Friday, November 12, 2010

Lower league sides must be run by the fans

 Source: Daily Post, North Wales

 Andrew Gilpin

 THE day of the community club is coming... because who’d want to be a football club owner?

You’re on a hiding to nothing if you want to make money because you start with a certain amount of fans and slowly lose them through your decisions.

Supporters don’t like the manager. That’s a thousand gone. They’re unhappy with the prices. Say goodbye to another 500. Sold a top player? That's a 100. Had a crappy burger? That’s at least one person who’s never coming back.

Whatever initiatives you put into place you’re not going to grow more fans if the team isn’t successful, so you can’t make money from gate receipts.

You’ll have to look at the other assets.

You could sell on some players, but thanks to some guy called Bosman your first team is more or less worthless. You might as well try selling on the youngsters to keep it all going.

Then there’s the land. When you redevelop all that, what's left? You can’t grow any more of it.

Even the mega rich Premier League owners don’t have it easy.

Manchester United fans hate Malcolm Glazer. So much so a large group would rather set up their own club rather than give him any of their hard-earned cash.

FC United is a true example of the community club. Two thousand fans who rule by committee. No shareholders. No grab for cash, unlike the club’s estranged big brother. Supporters are a part of the club at every turn and so the team’s victory is truly their victory.

It’s the future, a club you can call your own and players you can relate too.

In fact do Premier League owners really rule their clubs, or do the players?

The damage the Wayne Rooney debacle has done – holding a great of world football to ransom for a few thousand more – will come back to haunt the mega bucks player, because the link between them and the rank-and-file fan has gone.

To pay the likes of Rooney his pieces of silver the Glazers will screw the supporters that little bit more. And how much longer can they put up with a family ticket price of £200. £40 on food. Five pound for a programme. Club memberships fees, a shirt a year for the kid(s), blah, blah, blah.

Just as supporters were being turned off the sport by the violence in 70s and 80s, greed is doing the same now.

Foreign owners have come in thinking with the TV deal in place and season ticket sales, the Premier League is a sure thing.

That’s fine if you’re Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour, but Tom Hicks and George Gillett have just found out that the stadiums aren’t paved with gold.

And the Glazers may find it out very soon, because if they continue to put the squeeze on the fans, many will become disillusioned with the Premier League. Just like the people who set up FC United.

They can’t go cold turkey on football, the game is too ingrained into the British psyche.

But you can wrestle control back from big business and give it back to the people who matter most in it all – the fan.

The future is a club you can feel a part of. Where you want to give them your money, not resent doing it.

For North Wales I want that community club to be Wrexham, but in truth we’re light years away from that.

Somewhere along the line the relationship between owner Geoff Moss, chairman Ian Roberts and the fans has been eroded.

It may be something to do with a multi-million pound student flats project built on something the club has very little of now – land.

When that goes what does the club really have left? How can you make a profit?

You always hear the well-meaning fans say: “If I became a millionaire I’d buy Wrexham.”

Would you? Would you really pour money into a club that in all honesty will always lose you cash. Where you’d leave yourself open to personal attacks even though you thought you were doing your best.

Football clubs – especially lower league ones – shouldn’t be owned by one or two people, they must be owned by communities.

Maybe the true essence of the community club is to start again and drop down the leagues – like FC United, like AFC Wimbledon, like Chester. As long as you have a ground, it’s do-able.

Most fans hope this doesn’t ever happen at Wrexham. But if that’s the price of getting their love for football back, they’ll probably pay it.

Football clubs were set up over a century ago by a small group of like-minded people to enjoy.

It’s time for football to come full circle.