Like the song says and what Leonardo is smiling about… all about the money!

When I was young, I swore I would never turn into one of those miserable, grumpy old people who always went on about how “it wasn’t like this in the old days”. Sadly, actually, not sadly at all, LUCKILY I have! Even better, I have now got a website to spread my moans to cyberspace with, and with my fantastic disclaimer of course, basically I can say what want! Brilliant!

Bolton tickets!

What a palaver. The keyboard warriors, myself included (as I can now proudly class myself as a keyboard warrior albeit still only using two fingers to type) are out. A full on war of words. If I ever watched Game Of Thrones, it would be G.O.T but without dragons or tits. Having never watched G.O.T, I actually don’t know what I am on about, a bit like what has been said on social media about Bolton tickets.

I tried to order tickets for Bolton on Thursday for the people from my branch who have a proper job / don’t have access to a computer or phone / couldn’t operate a computer or smartphone for love nor money (you know who you are!). That is, those who can’t order their own. The Leeds United ticketing website booted me out after I put my credit card details in several times.  I was not pleased. As far as I can gather, this happened to quite a few people. So I can’t be solely blamed for my incompetence.

There have been problems with ordering tickets before. Generally worse for 1st and last aways of the season, popular new grounds and games with small allocations. This is not an isolated incident, and as usual I used facebook to report this to the members of the branch. Realistically, I use facebook because it is so much easier than ringing and texting people, like we used to do in the old days. Don’t get me wrong, there were still many members who were called and texted, as not everyone has facebook. Thursday and Friday were NOT good days.

My post prompted comments, as facebook does, as it is there to generate discussion, I suppose. Some were consolatory, some agreeing and some downright not very helpful nor sympathetic. I wasn’t actually asking for sympathy or random comments, I was just letting branch members know what was going on, and oh yes and venting my frustration. Unfortunately, however facebook works, I found that I was being notified to other comments on other groups etc. True to form, I found that the ticketing problems were being aired all Thursday, Friday and even into the weekend. My phone was buzzing all day, so much so I left it in another room, switched off.

With fake news being so prominent of late, it is hard to believe what is true or false. I saw someone repost a twitter message from someone who had got a ticket and was trying to sell it on. It looked like the Leeds United ticket office also saw that twitter message and kindly cancelled the ticket, so it could be sold onto someone who did want it. If this did happen, all I can say is that person deserved all he got. There was also a post from someone who said they had got tickets and had never been to an away game in their life before, and they were looking forward to it. Well done I say to them. This prompted a bit of anger from people who didn’t get one and then the discussions about who is more deserving of tickets started again.

In the old days, you used to contact Eric Carlile from the LUSC and he would sort out tickets for the LUSC branches. Yes, as easy as that. I think this was in part as a result of the role the LUSC played helping Leeds United with the problems in the 80s, i.e. the incessant crowd trouble and violence in and around away matches. The LUSC have only ever been about getting people to games and supporting Leeds United.  For their efforts, LUSC were given half the allocation of away tickets, I am sure if someone collars Eric one day, he will expand on this. In the old days, however, the demand did not exceed the supply as much as it does today. If the Supporters Club didn’t sell all the allocation they were given, the tickets just went back onto general sale at the ticket office. You could just queue up at Elland Road and buy an away ticket, as easy as that.

When Bad Santa got his grubby paws on the club , he stopped all of that. Totally opposite to the “if it works, don’t fix it” business model. This must have cost Leeds United oodles in delivery costs, sending out tickets indiviually in the post ( in hand written envelopes, one ticket per envelope) and in staffing costs, to deal with the tickets. We all know about his business sense, or rather lack of it. You had to fax your order in and if the fax machine wasn’t working, that was you stuffed. If you faxed it in 30 secs early they wouldn’t accept it either. Otherwise you had to post your form in, relying on Royal Mail and then Leeds United receiving it, which I can honestly say, was extremely worrying. I remember the days of trying to call the ticket office repeatedly to make sure they got my order. Not fun at all and definitely not the most efficient way to spend half a day. There were only 6 names per form and the aways were done in phases.  I still have paperwork from 2009/10 season where Leeds United had sent forms out individually for the people who qualified for Brighton & Hove Albion game at The Withdean. Yes, the club sent out individual forms. Unbelievable! How many of you younger folk even know what a fax machine is? I am sure many LUSC Branch Secretaries still have nightmares from back then.

