Time to give them a break
QUITE often you hear of football fans being ridiculed for “not going to the game”, being armchair fans or not being ‘proper fans’.
This view may well have been valid in the past but is it now? You look at the price of football these days, especially at the top level, and who could blame fans for not going?
That’s especially true in a country where prices for everything seem to go up while many workers see their wages stagnating or, in the case of public sector workers, being capped.
I mean, working people were the real reason football started – factory teams, groups of local men enjoying themselves at a weekend.
Nowadays, if people want to take their children or whole family to their favourite team’s matches, the price can very easily reach triple figures and, frankly, it’s worrying.
It’s worrying that the working man, the average Joes, can’t go to the match due to lack of affordability – as I say, local fans are the lifeblood of football, the people who make the sport what it is.
Not the media, not the TV companies, not the players, but the passion of the fans which, in this country, is absolutely remarkable.
Even in the lower leagues you can see hundreds and thousands of fans traipsing from tiny railway station to tiny railway station to go to whatever footballing backwater their team is playing at that weekend.
Maybe one of the good things that could come out of the frankly ridiculous prices in the Premier League and, increasingly, the Championship is that the smaller, lower league teams may get some more people through the gate. What if those Manchester United fans who couldn’t afford a trip to Old Trafford turned up at Oldham or even Salford City, where some of their favourite heroes are so influential these days?
As a York City supporter and general fan of lower league football, you really get the feel that every person through the gates at these clubs makes a difference to the club – gate receipts are the main source of income for a lot of these teams, not sponsorship.
Plus, you get to see the simply delightful sight of your local BBC radio station commentating on an away game from a mound behind one of the goals at one game, you get to tell tales of travelling to the back end of nowhere on a route nobody has ever used before, you get to go to the old, knackered grounds which used to be in every town and city in the land – real football.
Maybe the armchair fan won’t be so ridiculed in the future, because money is so tight that most ‘average’ fans can’t afford to go to the game.
Maybe all they can do is watch it on the TV or in the pub – it doesn’t make their opinions on football less valid, it just means that they have to follow their teams in a different way.
Football in this country is changing, in many ways for the worse for most of us, and armchair fans are as much of a part of the footballing fraternity as the season ticket holders at their ground every week.