Matt Butler: You’ll be in big trouble if you escape from ‘the bubble’
View from the Sofa: Bluebirds and Swans BBC 1 Wales
Football is a funny world, one where people say “gamesmanship” instead of cheating, “full-blooded” for lethal and “project” when speaking about what a club manager will run before he gets sacked.
One phrase used a lot last week was “crowd trouble” as a substitute for “mindless violence when you are supposed to be watching a football match”. It is an uncomfortable euphemism; after all, “trouble” is what four-year-olds are threatened with if they refuse to put on their shoes.
Even that word wasn’t used in the build-up to Cardiff v Swansea on Sky on Sunday. The closest we got to being reminded that this derby has been downright ugly in the past was host Ed Chamberlain mentioning the “massive security operation” and Robert Earnshaw, the former Cardiff striker, saying the rivalry is “very bitter”.
It was with good reason, we must surmise, that the threat of violence was skirted around – after all, few wish to give the oxygen of publicity to thugs. And also, Sky Sports peddles its “product” (there’s another euphemism) as family-friendly.
In total contrast was Bluebirds and Swans, the BBC Wales preview earlier last week to yesterday’s south Wales derby. It filled in a lot of background before the two teams lorded it in the Premier League and it was unflinching in its depiction of the bleak times both clubs went through in the past. Where there was violence, they called it such.
As Tony Rivers, billed as a former Cardiff hooligan, put it: “Following Cardiff in the old Fourth Division, there wasn’t much football to appreciate. So the violence came naturally.” Here’s hoping it is not a line of thinking followers of Accrington, York, or any other League Two club would follow.
There was one term brought up, apparently in common use in the 1980s, that had a fluffy ring to it: “Bubble trip”. It sounds quite pleasant, if a little psychedelic. Something you’d enjoy while listening to Iron Butterfly.
But it wasn’t. It was a method to stop rival fans meeting – one which continues to this day. The supporters were transported in a “bubble”, where they would avoid contact with another human. Or at least one wearing the opposite side’s kit. The term was explained while still pictures of fans engulfed in mêlées with rivals, policemen and fixtures and fittings flashed over the screen.
But it wasn’t always scrapping, stabbing and stadium-destroying between Swansea and Cardiff fans – heck, in 1927 Swansea fans went to watch their rivals win the FA Cup, with no intention of chinning anyone.
And among some people – like the Cardiff fan sporting a blue moustache to yesterday’s game – it still isn’t. The lack of animosity among sections of the clubs’ support was personified by the first set of people interviewed: Steve Borley, a Cardiff City director, and Leigh Dineen, the vice-chairman of Swansea City. They were in the same room, sitting with cups of coffee, apparently being quite civil to each other. Dineen even texted Borley last summer to welcome him and his club to the Premier League.
The only time there was a bit of ill feeling was when Borley was comparing the two clubs’ financial models. He looked as if he was trying to swallow a wasp as he only just managed to say: “Everyone loves the Swansea model and wishes they could copy it.”
A microcosm of the modern game: coveting your bitter rivals’ financial model while having a coffee with them. Funny old world, football.
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