So, those people who still think the Supporters Clubs get an allocation, how wrong you are! However, Evil Incarnate did allow his RMCs to get a priority order in for 20 tickets for games that were local to the respective RMCs. This apparently was used effectively last season by an RMC from Aberdeen applying for the much sought after Newcastle tickets. I don’t even think there were 20 people in Aberdeen RMC, but apparently some guy advertised that he could get tickets for the game using this RMC bit of loophole. Whether or not anything was ever done about it, who knows?

So what about who deserves the tickets? How do you say who is more loyal or not? Sticky wicket I am afraid. Is loyalty all about the money? Is it all about the money you spend at Leeds United buying shirts, programmes and other merchandise? Is it about whether you can afford a home and away season ticket? Is it about how long you have been spending money on shirts and season tickets?

For those people who have been going to watch Leeds United most of their lives, giving up family time and using up every bit of holiday to trawl around the dark days of Division 3 football, I think the answer is clear. For those who kept travelling to watch us at Southampton on a Tuesday night, Bristol in the snow, Swindon Town etc. in the days of old warhorses and mercenary players coming in on loan because the warchest was empty, the answer is clear. For those who will spend the entire 90 minutes watching what is going on the pitch, rather than staring at their phones, the answer is clear. For those who get behind the team and support them win, lose or draw, it is clear. For those who scrape together every bit of spare money and holiday time they get so they can get to see a game, yes, it’s clear.

For the increasing number of people who are just going to say they have been to a game, it’s not so clear. For the ones who go and stand in the aisles, blocking everyone else’s view and not even watching the game, it’s not so clear. For those who don’t even get there for kick off and then spend most of the 1st half in the bar throwing beer over them and everyone else, it’s not clear. For those with the attention span of a fruit fly, who would rather be shouting at the home fans rather than getting behind the team when we start losing, it’s not so clear. For those who ruin it for everyone else by throwing flares because they are bored and think it improves the atmosphere at away games, not so clear. For those who get bored and walk out before the end of the game, it’s not so clear. For those who spend most of the game staring at their phones, telling people the scores from the Premiership, not so clear. For those who would rather go to a game just to boo the players / team/ management staff/ chairman (delete as appropriate), not so clear.

You can see where I am coming from here, can’t you? Don’t get me wrong, Harrogate & District like a good day out and an amiable pre match refreshment stop is one of the many highlights of the day. We all like a good sing song and may miss kick off depending on traffic / queues etc. The majority of us go to watch the game and support the team. End of.

I know there are people from Ireland and Scandinavia who desperately try to go to as many aways as possible. These are the ones who the television gods screw around the most. These are the ones who are stuck in the middle. I don’t like the word “part-timer”. Many people have gone from never missing a game home or away to a couple of games a season because of work and family, or geography. The MPO missed an entire season in protest against Evil Papa Smurf / Nasty Neil /Spit The Diouf. Many people have stopped going simply because of money.

Although the price of a season ticket hasn’t gone up too extortionately for those of us lucky to have a season ticket, it has gone up. In the dark days of Division 3 football, it was too expensive for that rubbish. To be fair to Cellino, the season tickets for juniors were very reasonable in his reign, and it was a good move to get a new generation interested seeing as previous ones had been lost. Yes other local clubs have dropped their ticket prices, and it is now cheaper at some Premiership grounds than us here. The latter in part to the ridiculous money that comes from TV revenue now, the Chelseas and Citys don’t even need the matchday ticket money. The Championship, thanks to Shaun “unfit and improper” Harvey couldn’t wangle a tenth of the the deal for the Football League games. If the EFL spent as much time getting a proper deal with the TV companies for the telly rights as they did trying to charge Cellino, the 72 clubs might have been on a bit more of a parity. Sadly, their priorities were elsewhere as a vendetta against Leeds United had more importance and gravitas.

In essence, following Leeds United away has sadly turned into an elitest debacle. It is all about the money. In 2014 (I think), Leeds United was proud to have the LUSC Co Chair honoured at the EFL Capital One event for being a loyal fan. Phil clocked in 2000 consecutive Leeds games. Those were the days, it seems that being a loyal fan nowadays comes at a price.

If you can afford an away season ticket at £800 a pop and £15 card fees, YOU ARE IN!

If you can afford to take time off at work on ticket ordering day, YOU ARE IN!

If you can afford a decent smartphone or tablet (and know how to use it), YOU ARE IN!

For the rest of us mere mortals, this could be the beginning of the end for our branch trips.

It’s gonna be a long season!