No thank you for the music

"The fashion for blaring out pop songs is killing the real source of stadium atmosphere: the noise of the fans," says Duleep Allirajah. This article initially appeared on spiked, and is reproduced with thanks.

‘I’m doing fine, up here on Cloud 9’, sang the Temptations. And Cloud 9 is where I’ve been for the last week: a million miles from reality, grinning like an oaf and still pinching myself after Palace’s improbable victory in the Championship play-off final.

It was glorious, euphoric, unbelievable and emotional. There were grown men in tears. After everything Palace fans have had to endure: the misery, the mockery, the mediocrity, the dashed hopes, the relegation scraps and the financial turmoil - this was a moment which made up for all that suffering. It was the kind of day every fan dreams about. Going to Wembley. Winning at Wembley. A perfect day. Well, almost perfect. There was one small blemish; one sour note struck. It feels ungracious to complain as I bask on Cloud 9. But I can’t let it lie.

It was the piped music which really irritated me; the deafening, decibel-busting dance music-by-numbers, which blasted out over the Wembley PA system and drowned out our celebratory songs.

I can live with ‘Glad All Over’, the Palace anthem, which was played at the final whistle. It’s our song. And that one song would have been quite sufficient. But no, our attempts to celebrate victory were overwhelmed by a succession of dismal, uptempo dance anthems. It’s not as though the fans need livening up. This was my fourth play-off final and I reckon it was the best in terms of atmosphere. The acoustics at the new Wembley aren’t perfect, but the 33,000 Palace fans were in great voice throughout the game. We didn’t need piped music to create an atmosphere. We were more than capable of raising the Wembley roof without Florence and the Machine thumping out from the PA system.

When Kevin Phillips scored the decisive penalty, our fans belted out our own version of Little Peggy March’s ‘I Will Follow’. It might have been borrowed from St Pauli but we’ve made it our song. It’s accompanied by lots of bouncing and scarf twirling. Watching YouTube video clips of those celebrations gives me goosebumps (and yes, dear reader, I’ve been watching them again and again up here on Cloud 9). Yet when we tried to get the chant going after the final whistle, we were drowned out by the PA system. We tried again when the trophy was presented, but the same thing happened. More ear-splitting dance music. This was our moment of glory. We didn’t want it spoilt by Florence or her sodding Machine.

I’m not against piped music at football, per se. But there’s a time and a place for it. It’s fine when the players walk out onto the pitch. At Selhurst Park, the Dave Clark Five’s ‘Glad All Over’ has greeted the teams since the 1960s. Most clubs have their traditional pre-match anthems. At Goodison Park, it’s the Z-Cars theme (younger readers should consult Google here). At the New Den, it’s Millwall’s cockney knees-up number ‘Let ‘Em Come’. At Stamford Bridge, it’s ‘The Liquidator’. This ska classic used to be the pre-match music at Molineux until West Midlands police decided that such was the threat to Western civilisation of Wolves fans singing ‘Fuck off West Brom’ that a ban was necessary.

Pre-match music is acceptable. What really offends me is the encroachment of piped music beyond kick-off time. We don’t need piped music to generate atmosphere. And what’s the point of goal-celebration music? We know how to celebrate a goal. We don’t need a jaunty rendition of ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag’ or ‘Chelsea Dagger’ to get us dancing. What’s really insidious about the incessant spread of piped music is that it diminishes the role of fans. Instead of being active participants - the proverbial ‘twelfth man’ - piped music reduces us to a passive stage army who sing and dance on cue. We no longer generate atmosphere; it’s all orchestrated for us. Piped music thwarts the wit, creativity and spontaneity of the terraces and instead forces us to participate, like performing seals, in a hideous mass karaoke.

It’s time we said enough is enough. No more goal-celebration music. No more post-match victory music. No more trophy-presentation music. No more Pigbag or Tom Hark or the Fratellis or any other moronic, happy-clappy stadium anthem. We want fan-powered atmosphere. We want to sing what we want, when we want. It’s time to pull the plug on piped music and hang the blessed DJ.

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Thanks to flickr user John Wardell for the image used in this blog, reproduced under Creative Commons licence.