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.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

THE MATCH DAY EXPERIENCE

Published in the Southern League Premier Division game v Cirencester Town. Tuesday 2nd December 2014. We lost 2-1 in front of 273.

A recent letter in my local Brighton paper said all you need to know about football fans. Here was a Brighton supporter complaining that rather than spending money on a spanking new football academy, Albion should have instead splashed all that cash on players to get to the Premiership Promised Land. He also cited Southampton as an example of a club who waited till they got to Premiership Nirvana before they spent money on these sort of facilities. Yes, Southampton who seem to be supplying all the top clubs with their best players, while remaining a top club themselves. What a waste of cash their Academy has been.

The Premiership/success at all costs is why I haven't changed my opinion that most football fans are idiots. Of course football makes you irrational with many of us exhibiting a blind brand loyalty that any other business would kill for. Football clubs use it as an excuse to exploit, although any Wigan supporting Chinese Jews are probably finding it difficult to cheer their team on at the moment.

On a recent rail replacement trip to Cambridge, one Arsenal fan who travels up from Eastbourne for matches, went into full brand loyalty mode, telling me that Arsenal weren't as expensive to watch as most people think, but he couldn't afford to watch his local non league club Eastbourne Borough anymore. That's because he was spending £200 on the Arsenal Match Day Experience.

Brighton was recently picked out as the most expensive team to watch in the Championship. This is hardly surprising as Brighton is a bloody expensive place to live. Their Chief Executive argued that the report was flawed because it didn't take into account the 'Match Day Experience'. So what exactly is that, apart from, er, watching the match? The last time I went to the AMEX I sat on my tod, next to people more interested in the Man United score eating overpriced pies and queuing ages to have a pee. With 10 minutes to go the stand I was in was nearly empty – and Brighton weren't losing. I might expect this type of experience at a cinema but I had to pinch myself to remember I was at a football match.

While Albion were one of the Championship clubs to try and stick to the financial fair play rules, they reluctantly voted to massively increase the money clubs can overspend so it no longer can really be called fair play just more of the free-for-all-winner-takes-all model football fans seem to have swallowed whole. But at least the Albion are trying not to build their house on sand. A peek over to the South Coast at Portsmouth should remind fans what happens when you do that, only rescued from the jaws of oblivion, by their fans.

So while Labour has promised more supporters on the boards should they reach the promised land of No 10, the Premiership have reacted to the crazy idea that fans having a greater say with apoplectic fury. What's wrong with Russian criminals, tax exiles and deluded Malaysians who think that red is a much better colour than blue (I'm sure no teams that play in blue have won the Premiership recently, so he might have a point). To be fair, the Con-Lib Alliance wrote in their coalition agreement that they would “encourage co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters” which they have sort of done, by letting clubs go to the wall ready for fans to clear up the mess and run themselves.

As for me, I will stick to the Match Day Experience offered by non league football. Sure, there might be more atmosphere at Slough Cemetery than Holloways Park. Yes there might be less than 100 at most of the Sussex County League games I get too. And yes, the fans at Lewes might make me feel a little uncomfortable by being just too darn polite, but they are places where I feel most at home, can watch a decent game of football, and not be broke for the rest of the week just because I’ve watched 90 minutes of football.

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