These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Football Fans Are Idiots

Published in the Ryman Premier League match v AFC Wimbledon 27th August 2005

"Football fans are idiots" a sports editor recently wrote, and you know, he's got a point. Only the other day I was laughed at by a friends kid cos my Slough Town season ticket cost me only £90. As if paying £30 plus to watch ninety minutes of top league footie was something to crow about.

Usually people complain when they are being ripped off and decide they'll go elsewhere - but when it comes to top level football people seem to just grin and bear it. I don't think he believed me when I told him a season ticket at Real Madrid cost just £200. A cheap ticket for Borussia Dortmund costs under £10 and for Roma £15.

I can forgive youngsters for thinking that being ripped off means something must be better (just look at the fortune they pay for trainers) but it is these very same youngsters and people on lower incomes that are being priced out of the game.

So here's the rub - is football a game or a business?

Wimbledon fans 'lived the dream' before being shunted from pillar to post as vultures circled for their pound of flesh. With the move to Milton Keynes, they stuck two fingers up to the owners and decided to start their own fans run club.

But what about the newest fans-owned club FC United of Manchester? Where do they lie in our sympathises? Football as they say is a funny old game, and I certaintly never expected to be to standing on the terraces rubbing shoulders with the black and red of Manchester United supporters willing their players on to score a goal. But then this was the breakaway FC United playing their second only game, a friendly against AFC Wimbledon in front of 3,301 supporters including about 800 travelling fans. It had certainly caught the imagination of the media who were crawling everywhere with live updates on 5 Live and Talk Sport.

The final straw for thousands of Man United fans was Glazier buying the club. The cynical amongst you and the anyone-but-united brigade (of which I am a fully paid up member) might ask why it took so long for some of their fans to walk away. Aside from the fact that most football fans are idiots, I reckon that's missing the point. To their credit Shareholders United had been fighting a rearguard action ever since the club decided to drop the football bit and become a PLC.

For me, the FC United story is another chink in the chain of fans taking back control of their clubs. As Luc Zenetar acting secretary of FC United put it "I am sick of football and what it has become. The money. The arrogance. The lack of connection between the players and the fans. The way we, the supporters, are treated, the Gestapo-like environment. I can't stand the fact that it costs £36 to get into a ground with no atmosphere, where you cant stand, can't shout, can't fart, can't even sit with your friends. And then Rio Ferdinand, who earns £75,000 a week, gets banned for eight months through his own stupidity, has the gall to demand over £100,000 just to carry on."

He continues "There is no master plan, We are bringing football back to the community. This is purely about providing cheap, enjoyable football. If we don't win the European Cup within the next twenty years, then so be it. I am fed up with families having to spend half their weekly wage just to see their team. My only dream is to get football back to what it should be."

Part of their manifesto reads "We have ambitious and long term plans. Above all we want to be seen as a good example of how a club can be run in the interests of its members and be of benefit to its local communities."

Now that's got to be a good thing in anyones eyes - apart of course, from those who see football as a way of making themselves rich.

FC United are going to walk the North West Counties Division Two league as many players have dropped a level or two to be part of this new dream. The fans are going to save themselves a packet, with Christmas coming to the likes of Daisy Hill, Darwen and Blackpool Mechanics. And if this friendly was anything to go by they will have a great time while doing it (my favourite songs included 'Stand up if you've got no seats' and 'Only club in Manchester not in debt'). I've already read comments on their forum boards like "Non league football is so friendly that it almost hurts."

So back to the question business or pleasure? And is this fans revolution a load of romantic old tosh? Well Florentino Perez, the elected (yes elected) - president of Real Madrid arguably the worlds richest club think - is a seriously loaded workaholic businessman but even for him Real Madrid is different "No one believes in PLC's more than I do. But football, when you really come down it, belongs in the sphere of human emotions. Real Madrid is a kind of religion for millions all over the world. You can't have that in the hands of one individual. It's as if the Catholic Church belonged to one person. It wouldn't be right."

Sean Ingle the sports editor who called us all idiots (actually I don't think he was talking about us lower league lot) spelt out what is wrong.

"It's not good for English football that we now have a three-teams-can-win-it Premiership. Or that TV money is more unequally distributed than ever. Or - as Lord Burns recently pointed out - that the Premiership clubs have undue influence with the Football Association. In short, it's not necessarily a given that football will become more soulless and uncompetitive with every passing year. But the game needs your help. After all, no one ever changed the world by sitting on their capacious backside, eating a pork pie and shouting beetroot-face abuse at Wayne Rooney, did they? Football needs to be taken down a peg - and supporters are the best ones to do it."

I reckon that peg is supporters turning their backs on those that have forgotten that football clubs are for the fans. They can do it by either setting up their own fan controlled clubs, taking control through Trusts or switching to teams like Slough. Whichever one they choose, it can only be a good thing for football in the long run, and show those making a mint out of the game that not all us footie fans are idiots.

* To read the Guardian article http://football.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,9753,1551650,00.html

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