28 March, 2008

The Fans Speak with their Feet

Remember Loaded magazine? Back in the day it was a prime cover for just looking at norks while also offering mild amusement in the form of pornalikes. Well apparently it’s still running, and the good folks there have conducted a football fans survey this season, with the somewhat shocking results being previewed in today’s press. Over the past few years there has definitely been an unspoken level of disillusionment rising in this country, fuelled by so many factors ranging from over-priced tickets to the embarrassment that is the national team to the greedy WAG culture, but today in this published poll it appears that things are worse than anyone thought. To be blunt, we are all fed up of the extortionate prices we’re forced to pay to watch our club at any professional level (not just in the Premier League), and sick of the ridiculous wages earned by mediocre players going through the motions.

The survey found that nearly eight in 10 of the thousands polled throughout the country said players’ multi-million pound wages were “offensive,” and were generally appalled that their hard-earned cash just ended up “being wasted on WAGs”. Put simply, an staggering two-thirds believe following football is a complete waste of money, which truly is a sad state of affairs, but one that’s hard to argue with.

A top-heavy Premier League appeared to be many people’s biggest complaint, with an almost uniform opinion that the so-called big 4 have become too money-obsessed and have forgotten the fans. One would imagine that plans unveiled earlier this year to play an extra Premier League game per season abroad fuelled this fire no end. A terrifying 67% further said they would love to see the big 4 clubs quit English football altogether because they are just bored of seeing the same teams win the league. Even down at the bottom of the Premier League it appears that neutrals are similarly fed up with the same 6 or so teams circulating between top flight relegation and Championship superiority, however this season’s unpredictable Real League has surely appeased many of these complaints with the potential for 3 promoted teams to be playing in their first ever Premier League next season.

Talking to the Daily Star today the deputy chairman of the Football Supporters Federation Jon Keen also warned that fans across Britain are deserting big leagues to support teams in the lower divisions because it is cheaper. “Fans want to go back to the roots of football,” he said. “That’s why we’re seeing such success with smaller teams such as AFC Wimbledon. They still care about the fans.” Furthermore, the poll also found that the majority of fans still attending games regularly would like standing terraces back to improve the atmosphere at grounds. 40% of people feel that many stadiums (not just the Emirates apparently) are like libraries because of corporate seating, and 42% said they would prefer their team to be relegated rather than continue to deal with the corporate face of the game. While these people clearly don’t appreciate what life in the Real League is actually like, the sentiment is clear.

So will the clubs or the FA pay any notice to us, the fans? These statistics are worse than I think even the most cynical among us at STT headquarters would’ve predicted, so are we really reaching a state of emergency within the English game? Certainly if these escalating trends continue, we could be genuinely looking at a real drop-off in attendances and interest in the next decade or so, with a fresh generation of fans simply unable to get involved in supporting a club at a young age due to prohibitive cost and corporate monopoly. To add further fear to the approaching abyss, this statistic is the most disturbing of all: two-thirds of the fans surveyed said they were considering switching from football to watch (the often cheaper) rugby instead. I know things are bad at the moment guys, but egg-chasing??? Nooooooooooo!