clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Man With The Mic: A Farce Too Far?

New, comments

There's been a lot to embarrass Reading fans off the pitch these past few years, but Matt Williams picks out one element that's really left him cringing...

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

After last week's moan about Channel 5's Football League Tonight programme, I don't want to gain too much of a reputation as The Tilehurst End's resident complainer. But after a quick post-match Twitter rant on Sunday, a message from the TTE account dropped into my inbox, and contained a request I couldn't refuse.

Do I fancy writing a piece about the off-the-pitch match day shenanigans at the Madejski Stadium?

Well yes guys, I very much do.

There's a lot I could moan about. The American-style flamethrowers hotter than the sun. The attention-seeking, atmosphere-destroying band. Sasimas's cringeworthy pre-match speech. The kids-zone that makes the place feel more like a children's party at McDonald's than a football match at a football stadium. Adverts on the big screen during the game. Queensley Royal. THAT music video.

But I'm going to try and rise above a lot of it. I can completely see the need to attract younger fans to the game - even if I think they focus far too much on kids at the expense of others, and have fundamentally destroyed much of the atmosphere around the stadium in doing so.

Here's a man intent on stealing the show, who thinks that we'll all be better off if we treat a football match like a One Direction concert.

And as embarrassed I was by the whole music video/speech on the pitch scenario, I see Sasima as a sweet-natured old lady with good intentions, who has found a hobby she's genuinely passionate about, and has worked wonders in getting some equally rich friends along for the ride. The fact she's loaded doesn't hurt either. If she's willing to save the club from administration, spend a couple of million on creative players we desperately need and develop the club in the community then I can forgive the odd pop song.

Indeed, the visibility of her and the shareholders on the pitch was quite nice to see, particularly after the relative mystery of the Zingarevich era. Leeds fans may have done their best to ruin Sasima's moment, but I bet with all the utter nonsense that's gone on in the Elland Road boardroom over the past few years, they'd jump at the chance of having a chairman who's ego extends to knitting her own club scarf, not dictating who gets bought or firing managers every 3 minutes.

So where does the rant come in? I'm going to keep it simple and focus on one issue right now. And when I write out what it is, it seems so petty. But I'm sure at least 90% of you are with me on this. The bloody PA announcer, the man dubbed by this website as 'DJ MegaParty'.

The fact it is something so seemingly small shows just how bad this guy is. Social media has been flooded with anger directed towards this guy over the last few days. Here's a man intent on stealing the show, who thinks that we'll all be better off if we treat a football match like a One Direction concert. Who seems genuinely inconvenienced by the fact 90 minutes of football interrupts his Butlins-style brand of 'entertainment.'

It's all of that and more. It's the fact he refers to the stadium as the 'building.' That he calls the fans 'the audience'. That he asks us to 'Roar for the Royals'. That he reads out the team sheet as if it's the Official Music Chart.

It's the fact he wants to engage with the fans as if he's the main act. I view announcers at football matches as I do referees - when they're inconspicuous they can be very helpful in making the whole thing flow, but when they want to be the centre of attention they can be incredibly frustrating.

And just like referees, you can't avoid them. They are part of the traditional match day experience. I can forgive a lot of the other childish stuff that goes on because in a sense they're optional extras. If you don't like the kids fanzone outside then don't visit it. If you think a t-shirt cannon is taking things a bit far then don't scramble around with the fans to try and catch one, just go down to the concourse and grab a pint.

But PA announcers have been part of the game for as long as I remember. Even at the lowliest of lower league grounds you'll find someone with a microphone, reading out the substitutes. And it can be genuinely helpful to hear who's starting for your team that day - and the eleven facing you.

Sadly with our new guy you have to be a crack puzzle solver to decipher the teams. You have someone who barely seems to know what football is, let alone one who supports Reading. He made the whole thing a pantomime - which, scarily, I imagine he'd take as a compliment. 'Audiences' love pantomimes don't they?

Sunday's charade felt like one step too far. And it was orchestrated by the man on the mic in the middle.

Worse still, whilst the previous man on the mic could be cringeworthy at times, he still seemed to understand the fundamentals that fans wanted. And provided them with such. Even better, he's clearly a Reading fan.

And it's not as if we needed a new PA man just to attract more kids to the games. There's already plenty going on for the children in the crowd. They barely listen to him when they can instead be getting their face painted, eating overpriced bags of sweets and waving at Kingsley. Indeed when the announcer did try to engage with some of the children during the half time penalty shootout, he was greeted with silence and baffled looks. He might put that down to the children being shy, but more likely it was due to the kid thinking "who the hell is this weirdo?"

So please, Reading FC. Do something about it. I ended last week's Channel 5 piece with the adage "it's not the mistakes you make, it's how you respond to them." Pleasingly, the Football League Tonight crew responded well and made a number of positive changes (although there's still a long way to go).

Sadly, I'm less confident about Reading FC. The club has displayed on numerous occasions in the past few years a level of arrogance that ignores all feedback, and presses on with exactly what their media and commercial departments want to do.

But one small change would make such a difference. Like many fans who prefer Bovril and terraces to plush seats and prawn sandwiches I'm uncomfortable with the fact that mine is a club that's more commercial and more 'plastic' than many. But I've had to accept it. And on some occasions even embraced it.

Yet Sunday's charade felt like one step too far. And it was orchestrated by the man on the mic in the middle. Just reign things in a little bit, and maybe we can all go back to tolerating matches a little bit more, and moaning about what fans should really be moaning about - the dross on the pitch.