Lee Payne wants a cracking atmosphere, but doesn't want to sing and chant himself. Andrew Lawn wants a cracking atmosphere, in which he is playing a full part. Both sit in the Barclay. So what's the solution?
Lee Payne - the non-singer
One hot topic for Norwich City fans this summer has been the atmosphere, or lack of it, at Carrow Road. It’s an issue the club have decided to take tentative steps to address and we wait to see if there’s a tangible difference at the first home game on 13 August.
I am about to begin my tenth season as a season ticket holder in the Barclay End. All City fans will be aware the Barclay Lower and the Snakepit, tend to house the noisier of our number. I am not one of them.
I will roar with delight, or often relief, at a goal. I will applaud wholeheartedly when I see a slick passing move or a crunching slide tackle. One thing I will not do, however, is sing or chant.
It has always been this way. I would not describe myself as shy, but I am certainly reserved, and I’m afraid to say I find the thought of chanting in public so excruciatingly embarrassing that you’ll never find me partaking in it without the aid of alcohol.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like hearing others singing their hearts out. I admire them, actually. They are comfortable enough to give full vocal support to their team and they don’t care what anyone else thinks. I am completely behind the efforts of groups like Barclay End Norwich and the wider fanbase to make Carrow Road louder and a more formidable place for visiting teams.
I support the idea of creating a singing section in the lower Barclay, so those who like to leave the ground with a croaky voice at the end of the game can sit with others with similar intentions. This would encourage chanting and make the overall noise louder, instead of just having pockets of noise dotted around that are often out of sync with the others. I’ve seen this work at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park and I think it would work for us.
The club are also set to allow a visual display of support next season, with flags and banners becoming a more regular sight at Carrow Road. This is another positive move, I think for two reasons. First, you often hear players say they are so focused on the pitch that they kind of block out the noise from the stands – having a bank of flags or banners, especially in the distinctive colours we are lucky to have at Norwich, could not fail to go unnoticed - especially in the winter months when the replica shirts in the crowd tend to be covered up by dark coloured coats and jackets. Secondly, there will be many more like me who wish to support their team but will simply not be doing it by singing or chanting. This could be offset by a striking visual display.
I’m wary that in reading this you might react by asking why I bother going to the games if I’m not going to sing or chant. I could be described as ‘not a real fan’. The simple answer is I’m a passionate Norwich City supporter who has a great deal of emotional investment in the club and I want to watch my team play. There is not just one type of football fan, and I think it’s perfectly possible for us all to be accommodated. I have no desire to move from my Barclay seat, as I enjoy the atmosphere in the stand despite not particularly contributing to it myself.
The loudest I’ve ever heard Norwich fans was at Wembley two years ago, and it’s fair to say that’s probably because there were nearly twice as many of us as on a matchday at Carrow Road and we were comfortably ahead after 15 minutes, leaving us 75 minutes to celebrate. It was still a sizzling atmosphere though, and if just some of that was transferred to our usual home games we would be that bit closer to making our ground a fortress once again. The club are doing their bit on the playing side of things by giving us a fresh squad with a new head coach to watch; now it’s time for us to do ours, whether it is by showing our colours or shouting until we are hoarse.
I would love to walk into Carrow Road for the Sunderland game and be met with a sea of yellow and green, of creative banners, inflatable canaries. I would love to leave at the end with my ears ringing from a cracking atmosphere. I just won’t be singing or chanting myself, and there will be many like me. All I ask is that no one is disparaging about us, or claims that our support is somehow lesser than theirs.
Andrew Lawn - the singer
I am the opposite of Lee. A natural extrovert, I am happy to sing and chant at football and in fact derive most of my enjoyment from doing so. As an opinionated person, who has done a lot of research into the effects of chanting, I also spend a fair amount of time imploring others to do so, so you may expect me to disagree with much of what Lee has to say on the subject.
You’d be wrong. Sort of.
Lee is absolutely correct to note that there are different types of fan and that no one fan (or person) is any better, nor their support any more valid, than any other.
If Lee derives enjoyment from watching the game and experiencing the atmosphere without contributing to that, nobody has the right to tell him that’s wrong or that he is somehow letting the team down.
In his honest assessment, Lee nails the problem and it is a problem which affects us all; those willing to sing are currently spread too thinly among those, like Lee, who do not. This dilutes the atmosphere as songs struggle to build and grow, leading to a poor atmosphere that nobody enjoys.
It is for that reason, that like Lee, I fully support the club’s move to look at creating a singing section in the Barclay.
By doing so, you allow like-minded fans to congregate together, which in-turn allows songs to grow. As the volume and number of chants grows, the hope is that so too, does the feeling of togetherness which can inspire people who do feel more self-conscious to join in.
By labelling different areas of the ground in such overt terms as ‘singing section’, ‘family section’ etc you also set expectations about the kind of experience you will encounter in those areas, giving people choices; much as they do with cricket grounds. That way you can choose what type of experience you want. Want to sing and chant? Go in the singing section. Taking your children? Family section. Want to watch the game but experience the atmosphere, choose an area outside the singing section, but close to it.
Where I may disagree with Lee is if he were to then chose to go into the singing section, to enjoy the atmosphere within there, but was still unwilling to contribute to it. My issue with that would be that by going into the singing area without contributing, it would both dilute the power of that area and ultimately deny somebody who is willing to grasp the opportunity to get involved in that and, albeit minutely, dampens the atmosphere for everyone else.
Carrow Road has to be a place where everybody feels welcome and can take from the experience what they desire from it. Nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable or forced to behave in any way which they aren’t happy with. This means those people who don’t want to sing, should not be pressured into signing, but by the same token, those who wish to stand and chant all game, shouldn’t be prevented from doing so by people behind them who want to sit and watch the game in peace.
The atmosphere at Carrow Road is something we all benefit from, by creating different areas for different types of fans, we all win.