clubs couldn’t quite believe that more than 100 years of history could be written off in seconds in exchange for a few quid. If it could happen to them it could happen to any of us, and for the soon to be co-editors of STAND - Seb White (Yeovil Town), Daniel Sandison (Liverpool) and Mark Smith (Stockport) - it was the final straw. Something had to be done.

The volume of support for the idea, particularly on social media, lead to the first issue hitting the streets in a matter of weeks. This was a feat in itself given the time scale involved, but what made it doubly impressive was the fact the thousand copies that were printed sold out in no time making them quite the rarity. A few months later the third issue of the fanzine has just been published and it appears to be going from strength to strength.
 
So are we a load of old blokes moaning about modern football and declaring the game "dead"?  Well, not really - let me explain. The "Against Modern Football" movement is not new and has been thriving on the continent for quite some time. But supporters in the UK have by and large sat idly by as the game has changed irrevocably. The people behind STAND sought to change this and to provide a platform for fans from different clubs, in the UK and beyond, to set out their biggest gripes with the modern game, to take the piss out of the nouveau football fan in his jester’s hat, to mull over ideas of how we can improve the game for the greater good and to inform fellow supporters of the varying ways in which clubs are being destroyed from within.  
 
The latter has been the most eye-opening for me because the views of the real fan don’t always get the media attention they deserve. For example, the first issue had an excellent article from Nik Marsdin, a Blackburn Rovers fan. Nik explained, in very rational and dispassionate terms, just why the then-manager Steve Kean had become the focus for suchabuse and how the last small-town team to win the top league in England was being torn apart by their Indian based owners, Venky’s. This will have been news to people who are force-fed the views of ex-pros on Sky. But it wasn’t just a football club that was falling apart - it was an entire community and the story needed to be told. Football fans are very tribal by nature, but it has been refreshing to see just how quickly club loyalties have been forgotten in cases like this. 
 
We do get asked, “If you’re against modern football, what exactly do you want?” The simple answer to that is that we aren’t completely against modern football. Nor, as has often been lazily asserted, do we want a return of the death-trap stadiums, large-scale violence and racism that blighted the game back in the Seventies and Eighties. There are many good things about the game today, but there are obvious problems, such as ticket pricing, which need addressing. And there are also numerous matters which, because they’ve been with us for so long now, are simply accepted as being the norm when they really shouldn’t be. There are countless examples of fans having to travel hundreds of miles for early kick-offs or Monday night games just because the broadcasters - Sky or ESPN - have decided that particular game is the one that they want to screen. Do the fans get a say in this? Of course they don’t. Do the satellite companies care? No. Do the FA or the Premier League step in and stop this happening? Not a chance. Yet we’ve swallowed this rubbish for so long now they continue to do it. Just because we arguably didn’t put up enough of a fight in the past doesn’t mean it has to keep happening.
 
Sometimes, people will say to me, “It’s pointless - it’s too far gone so just walk away”. I’m not having that. I’m not accepting that there are only two options: swallow it or walk away. There is nothing to say that, en masse, football fans can’t force the government to look at implementing legislation which stops ticket prices spiralling further and further out of the reach of the common man. In 1990 Lord Justice Taylor stated (and this is quoted on the back of the secon issue of STAND): “It should be possible for clubs to plan a price structure which suits the cheapest seats to the pockets of those presently paying to stand” We’ve clearly been failed in this regard, so why shouldn’t the government be involved - especially when other aspects of the Taylor Report have been implemented with such zeal?
 
STAND is only available in print form (despite endless requests for digitial versions of the long since sold out debut issue!). When it’s done properly, print still matters. Co-editors Daniel and Mark are also editors of two flourishing style magazines, Halcyon and Proper. The likes of The Blizzard, Late Tackle and Green Soccer Journal have also showed that printed publications can succeed in the technological age.
 
The internet is good, but there’s nothing like having a printed copy in your hand and there’s also something brilliantly collectable about a fanzine, no matter how basic the format. In an era of Sky Sports News and millions of blogs by faceless football hipsters who have never set foot in a ground (not in the UK anyway), we need fanzines more than ever because the views of the people who actually go to the game and have been going for years ought to be heard. It’s telling that Sky Sports News would rather interview some idiot outside the club shop on a Monday morning rather than get a fanzine editor on the phone. That’s the football fan Sky recognises - not the one whose views may go against the grain.  There are some fantastic writers out there who, without fanzines, would have no platform for their work. I shouldn't really single out individual magazines, but away from the bigger clubs fans of the much maligned Wigan Athletic produce Mudhutter and it’s one of the best reads around and is a credit to its editor, Martin Tarbuck, and its many excellent writers. Mudhutter is just one of many fanzines that deserve a wider audience, so cast your club prejudices aside and buy a couple when the opportunity arises.
 
