September sees us unbeaten in the league and the Cup. So far, so good. With a near sell out crowd for Saturday’s game against Burton, and probably the same for Birmingham thanks to the 33% discount offer, it is all looking rather good. Leeds United are moving in the right direction. The football we are playing is better. The team spirit amongst the players is better. The engagement with the fans is better. It is just a pity that for some bizarre reason, the spirit between the fans is going the opposite way.
The 33% off deal was brilliant, Leeds United giving something back. Yet people complained that it wasn’t fair on season ticket holders? Eh? I have been a season ticket holder for er… long enough.. and I think it is great. We wouldn’t have got this under Bad Papa Smurf. The ticket prices for children were slashed by Sig. Cellino and continue to remain low under Mr Radrizzani. Ipswich for £1 apparently now? Yes, they could have opened more seats up for the Newport game, and in fact were forced to open the North East and North West corners on the night due to demand, but I can let that slide. We are drawing in bigger crowds – brilliant.
So, as the great Marvin Gaye said, what’s going on? What’s happened to “all Leeds arn’t we”?
Much like the classic George Orwell novel, Animal Farm, we are all Leeds, just some think they are more Leeds than others.
As regular blog readers are aware, my words are my own, and frankly, I don’t care what people think of me. This blog was never intended to win me any friends ( haha and hasn’t!). I’ve been a Leeds fan for long enough to have formed my own opinions. Admittedly, given my age, not as long as The Chairman or certain other branch members, but long enough to have gone through sufficient good times and bad. I’ve been an LUSC member for at least 90% of that time. It was Eric Carlile’s fault that I became a member, and the condition of my liver, lies squarely at his feet!
I blame social media for most of this (not my liver- that’s my own fault). In the 90’s we never had any of this and the only time you heard anyone else’s opinion was stood at the bar pre match or in the ground. There was chatter on the bus on the way to the pubstop obviously, but there wasn’t that much in depth discussion on the way back for other drink related reasons. The fanzines were the only other outlet for topical debate on all things Leeds. So, if you didn’t see anyone for a week, any het up frustration you had about Sergeant Wilko going mad buying Tomas Brolin or the the fact that Carlton Palmer couldn’t pass to a white shirt in a coal shed, had more or less waned. Nowadays, as soon as something happens, the world is on it (via Sky Sports News) and then anyone who is anyone has their say. Then it escalates into a full-on-fisticuffs-at-fifty-paces, with the inevitable fall out over probably nothing much at all, like Chris Wood for example. Thank heavens The Chairman hasn’t got a computer or a smartphone!
Joking aside, the dissatisfaction comes from all corners and it is difficult to identify and quantify it in order to stop the rot.
It started with the gaping chasm opened up by Bates. Even after we had plummeted to the depths of Division 3 football, there were still people who defended him to the hilt for “saving the club”. Despite the fact that we probably would have been better off going into administration and clawing our way back up the leagues, even now, he still has his band of admirers. The bad blood between the LUSC and “his Bad Businessship” made matters worse, and the divide deepened. This resulted in people forgetting what the LUSC was all about, and subsequently, newer Leeds fans don’t really understand what the Supporters branches do.
Needless to say, we, the LUSC are still here supporting Leeds United, with our Centenary round the corner. With any luck, the last remnants of Sad Santa will be eliminated by Mr Radrizzani in his new era of Leeds United Football Club. If I had my way, Sad Santa would be blown into smithereens with a bazooka as soon as you could see the whites of his eyes.
A.B. (after bates), we had a certain group claiming to be the “true voice of Leeds United fans” proclaiming our new saviours aka GFH. After the fallout from that disaster, yet another group was formed, which claimed to bring even more voices of Leeds United fans together. Enter Mr Cellino, bringing in even more pro/anti groups, with increasingly louder voices and bigger budget publicity campaigns in order to get their own points across, and hey presto, a schism similar to the Mariana Trench in size has formed in all four corners of the globe.
I think the discontent generated from various groups trying to be ” the voices of the fans” has unfortunately contributed to disenchantment, with fans nowadays thinking they have the right to be consulted about everything Leeds United say or do. Speaking from my own experience, it is hard enough to get a consensus amongst the branch members of player of the month once every 4 weeks. So trying to find out what Leeds United fans think when there are fans spread across the 7 continents is a nigh on impossible feat. No one short of Professor Charles Xavier from the X-Men would be able to purport to having that kind of information.
The away ticket allocation debacles have not helped either. As much as no one wishes to admit it, there are more people wanting to go to away games now than there used to be. I have previously stated, I don’t like the term bandwagon jumpers. It is wrong. Some people have had genuine reasons why they stopped going, and now are coming back. These people, and completely new fans, are contributing to the difficulties of acquiring tickets for those of us who have been lucky enough to have continued going all these years. I have no doubt at all that some have been very vocal on social media and to Leeds United directly, about the perceived unfairness of using last season’s tracker.
