I ALWAYS enjoy reading The Herald and particularly look forward to it on Saturday for the extraordinarily wise and insightful words of Kevin McKenna. Last Saturday, however, he let his usually high standards of journalism slip very badly with his inverted snobbery and prejudiced perception that the arts are not for the working classes ("Football matters more than The Marriage of Figaro", The Herald, July 11).

I am a working-class man who spent his entire working life on the factory floor and whose life has been enhanced beyond measure by opera. The late Jimmy Reid was a big fan of the arts but he was no less working class because of that. I do not know when Mr McKenna last visited the Theatre Royal in Glasgow but in the 30-odd years that I have been going I have seen neither tiara nor cummerbund. I think perhaps he must be looking back to another era. Nowadays one is more likely to see jeans and tee shirt whilst jacket and ties are rarely worn.

Football, on the other hand, has never interested me. I was forced to play at primary school in what masqueraded as a PE lesson where I was mocked and ridiculed by the other boys because I wasn’t very good at it. Small local teams may engender a sense of community spirit in some people, but in many cases there is rivalry between local teams which can become very bitter and even lead to violence. I know of two small towns in Ayrshire that are barely a mile apart yet separated by a massive gulf due to football. The banter is mostly good-humoured, but there is a small minority among the fans as there is at most football matches who are hell bent on causing trouble. I have never seen a fight at the opera.

David Clark, Tarbolton.

I REALLY have no way of assessing whether Kevin McKenna cares more about football than I do. If he does, he cares a great deal. So, I can’t buy his contrasting of the benefits of football and the arts. His headline conflated the entire arts industry, music, drama and so on, into one, admittedly great, masterpiece, as if all football could be summarised by that Archie Gemmill goal. Thus, he sells a dummy to the fact that more people in Britain attend theatre (let alone other art forms) in a year than do football.

No-one could doubt the community provision delivered through aspects of football club outreach and youthwork, but surely one must be aware of, for instance, the inspirational youth theatres, the special performances for the differently abled and many other community benefits delivered by the arts industry.

That industry, larger than Britain’s car industry, also provides the kind of economic benefit identified as long ago as 1988 by John Myerscough's study The Economic Importance of the Arts. Through varieties of income – direct (through employment), indirect (through expenditure of those employed) and induced (through the additional expenditure audiences bring), the arts support national, regional and local economies. To take just one example, a Dundee university researcher reported in the early part of this decade that Pitlochry Festival Theatre, in return for public funding input of under £1m, generated around £14m additional tourist income. Think of the economic and community disaster if there were no Edinburgh Festivals to contribute to the Scottish economy.

Mr McKenna concludes by implying that community football clubs are more valuable than the "rhetoric of Dame Judy and Sir Kenneth". The reverse point can be made, using the same rhetorical trick, by observing that The Big Noise, developing self-confidence and self-respect in a run-down area of Stirling, offers more community value than the football arts of Lionel Messi. But these are false dichotomies: all are important in their own way.

Professor Ian Brown, Giffnock.