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Business or pleasure – just what is the purpose of a football club?

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Clubs throughout the country – not only in the premier league but now the championship, too – appear hell-bent on increasing their global brand in a vain attempt to generate as much profit as possible. They want as many fans as possible to buy shirts, naff merchandise, and subscribe to “whoever fc tv”.  Can we blame the chairmen? They invest their money, and want to see a return on their investment. What successful entrepreneur worth their salt wouldn’t want that?

However, in a week that we’ve seen Mike Cashley inform the footballing world that he regrets ever getting involved in Newcastle (it’s only funny because it’s Newcastle); and Assem Allam – the chairman of Hull – introduce the most ridiculous season ticket policy ever dreamt up (no doubt in retaliation to not being allowed to call ‘his’ team “Ally’s toothless Tigers” or whatever), we have to ask whether football is still for the fans of ‘the beautiful game’.

The question has to be asked whether the clubs’ hierarchy ever pauses to think of the fans; and when I say think of them, I mean their thoughts and feelings – not just thinking of them as a revenue stream.

Talk to any Newcastle or Hull fan for five minutes and you will quickly grasp that following their team is a way of life. It’s part of who they are. Their clubs are held dear, like a family member. Yes, they might get angry with them from time to time, and even wish they had never met… but deep down, they know they will always love them, and will always be there for them.

So what respect has Mr Sports Direct shown the Tool Army when he states that he wishes he’d never got involved? Is he saying they’ve not spent enough of their hard-earned cash in the club shop?

It can’t be a swipe at the numbers through the turnstiles; as no matter what 11 useless muppets they put on the park, the great unwashed and topless hoards still turn out in their droves. His remarks are a direct insult to the long-serving fan (of whom the majority would have had to juggle finances and make sacrifices in order to buy season tickets and a 7-day supply of black and white shirts). I’m sure the majority of Newcastle fans also wish you’d never have gotten involved with their team, Ashley.

Down in Hull, Allam is introducing a season ticket scheme that truly beggars belief, and is devoid of any consideration for their long-suffering fans. From what I can gather, Allam is proposing fans subscribe to a 12-months direct debit system that enables them to attend every match at a ‘reduced’ rate.

However, one of the problems lies with the intent to use the entire top tier of their Main Stand only for match day purchases – and season tickets here will no longer be available. Any current season ticket holders in this section are being told they have to move elsewhere. A family of four I know who currently enjoy sitting in this section are now forced to find somewhere else in the ground to relocate to.

The new scheme states that the only child/concession tickets will be available in one of the stands to be designated as a Family Zone; behind the goal – but the family I know have two teenage boys who don’t particularly want to sit in a section filled with foam fingers, feral kids charging around, and parents explaining that “it’s not Wayne Rooney – it’s Mohamed Diame, dear”.

They would rather sit in the more vocal section of the ground (with better views) – but concessions will only be available in the ‘Family Stand’.  Naff view on a family ‘deal’ – or 4 full-price tickets elsewhere!  Financially, the latter ‘choice’ represents an annual cost of £2k – or £105 per match for a family of four!!

Another life-long (and more elderly) couple of fans I know – who currently sit in the section that will be designated as the new family zone –  have now been told they too will have to move from seats they’ve occupied since Hull moved to the stadium (owing to the fact that they have no accompanying children).

Who on earth comes up with these harebrained ideas?

It’s clearly people who have absolutely no understanding of the football fan, their thoughts or their feelings.

Just yesterday Hull have announced that there will be a delay in the full unveiling of this plan after receiving “varied and wide-ranging feedback” from supporters regarding the proposed changes.

I bet it’s been varied and wide-ranging! I bet Allam has never received so many different directions as to where he can shove his scheme. I’d like to think that ‘fan power’ has caused this rethink, but alas it is more likely the realisation that he won’t make as much money as he had hoped; with fans voting with their feet.

This sort of experience is commonplace within the majority of top-flight clubs. My own club has this week this written to supporters addressing the fans as “Dear block 23a”!  Are we fans or cash cows?  You decide.  The subject of the letter…?  ‘Whilst we know you want to cheer when we score, can you please keep it down for the rest of the time…as it’s annoying some people’.  I wish I was making it up.

Regretfully, I have no doubt that every fan will be able to offer endless tales of when their club had acted without regard to the supporters. It’s sad that football clubs appear to be losing their connection with fans; and it’s sad that the fans are no longer their priority.

The club is no longer ran with the purpose of providing entertainment for the fan.  The club is no longer run for the people, it’s there for one purpose only – to line the pockets of Messrs Ashley, Allam, and their ilk.

I long for the day that Sky Television stops pumping mind-boggling amounts of money into football, and Chairmen such as these have to come crawling back to the fans…cap in hand.

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