Pitch and Tossers

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There’s been a storm brewing for some time over WN5 and it’s not the sort which regularly floods that roundabout by Asda.

It is a tale of somebody trying to do the right thing and solve a difficult problem, only for them to receive hate filled bile and contempt back in their direction from ungracious and ungrateful individuals who live in our town.

It started when a game that shouldn’t have been played was played mainly because the Sky cameras had already pitched up and consequently a rugby game got played in monsoon conditions when it really shouldn’t have been.

Much like the farcical conditions Wigan Athletic played in on Boxing Day in that pulsating game against Sheffield United. Oh, what’s that? Oh, that game got called off due to atrocious conditions and an unplayable surface. Well, fancy that!

This put a chain of events in place which led to a small fortune being invested in a new playing surface and the realisation that a new pitch cannot sustain 2 games in the space of 24 hours, therefore meaning a rugby game got brought forward 24 hours. I do have sympathy for some rugby fans in this respect, however as I will allude to later, it is both limited and also, they are aiming their ire in completely the wrong direction.

Of course, this has then been compounded by two games being scheduled on the same day with the RFL inexplicably scheduling a home fixture against Hull KR at the same day and time as Wigan Athletic’s home fixture versus Rochdale, a fixture which had been set a full 10 months prior in June 2015.

Wigan Athletic have kindly agreed to move this fixture an hour and a half forward in return for the rugby moving their game to an evening kick off, thus enabling both fixtures to be played on the same day.

This is very generous of Wigan Athletic considering none of this was their fault and yet again certain fans within the rugby league community in Wigan (and of course outside of Wigan) are screaming murder at the football club when they should be looking a lot closer to home for someone to point their fingers at.

Of course it was only 12 months ago that Wigan Athletic moved a home game back to a Friday night (v Charlton) in order to accommodate the World Club Challenge, so this is not to say Wigan Athletic are inflexible. And when this move took place, there was no hand wringing or tantrums or slanging matches from Wigan Athletic fans, we just got on with it.

However, the outrage demonstrated on social media by some Wigan Rugby fans over having a game moved a few hours back on the same day has gone off the scale. One can only conclude that the problem is that it’s not the day the games are played, or even the time it’s played, it is WHO is asking them to move where the problem lies given the subsequent vitriol aimed in Wigan Athletic’s direction.

I understand that certain events are sacrosanct in the rugby league calendar: the World Club Challenge, a competition which despite having the word “world” in its title seems to be perennially held in the same handful of venues across a narrow strip of land close to the M62
Internationals matches, which for some reason only ever seem to be against Australia
Then of course the St Helens derby and to a lesser extent the Warrington Derby.

Those three or four days per year then yes, rugby rules at the DW Stadium. Even the most one eyed Latics fan cannot deny the prestige of these events, as predictable as they are.
They clearly mean a great deal to Wigan Warriors fans and to the rugby league community in general. Indeed, we can safely say that they are far bigger events than a League One football match.

However, they are the exception. The showcase events, the razzamatazz, the icing on the cake. The sole reason why Sky perhaps continues to use Rugby League as a schedule filler and the events which continue to propagate the myth that Wigan as a town is rugby mad to those channel flicking sports fans all over the country and out of town punters they are trying to get bitten by the rugby league bug. They use the 3 or 4 truly “big” games in the sport as the norm in to which to sell the product without pointing out that those games are the exception.

The rest of the games, the bread and butter, are no more heavily attended than football matches in the town. And this is in spite of a charm offensive done by “the Wigan club” going back a decade to basically let anyone who wants to come in, come in for free or next to nothing and selling the club out to the more affluent middle classes in Cheshire and Northern Lancashire who are keen to see some working class lads wallop each other about a bit.

I can see how some natives of Wigan may take umbrage that rugby league takes second fiddle to football. Particularly amongst the older generation who have never quite got to grips with what little old Wigan Athletic have achieved in the past 40 years. Yet the simple fact of the matter is that football is the bigger and more important sport. Even in Wigan.

Wigan Athletic’s crowds may well have dipped below the rugby’s crowds for the first time in a decade but they still get 8,000+ people watching them week in, week out, 23 times a year. I’ll not mention here the sort of crowds Wigan Rugby got when they dropped down one division, let alone two except to say many of them began with a 3.

The biggest irony in all this is that, in addition to those 8,000 Wigan Athletic fans who consider themselves football fans, nearly every rugby fans also supports a football team as well, thus debunking the “rugby town” myth in an instant.

