Do football fans really matter anymore?
In recent memory, has their been an act from higher powers in the game that really offered a hand of peace and goodwill towards fans? Probably not, as you try and trudge through all the nonsense in the modern makeup of the game. Certainly not when you factor in the amount of money the flies about. But it’s not limited to football clubs. Fans of other sports are also offered the privilege of watching their clubs and their games torn apart by owners and the suits at the top.
The current NHL work stoppage is built around greed and owners wanting more than is actually needed. The lockout of 2004/05 resulted in a new collective bargaining agreement after obvious faults from both players and owners, but there’s little doubt as to who is running the league into the ground this time around. NHL owners want to splash the cash but don’t really fancy the money coming out of their own pockets, rather insisting players take wage cuts to subsidise the spending of other franchises. It’s all ok for the fans though, and little worry should be had over their interests. They’ll return and continue to fill the arenas, and when they do, there will be big painted letters on the ice spelling out “thank you, fans.” Hollow, insincere and more of a slap in the face than anything else.
Football is no different, supporters have seen new owners re-brand a club from top to bottom, changing the long-time club badge, it’s colours and it’s well-known nickname. Doesn’t matter, as long as the guys with all the cash get what they want. I really doubt Cardiff fans could care less what the colour red symbolises in the culture of their owners. Perhaps every team whose traditions lie in blue should be branded as weak and inferior. A lot of nonsense really, but where was the fan opinion when such a radical change was made?
Michel Platini recently took the biscuit with his idea of hosting the 2020 European Championships across a number of major cities in Europe. I spelt it out when it came to light: It’s a fairly interesting idea and one that needed looking at. However, after the politeness that was needed at first, it’s plainly obvious that it’s a terrible idea that should now be put to bed. Fans aren’t getting anything out of a football tournament staged around Europe, where travelling costs will go through the roof and Uefa will be the only ones with satisfied grins in the aftermath. Not even local businesses could benefit in some small way because Platini wouldn’t allow it. Everything needs to be Uefa licensed, and if not, please don’t get in the way.
You’ve really got to feel for clubs like Blackburn, who have had to suffer the misfortune of a group of businesspeople (and the term really needs to be used loosely) parachuting in and destroying all the good work of a club who were Premier League regulars and former champions. That line of, “if we have to spend £5million, we will spend £5million” really hammered home just how out of their depth the Venky’s were, although I’m much more inclined to use the word stupid. And then there’s that rumour that circulated about the owners not being aware of relegation. Did the fans matter when their name was dragged through the dirt, when they let go of a manager who was more than capable of keeping them safe in the top-flight—even if his style of football wasn’t the most desirable—or what about the embarrassment of being linked with names like Ronaldinho? Fans were forced to get behind their team and support them through the bad times. Well in fairness, there wasn’t really much of a club left to support.
It’s taken far too lightly by those at the top, who really have no time for the interests of supporters. European finals are another total shambles, with the final of Uefa’s premier club competition filled with corporate figures, and if there’s any room left, they’ll be polite enough to get a handful of real fans in too.
The money ball has been rolling for quite some time, and I really doubt the current owners of Manchester City thought they were doing the supporters a favour by investing so heavily in the club. It could have been another club who were lucky enough to strike it rich, perhaps Blackburn? Perhaps City would have been the unlucky team to be taken over by incompetence of the Venky’s. It’s fine margins, and yes, there is acknowledgement of the infrastructure at City compared to Blackburn. But wouldn’t it be foolish to assume that the owners are bankrolling the club for anything other than personal gain? If it’s not financial, it’s certainly for reputation.