Partick Wiseman talks us through the plight of the modern day English Fan:
The premier league trumpets itself as ‘the best league in the world’ which is all well and good until you realise how crap the average match day experience is for the average Premier league football fan. Fans of lower league clubs also have equally awful Matchday experiences by and large, and the reason for the god-awful conditions are down yo several factors.
One of the many issues for the match-going fan in England is a lack of safe standing, when it makes sense to re-implement it with the safety advances that have been made since the Hillsborough tragedy. For those who argue against safe standing, I say this: not only have we come a long way since that tragic day, but Hillsborough should never have been used to stage the match in the first place – consequently those who were responsible for policing and choosing the event shall forever have the blood of the 96 on their hands. The Leppings Lane end was in no fit state to be used, as it had failed safety tests. The decision to cram Liverpool fans in like cattle into the pens, and as if they were sardines in a tin, was the tipping point. My point is, Hillsborough was a tragedy, make no mistake, but safety has come a long way since then, and the deaths of the 96 should not have been used as an excuse to scrap safe-standing. Right now the most time a fan will spend standing up at games is about 5 minutes gameplay time, if that. Not only that, but since you aren’t paying for a seat, the ticket is likely to be considerably cheaper. Stadiums should be cauldrons of noise on Matchday, but all-seater stadiums deny the chance for that to happen. Which brings me to my next point:
The stadiums are dead and soulless. Whilst football stadiums aren’t exactly morgues, they might as well be. Honestly if I was blind and hard-of-hearing I would be unable to tell the difference. ‘You’re not singing any more’ – that’s right, because no-one is. With the exception of big games, the stadiums are so quiet on match day you can hear a pin drop. Those who try to make noise are given weird looks, when that’s the whole bloody reason you go to a football game is to cheer on your team. The fans who don’t try to stand up and chant spend virtually the whole game on smartphones and tablets taking pictures, or else going to the bar IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME, and my biggest pet hate, going in early to beat the queue to a half-time pint, or leaving early to ‘beat the rush’. These are times when the players need the fans to roar them on, yet these people don’t care. Stop being so selfish, stay and support the team, or else don’t bother buying a ticket in the first place.
Then there’s the constant fixture relocation to suit the needs of the tw*ts at BT and Sky. Who cares about the fans, stuff those plebs when money is what counts. Football fans make these companies billions, yet they get treated with no respect at all. Liverpool fans are expected to travel to Exeter on a Friday night when the last train to Liverpool leaves BEFORE kick off. Bournemouth fans are expected to travel up to Liverpool, and Arsenal fans to Manchester United, on a MONDAYNIGHT. Arsenal fans are expected to travel to Manchester City on a SUNDAY MORNING. Traditional kick-off times were setat 3pm Saturday to make it fair on the fans – they can get up and get ready at a reasonable time. Now though, it’s all about the already bloated influx of cash for the broadcasting Giants.
My main bug bear with English football, however, is the insanely high ticket prices. The lack of atmosphere on Matchday can be linked directly to high ticket prices, as real fans are priced out in favour of real fans, and are forced to head down their local pub to watch the game. What makes it even more appalling is that the Football Supporters’ Federation released data that showed that Football League and Premier League clubs could let all fans in FOR FREE AND STILL MAKE A HUGE PROFIT. My club, Arsenal, charges ridiculously high season-ticket prices, the highest in the country in fact, and probably the world, with the CHEAPEST season tickets going for upwards of an eye-watering £1000 and that’s once you reach the top of the huge waiting list – I’m currently around the 77000th mark. The cheapest top-flight ticket is around £400. And prices in the lower leagues are also ridiculous. To put that into perspective Barcelona, showcase of the world’s best talent, and serial trophy winners, charge the equivalent of £77 per season ticket. In Germany, meanwhile, the stadiums are constantly rocking every week, as the club’s over there actually respect their fans and charge reasonable rates. It’s not just season tickets, it’s also Matchday tickets as well. Away fans have enough costs to factor in without the ridiculously high prices, yet they can get charged in excess of £60 per game on top of accommodation and travel costs. The fact that the premier league clubs voted to CAP away tickets at £30 for the next 3 seasons says it all. Home fans also get ripped off. For example, the average Class A ticket at Arsenal costs around £60, and Band C games are around £27 or thereabouts. And that’s once you’ve paid around £60-£80 for a bloody membership card! Disabled Supporters at Arsenal currently pay around £35 a year for their membership cards, and have reduced rates, with Band C games costing around £13 and Band A games around £30. This discount is undeserved and here’s why – disabled supporters shouldn’t NEED that discount, because that’s the price everyone should pay, and no ticket should cost more than £20. Moreover, whilst at Highbury disabled fans used to be able to get in for free, but now the club is milking even them! Never mind the fact that disabled supporters may be unable to work, and football may very well play a key part in helping them feel like a normal member of society, not when there’s money involved. No disabled fan should have to pay to watch a football match, and the same goes for members of the British Armed Forces.
‘Best League in the world’ – only for the CEOs of the big companies. The football leagues don’t even have a fancy mask to place on their leagues! For the fans, it’s simply dreadful, as a look beyond the glossy headlines will emphatically tell you.
By Patrick Wiseman