Was Ian Wright Right in Criticizing Chelsea Fans in the United-Chelsea FA Match?

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Was Ian Wright Right in Criticizing Chelsea Fans in the United-Chelsea FA Match?
Ian Wright, Getty Images.

As a rival fan, there's nothing I'd love more than to see Chelsea implode. I'd love to see their season become even worse than it is. I'd be glad to see them dumped out of the Champions League places. But I speak as an Arsenal fan.

If I speak objectively, I'd say I do not see how the toxic fans—who have constantly vilified Rafa Benitez since his appointment as interim manager at Stamford Bridge—are helping Chelsea's cause.

The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge has become oppressive and intimidating for the players.

The place where rival teams should feel unwelcome has become an environment where opposition teams can now fancy their chances, assured that the hostility reserved normally for them is now being directed at the home team.

I felt Ian Wright, a co-commentator for Fox Soccer's coverage of the Manchester United-Chelsea match, hit the nail on the head when he declared this vilification of Benitez "disgusting."

According to him, if any blame should be cast for whatever situation the Chelsea fans are decrying, it ought to be placed squarely on the owner's head. After all, he is the one who sacked erstwhile manager Roberto Di Matteo, who was a darling of the fans.

Benitez, Wright contended, is only there to help, nothing more.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
He's only there to help, says Wright.

He was particularly put off by the hypocrisy of the fans, who having needled Benitez throughout much of the FA Cup match, changed their tune and began singing and cheering once Chelsea had scored their equalizing goals.

I felt that Wright was not only right in this criticism, but that he was very forthright in doing so.

What he didn't say is that fans don't have the right to express their dissatisfaction when a situation calls for it. What he did say is that the Chelsea fans are targeting the wrong man, the man who can help salvage their season.

What he implied is that this behavior isn't helping the team; I would say the same, and I have in the case of Arsenal, where I have felt that the hostile home environment isn't helpful to the team at all.

But just like this reaction to Wright's criticism, many Arsenal fans haven't taken kindly to my criticism, basing their objection on the idea that fans have the right to express themselves.

This is well and good. The only problem is that no one says that fans have no right to speech, but if that right is defined as everything goes, or that everything is permissible and profitable, then I would beg to differ.

It is natural that when things aren't going right for a team, fans will not be happy. It is also right that they can (and should) express themselves when this is so. But when this becomes overly negative, to the extent of being harmful to the team's chances on the field, I fail to see how this is right.

And in an atmosphere where sport journalism has abrogated what I'd call its service to truth, I thought it was a breath of fresh air to hear Wright call out the Chelsea situation in such an honest manner.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

The writer of this EPL Index article calls this (rather bizarrely) lack of objectivity. That, for me, would be when a reporter panders rumors and untruth, not when he calls it as it is, provided that he researches the matter and represents it as accurately as possible.

In this case, I do not see how and where Wright misrepresented the situation.

If the writer of the EPL Index piece is saying Wright shouldn't offer an opinion at all, that's another argument (with which I'd disagree anyway). But as far as objectivity goes, if the word still means what I think it does, then I do not see how anyone can say Wright lacked objectivity in this criticism.

Was Wright taking sides when making this criticism? No. So, how is this lack of objectivity?

But I do know what this writer means: fudge the lines and utter obfuscating nonsense. I find such commentary a disservice to forthrightness and truth.

Was that a penalty? If you think so and can advance reasons for your opinion, then by all means do so. Did the referee miss that call? Again say so if you believe this to be the case and can defend your points. Pandering to popular sentiments is unhelpful; promoting the latest myth is equally so. This isn't objectivity, it's bad journalism.

Wright was right in criticizing the behavior of the Chelsea fans. Then again, fans think they have the right to say anything they like. As an Arsenal fan, if this helps bring the Blues down, why not?

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