Leeds United: is it taboo to boo

One of my co-writers on The72, and fellow Leeds United fans, wrote a piece for The72 entitled ‘Boo boys at Leeds need a reality check‘ where he said that the booing needs to stop and that fans should divert their attention into getting behind the team, but should they?

However, is that fully right? Should we expect that fans get behind their team with shouts and songs of encouragement rather than howls of anguish and boos of derision? It’s a difficult one really is that to answer, a really difficult one that is usually avoided along the lines of a ‘does my bum look big in this?’ request from a loved one. Booing is a ‘minefield’ topic when it comes to responses to poor performances with opinion decided in a very black/white split akin to a Marmite™ Scale of ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’.

But, as the half-time whistle blew at Elland Road to end a pretty dire and dismal first 45 minute display against Brentford two Saturdays ago, the boos did indeed ring out from various corners of Elland Road. Now, whilst it was only half way through a game and one that Leeds came back strongly in to grab a deserved draw, is there any ‘right’ to boo at an incomplete performance or should booing and general dissent be left until the final whistle? There are views and counter views everywhere, each claiming what they see as the right moral ground. The thing with football is the passion, the very thing that drives it also shapes responses to it.

Football is a funny beast though, I mean what choice do fans really have to show their dissatisfaction – they really only have two options. First, don’t go back to the games if the standard of play leads to yet another mediocre season or at least fears of one. The Brentford first half was reminiscent of that feeling, that sense of hopelessness as games ebb away from you. Secondly the disgruntled fans can simply show their dissatisfaction with the simple act of booing. As a friend and fellow Leeds fan pointed out on Facebook, they have a right to too.

Leeds United vs Brentford 12.09.15

As he points out – they’ve paid £25-30 for the privilege and, barring not attending again, then booing is the last bastion of showing an unwillingness to accept the footballing fayre dished up for viewing. He says that it is a collective thing and not an attack against the individual and, you know what, he’s right. We don’t boo to single out a player, it’s never about that – that’s what whining to your mates is all about. Booing is a sign of collective dissent, of group dissatisfaction at what is in front of you – it a visceral and immediate response to disappointment. However, as Leeds United’s second half display against Brentford showed, it is temporal and brief with improved performance wiping it from the memory. Booing captures and expresses a moment, a moment of deep dissatisfaction but a moment nonetheless, before it disappears as the ebb and flow of football swings back and forth.

So, as my wise friend said: as long as it is a general boo, a boo about the performance, a boo against the whole situation (referee/home performance/away performance/the spectacle) and not a boo against the individual, then boo away. It’s a whole lot better than option one, the option of denouncing your support of the club as disillusionment kicks in and bites deep. You pay your money for many things that disillusion you and, if they turn out to be sub-standard, you have the option to return them for a refund.

Football doesn’t offer you the standard protection of ‘Statutory Rights Not Affected’ or a money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied. Maybe booing is the reality check that football fans in general, and Leeds fans in the opening 45 minutes against Brentford, claim as their own to show that they aren’t happy?

You pays your money, you takes your choice and booing the overall performance it is.

With special thanks to the wise ideas of Les Irwin


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