The heyday of football fanzines was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the many weird and wonderfully named titles - let's never forget Brian Moore’s Head Looks Uncannily Like London Planetarium - did so much to educate and inform supporters. Two decades on, STAND has that same aim - anything to help football fans think that little bit more rather than being passive consumers of the modern game. So if you haven’t read STAND yet, give it a go. We are not an organised campaign nor are we a movement - not yet anyway! But if we can help to force change that will benefit the ordinary fan, then we will all be a little happier.
 
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Is Google Maps discriminating against people with disabilities?

Its walking routes are not access-friendly.

“I ended up having to be pushed through a main road in London, which was really scary.” Three weeks ago, Mary Bradley went to London to visit her daughter Belinda, who is just finishing her first year at university there. Her other daughter joined them on the trip.

But what was supposed to be an enjoyable weekend with her two children turned into a frustrating ordeal. The apps they were using to find their way around kept sending them on routes that are not wheelchair-friendly, leading to time-consuming and sometimes frightening consequences.

Bradley has been using a wheelchair – when having to go longer distances without a vehicle – for over a year, due to a 45-degree curve in her spine, severe joint facet deterioration in her back, and other conditions.

She lives in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, and has made the trip up to London to visit her daughter a handful of times. Each visit, they use Google Maps and the transport app Citymapper to find their way around, as neither of them know London particularly well.


Belinda and Mary Bradley. Photo: Belinda Bradley

“It was just horrible,” says Bradley of her most recent trip to the capital. “We’re following the maps, and we go along, then find we are faced with a footbridge, and realise there was no way I was going to get over it, so we had to go back the way we’d come. At one point, we were faced with a strip of narrow pavement the wheelchair couldn’t go down. That was something we found all weekend.”

While Google Maps did highlight accessible Tube stations, they found that once they had alighted to do the rest of the journey to their destination on foot, “it took us three times as long, because the route that it takes us just wasn’t passable”.

They ended up having to try different routes “having no real idea of where were going”.

“It meant that it took so much longer, the girls ended up having to push me for longer, I got more and more embarrassed and frustrated and upset about the whole thing,” Bradley tells me.

At one point, her daughters had to take her down a main road. “Being pushed on a road, especially in London, is scary,” she says. “It was scary for me, it was scary for the girls.”

When they returned home, Belinda, who is a 19-year-old Writing and Theatre student at the University of Roehampton, was so furious at the situation that she started a petition for Google Maps to include wheelchair-friendly routes. It hit over 100,000 signatures in a fortnight. At the time of writing, it has 110,601 petitioners.


Belinda's petition.

Belinda was surprised that Google Maps didn’t have accessible routes. “I know Google Maps so well, [Google]’s such a big company, it has the satellite pictures and everything,” she says. “So I was really surprised because there’s loads of disabled people who must have such an issue.”

The aim of her petition is for Google Maps to generate routes that people using wheelchairs, crutches, walking sticks, or pushing prams will be able to use. “It just says that they’re a little bit ignorant,” is Belinda’s view of the service’s omission. “To me, just to ignore any issues that big needs to be solved; it needs to be addressed almost immediately.”

But she also wants to raise awareness to “make life better in general” for people with disabilities using navigation apps.

Belinda has not received a response from Google or Citymapper, but I understand that Google is aware of the petition and the issue it raises. Google declined to comment and I have contacted Citymapper but have not received a response.

Google Maps does provide information about how accessible its locations are, and also allows users to fill in accessibility features themselves via an amenities checklist for places that are missing that information. But it doesn’t provide accessible walking routes.

“There’s no reason that they couldn’t take it that bit further and include wheelchair accessible routes,” says Matt McCann, the founder of Access Earth, an online service and app that aims to be the Google Maps for people with disabilities. “When I first started Access Earth, I always thought this is something Google should be doing, and I was always surprised they haven’t done it. And that’s the next logical step.”

McCann began crowdsourcing information for Access Earth in 2013, when he booked a hotel in London that was supposed to be wheelchair-friendly – but turned out not to be accessible for his rollator, which he uses due to having cerebral palsy.

Based in Dublin, McCann says Google Maps has often sent him on pedestrian routes down cobbled streets, which are unsuitable for his rollator. “That’s another level of detail; to know whether the footpaths are pedestrian-friendly, but also if they’re wheelchair-friendly as well in terms of the surface,” he notes. “And that was the main problem that I had in my experience [of using walking routes].”

Access Earth, which includes bespoke accessibility information for locations around the world, aims to introduce accessible routes once the project has received enough funding. “The goal is to encompass all aspects of a route and trip,” he says. Other services such as Wheelmap and Euan's Guide also crowdsource information to provide access-friendly maps.

So how long will it take for more established tech companies like Google to clear the obstacles stopping Mary Bradley and millions like her using everyday services to get around?

“You can use them for public transport, to drive, you can use them if you’re an able-bodied person on foot,” she says. “But there are loads of us who are completely excluded now.”

Sign Belinda Bradley’s “Create Wheelchair Friendly Routes on Google Maps" here.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.