Ready for the big kick-off?
Have you got the new shirt? No, you are so last year.
Heard the latest about your teams’ top player ‘agreeing’ to extend his contract for another year? He’s ‘accepted’ a contract which bumps him up to £80,000 a week, immediately replacing his existing £60,000 a week deal that had only three more years to run. That’s loyalty, what a legend.
Has your club ‘frozen’ ticket prices or 'implemented a minor rise in line with other clubs'? That's very generous, given the record TV deal secured by the English Premier League for worldwide coverage this year.
Summer is season ticket renewal time and loyal fans are splashing out to secure their seat for the forthcoming season. Or at least that's the hope of owners and board members throughout the football world. Loyalty and togetherness will appear in sound bites from your club, as they push for a large cut of your hard-earned money. Family holidays are often sacrificed, home improvements put on hold and what's offered in return? Maybe a small discount on the latest 12-month kit or some fans could be lucky enough to receive a 'free' full-size colour team poster with their latest contribution to the club’s coffers.
This annual cash injection aids planning and helps your club build for the future. Of course it does, you only have to look at how the mighty have fallen in recent years and at other established clubs who continue to service ridiculous debts despite years of top-flight 'stability'. It's more than a little unfair that loyal fans continue to pay for past mistakes and poor financial management, season after season. Fantasy Football is no longer just for fans as billionaires pour money into inflated transfer fees and ridiculous wages in the hope of buying success. What happens when they lose interest or find another sport to play with? Undoubtedly clubs will go back to the real fans, fans increasingly frustrated with the business of football.
A committed follower of any premiership club can easily spend well over £1,000 a year watching their team home and away. Such loyal fans have been taken advantage of for far too long and it’s time for change. Would our clubs listen if fans en mass, voted with their feet? Perhaps the larger clubs could survive on TV money and sponsorship alone but the atmosphere (a huge selling point with the 'EPL') would disappear along with season ticket renewal funds. Clubs would have to change eventually, perhaps they might stop abusing that loyalty they depend on and have wrongly come to expect. Stay-away fans get a bad press (mainly from clubs and blinkered fans) but they think before they spend and their numbers are growing.
To reconnect with the working-class fans and engage with the next generation, clubs need to be sensible with their pricing policies. Most people I speak to feel that £10-15 is more than enough to watch a game of football and that replica kits should last for more than one season. Shirt sponsorship and kit deals should reflect this policy and put fans first, for once. Ok, no one has to buy them and children must accept they can’t have everything but I think fans need more than token gestures and marketing gimmicks from their football clubs. It’s important that football finds a way to reconnect with the grass-roots, the working classes. Loyalty works both ways, together we’re stronger.