Time to give them a break

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.

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