One of my favourite hobbies whenever I find myself reading something derogatory about my beloved Wigan Athletic on social media from a resident of our fair town, is to click on the Facebook or Twitter profile of the individual slagging off my/their home town football team.

And you know what? The really strange thing here is that they ALL support a football club. They are ALL football fans. Yet for some reason, none of them support their home town football club. It’s all United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Newcastle, West Ham even Bolton or Leeds. They’d probably rather support Peter Sutcliffe’s All-Star lags X1 if they’d manage to win a pot or two in the past than actually support the football team which has existed in their community for 82 years such is their warped logic.

This would appear to further strengthen their belief that Wigan is a rugby town but only if you believe their philosophy that “Wigan is a rugby town because even though I am a football fan I support somebody else out of spite rather than Wigan Athletic”.

If so, you probably also believe 2 plus 2 equals minus 5.

And you have a small root vegetable hiding under your skull where most people find their brain.
I’ve actually seen and heard comments from people saying “oh you can’t support Latics if you’re a rugby fan”

Who decided this? Did I miss a memo? Isn’t this the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard given the two clubs play different sports and both have actually been quite good at them for periods over the last few years? Nobody from outside of Wigan can get their head around this small-time mentality you possess.

It was never thus in my formative years. A Wigan Athletic as a lower division club were getting home gates not far off where they are now in the early 80’s whereas Wigan Rugby were struggling to pull 4 or 5,000 in. So it is clear that in the past, plenty people supported Wigan Athletic, moreso than the rugby at times and this is further supported by some one off mammoth crowds of 17,000 and even 20,000 going back to the Sixties and 70s when Wigan Athletic were a non league club.
Not that I would dream of passing these off as the norm, however what this implies is that for the big games, the sporting public of Wigan were happy to get behind both teams back in the day.
So here’s a simple idea, a very easy solution to end all the animosity:

Wigan Warriors fans need to stop hating their local football club and start supporting it again instead of latching on to whichever out of town glory hunting club they currently associate themselves with.
Cease the hatred and needless bigotry towards a football club which has existed for 84 years and never asked for anything other than the support of its town.

The two clubs both existed in relative harmony a few decades back and there is no reason why this couldn’t be the same again as long as those with a chip on their shoulder can go on a diet and recognise that they are the problem.

That what they call their “passion” for Wigan Warriors is actually manifesting itself as a hatred for every other sporting entity which exists in the town especially the wendyball/puffball team.
Furthermore, I think you’ll find that if you start getting behind your local football club again and become Wigan Athletic fans then slowly but surely any retaliatory negative, abusive or gloating comments aimed at Wigan Warriors from Wigan Athletic fans will dry up.

How do I know this? I know this because Wigan Athletic didn’t start all this. Wigan Athletic just wanted to exist as a football club in the town before a man called Maurice came along and brainwashed the populous on the back of regular trips to Wembley.

The conversion of football to a TV spectator sport and the advent of the Premier League created a new generation of sports fans, giving many rugby fans in the town the chance to latch on to a more successful team from a random city via proxy and further distance themselves from their local club.
Fans in towns and cities all over the country do this. From armchair whoppers to out of town season ticket holders as loyal as they come. There’s no harm in supporting a football club you have no biological connection to, if anything it will make the separation much easier.

I’ll let you determine how far tongue in cheek I’m being but the big difference is that (say) a Manchester United fan from Northampton isn’t likely to bear a lifelong grudge against the Cobblers any more so than a Liverpool fan from Chesterfield isn’t likely to loathe the Spireites. They may even get down to their local football club and watch a game. Whether they support them or not, they certainly don’t hate their local team for no good reason. They don’t go around Facebook planning relegation parties or hate filled protests about them like (some) Wigan Rugby fans do with the Latics.

Thankfully those of us with a mind of our own rose above it and realised that there was a football club within our town that needed our support and still does and that includes a few dual Rugby/Latics fans.

Therefore, it’s about time the rest of the Wigan Rugby fans did the same and undid their conditioning and prejudice against their local football club instead of behaving like children when they can’t get their own way. We’re going nowhere, we’ve fought too long and hard against your forefathers who tried to wipe us out to make sure of that.

So why not stop hating us and embrace this fine football club seeing as most of you purport to be football fans anyway? Hate isn’t good, it only makes you ill and gives you ulcers. Life’s too short to hold grudges.

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