For those of you that have ever been to a football club AGM and the obvious contempt the chairman and owners have for those sitting in front of them, then like me you may afford yourself a wry smile at the way some of them are squirming in the face of supporters protest. There was a time when fans were easily put in their place; however the increasing price in football ensures that supporters feel well within their right to air their respective grievances. For too long now supporters have been made to feel like an afterthought in the running of their football club – the landscape is certainly changing.
I must state that I am certainly not one for anarchy or mass protests, but I do feel that if supporters are shelling out £50+ per game then they have every right to question the club’s running. One comment I read on an Arsenal website that really struck a chord was a fan explaining the reasoning for his disdain; “paying £72 per week to watch the football club he has every right to know why his continued investment and others was not being used by the club owners to ensure that they were working at their optimum performance.” He signed off by saying that “If I was paying £10 then I doubt I would be so furious, but given the financial sacrifice I make I want answers.” I suppose the sensible response would be to suggest that perhaps the unhappy fan should simply stay away, but the thing with football it is a drug and it is hard to kick such a habit despite the ever increasing cost. Club owners know this better than most and that is why they are happy to make the increases in ticket prices and now release a new replica kit every season. They know supporters will always pay regardless; although I do feel it is reaching the financial levels where cracks in that reasoning are starting to appear.
One thing I have noticed this season is that very few clubs in all leagues are selling out their stadiums. You would think that being the first game of the season that you could expect a full house; however it certainly wasn’t the case. I know the financial climate certainly isn’t helping this situation and is perhaps keeping supporters away, but are the club’s adapting or have a contingency in place in case of such a problem? If supporters aren’t attending then that is a large stream of revenue missing; a hole that is unlikely to be filled. Niall Quinn was bemoaning last season that supporters were watching the games on illegal foreign networks in the pubs around Sunderland, rather than turning up at the Stadium of Light. Don’t get me wrong there is no comparison to watching a game LIVE, oppose to a TV broadcast, but if they are being priced out then surely it is the club’s responsibility to find a solution. If supporters are voting with their feet (basically staying away) then club owners can no longer rely on the unwavering support. Football is a now a costly pastime and therefore fans won’t simply turn up, come what may.
So should supporters have a say in the running of their football club, or at least deserve an explanation as to why their team is failing? I have always felt they should, given the ever increasing cost of football and they way supporters (in my eyes) have always had their loyalty taken for granted. It may be uncomfortable for club owners and chief execs to turn up to face the fans, but the financial burden on supporters to watch football will surely dictate that they may now have to. Bill Nicholson supposedly used to tell his players every time they went out on the pitch that they had a huge responsibility to entertain their supporters as they were subsequently the people paying their wages. A comment that is true in every regard and one, judging by the amount of supporters groups that are forever increasing in numbers across the country, which has been ignored for far too long.