Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Printed in the Southern League South and West match v Farnborough Tuesday 5th February 2008. We lost 3-2 to a last minute goal with our best performance of the season. Best crowd of the season as well 279.
You’ve got to hand it to Sir Alex, when it comes to moaning the bloke is Premiership class. This time he’s having a go at his teams own supporters, bemoaning the fact that 75,000 people could be so quiet at a recent game against Birmingham. Well what do you bloody expect when you call the place Theatre of Dreams? What do you expect when you get thrown out by stewards for standing up and singing, with season ticket holders having their cards confiscated if they are ejected? What do you expect when a significant proportion of any United home crowd does not speak English as a first language and is visiting the ground for the first time, filling their faces with prawn sandwiches and merchandise from the licence-to-print-money megastore.
The same week Ferguson was complaining, breakaway club FC United of Manchester were boycotting their league game away to Curzon Athletic because it had been moved to a 12.30 kick-off. While both clubs were against the move, the league and a small internet company insisted, and so instead of a bumper crowd and pay day Curzon got a paltry £400 from the company – and of course the joy that you could watch some crappy images on a computer screen.
While the kick-off switch might seem a minor inconvenience it was a matter of principle for supporters of FC United. Although the takeover by Glazier led to the breakaway club being set up, it was rising ticket prices, over zealous stewarding, all seater stadium and the fact that a 3pm kick off was a rarity that had been stoking the fuels of discontent for years.
Since there formation just 3 seasons ago, FCUM have risen up the pyramid, breaking attendance records wherever they have gone, and done much to promote themselves as a community club helping attracting thousands of new converts to non league footie. But the FC united board felt the moving of the kick off time was the thin end of the wedge – and rightly so. Go back five years and people would have said you were insane if you had predicted regular Conference games live on the TV. Of course the Blue Square Premier and Setanta have hailed its success, although frankly watching Woking v Kidderminster on a Thursday night doesn’t really do it for me. But look at what’s already happened. Setanta have been busy mucking around with the football schedules. I’m sure Torquay fans were overjoyed of having a round trip of over 600 miles to watch their game against York which Setanta had moved from a Saturday to a Tuesday before finally deciding 7pm on a Sunday night would be just perfect.
Infact TV schedules are controlling the game to such an extent that kick-off times are barely recognisable anymore – and now this is filtering down to the non league game.
I’m not saying we should be dogmatic about all this, but really it’s not exactly the level of footballing skill that attracts us to non league is it? Being on the terraces, having a drink, meeting friends is part and parcel of the match day experience. I think Friday night games in the lead up to Christmas would be good, and an eye on the Champions league to try to avoid clashing with those dates might help shore up support. But 7pm Sunday night – do me a favour.
As one FC United fan put it “It is a worry that if we climb the pyramid we will be increasingly made to jump through commercial hoops, comply with TV deals etc. And this is the crux of the problem with the Curzon game. We are trying not to make the same mistakes again. If back in the early nineties we had organised ourselves and bought shares in the Man Utd flotation then Glazer would never have stood a chance. If, as TV deals began to have more and more influence over the fixture list, fans had stood up and rebelled, then Saturdays may have remained the chosen day for Premiership football. We turned our back on this rubbish... and here we are again... the first Saturday game to be moved for Northern Premier League TV and it’s a FCUM match. Coincidence? Ironic? Inevitable? You choose.”
Of course just like AFC Wimbledon, FCUM have their detractors. But what would you do? We all like a moan and cry into our beer, but at least their fans decided enough was enough and fought back. Call me old fashioned but the core principle is that footballing matters ought to be decided by footballing organizations for the principal benefit of the clubs and their supporters - with sponsors and TV companies having to work with them rather than dictate.
As their board statement put it “FC United came into existence in direct response to the disregard shown for football supporters by those who put profit before the fans who support the game week in week out.”
The speed at which the media revolution is happening, how long before 12 men and a dog watching Slough are replaced by 12 men and a goldfish watching us slug it out on a computer? That might sound ridiculous now, but with ever increasing channels and they need to fill them how long before the British Gas South and West Divison Match of the Day. I can’t bloody wait.
posted by brighton rebel at 9:48 AM