chapter  8
17 Pages

Going to the Match: The Transformation of the Match- day Routine at Manchester City FC

In December 1999 the English Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) lavished

£1.9 million on L.S. Lowry’s (1953) oil painting ‘Going to the Match’, depicting

football fans converging on Bolton Wanderers’ Burnden Park stadium (Figure

8.1). PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor opined how the painting represented

‘the heart and soul of the game and the anticipation of fans on their way to a

match’ (BBC News 1999). This iconic image provides an alluring, if romantic

glimpse back to a football world untainted by the excesses of the contemporary

game, a world where traditional values of community and loyalty are upheld,

where routines built up over generations would cumulate on the terraces at

3 p.m. each Saturday. Importantly, as Kelsall reminds us:

Burnden Park, like many early English football stadia, was located in an

inner-city working-class neighbourhood where many supporters lived and worked

(Giulianotti 1999). The style and design of these grounds was constrained by

their location, often found on small sites within rows of densely packed terraced

houses. These stadia appeared deceptively small from the outside, but their

particular layout, comprising long straight tiered stands within several feet of

the playing area, combined with vertiginous standing terraces, enabled

huge numbers of people to enter and watch the game. Many were designed

by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, and one of his designs, Manchester

City’s Maine Road stadium (1923), continues to hold the English club record

attendance of 84,569 set in a 1934 FA Cup game between the hosts and Stoke

City. These functional stadia, accommodating masses, predated the automobile

age and so possessed little parking space. For supporters, the experience of

‘going to the match’ focused upon surrounding sites and spaces, the pubs,

shops, take-aways, bookmakers, food-stands, alleyways and streets (Kelsall

2000). The match-day routines established in such landscapes over decades con-

jures a particular sensory landscape of affordances, spatial practices, perform-

ances and power, through which football supporters, street vendors, the police,

city authorities and others produced rhythms of fluctuating intensity and

meaning.