The fact that Leeds United still bears the tag of “Dirty Leeds”, the long lamented hooligan element of the 80s remains another sad nail firmly esconced in the away travellers coffin. The police and the home clubs do not need an excuse to reduce our ticket allocation. Despite the sad times that the EFL find themselves in, where people prefer to watch the game on telly, the 72 clubs hardly work hard to promote attendances at stadia across the country. The sight of a full ground cheering on the team is a thing of beauty. Nothing can compare to the feeling you get when we score at an away game, when the home crowd is stunned into silence and all you can hear is Marching On Together. The one true voice of Leeds United.
This should be celebrated. Welcomed with open arms. Our support should be talked about with enthusiasm, everyone should be extoling the virtues of our fantastic fans and not just at away games either, at home too. At our home, Elland Road. With Mr Radrizzani showing that the club is valuing the family atmosphere and encouraging the younger generation to actually go and watch a live football game, we should be all singing from the same hymn sheet.
Sadly, the away game atmosphere, while enjoyable when we are winning and playing well, suffers from the actions of a few, who ruin it for the others. Time for the miserable old git in me to put a dampener on things. Both the Sunderland and Notts Forest games were a perfect example of the opportunities that are flitting away from us. There was ample space in those stands to get more away fans in, at least a few hundred more. The revenue from those extra ticket sales would have benefitted those home clubs. The Stadium of Light and The City Ground were hardly at capacity, especially when compared to the 80s. So what is going on?
Is it the fact that Leeds United will only allow less than 3000 away fans at Elland Road, therefore the home clubs are merely reciprocating? Since the days of the Cheese Wedge and The South Stand being used for away fans, there has been a noticeable drop in away supporters at Elland Road. Before any Toon Army fans who may be reading this say anything, sometimes it isn’t for want of trying. I believe the West Stand cannot take anymore away fans due to the need to segregate the home and away fans, whatever rule that is. I can’t see any South Stand season ticket holders wanting to be usurped by any away fans soon either. Again, the change in the area used to house away fans lies solely at the feet of Bad Papa Smurf. As I believe the EFL restricted the price of away tickets so that the home clubs weren’t allowed to charge away supporters more than the home fans in a similar area. As West Stand tickets are more expensive, the away fans were moved to the area down the side of the West Stand for monetary purposes, and now that can’t /won’t be changed as the police feel the area is safer in terms of crowd control etc.
Is it because the home clubs and/or the police feel that too many Leeds fans will cause too much trouble in the ground? Given that Fulham have operated a “neutral area” the last few seasons with no massive increase in crowd trouble, is this really the case? Last season at Blackburn, Wigan and Preston, we had massive allocations. Was there any more trouble at these grounds? Is it that different clubs and different police forces have different views on Leeds fans depending on previous experiences? Would it be better if there was a one size fits all? Is there anything that Leeds fans can do about this?
My view is yes, yes we can. The rules (whether we like it or not) are that following the Taylor Report, fans are NOT allowed to stand and block aisles or stairwells. Incendiary items such as flares are banned. There is a no smoking policy inside the ground, as is the norm everywhere now, now that the fun police have stopped innocent tax paying smokers from enjoying themselves. The more considerate fans amongst us would not create havoc if and when the home clubs decide that they won’t serve alcohol at half time because there are beer fights going on. The more considerate fans amongst us wouldn’t even consider having a beer fight. The tight gits amongst us would prefer to just drink the beer. The more considerate of us wouldn’t even think about climbing all over the walls / rafters just so someone can put a you tube video up on the internet for 5 minutes of fame. The more considerate of us wouldn’t bring a flare into the ground and hurl it from the stands, where it could hit someone, or chuck it onto the concourse at half time.
The sad fact is that, there will be people reading this thinking that I am a miserable boring old git, who doesn’t understand what awayday football is all about. The reality is that every time someone does something from the list above, you give the home clubs ammunition to reduce the allocation. I waited for the Burnley allocation to come out before I published this post, I nearly posted it last night, but I am glad I waited.
The last time we were at Burnley, I am pretty sure we were told that the behaviour was unacceptable the previous season(s). Still, our fans were climbing on the walls and the rafters of that old stand at half time. There was a huge bottleneck directly inside the turnstile entrance as people were trying to escape from a flare that had been chucked on the concourse before kick off. It was all a gigantic shambles, and not helped at all by our own fans who just continued merrily to abuse the rules. So no surprise at all today when the ticket allocation has been announced and we are only getting 2000 or so. No surprise either the response so far on social media complaining about the small allocation. What do you expect? That they are going to give us that whole end after what has happened in previous seasons? Who do you think you are kidding? Moaning about other clubs getting more for a Cup game and crying that they are picking on Leeds fans?
This whole sense of entitlement is so very, very, very annoying. Right from the people who are 1st time season ticket holders who think they are entitled to an away match whenever they want regardless of anyone else, to the “all Leeds Arn’t we” crowd, who think that they can do as they please at an away game without any repercussions. No one wants to take any responsibility for their actions, not one person is willing to step up and say, f**k it, we really need to think about what we say and what we do before we open our mouths or jump in feet first. I have, and now I will be lambasted by all and sundry, as if I care!
And who are the winners and losers in all this? There are no winners. There is just us, the loyal fans who spend our time and money doing something we love – watching Leeds United, we are not losers – but we lose.