Little boxes, on the hillside

One of the original and best protest songs of its generation, in fact ever. The millenials that are harping on about whatever virtue seeking project they are currently chasing could learn a thing or two about the right way to get their point across by listening to it. I’ll stick the link in, so younger viewers can get an earful of Pete Seeger. I know Malvina Reynolds did it first, but I never liked her voice and she actually went to university – Berkeley – twice!

The song is essentially about the coercion to conform.

Those of you who know me, know that I am definitely NOT a socialist, far from it in fact and I can’t be arsed to bang on about politics today. This is about what we, as football fans, are being forced into doing, by people who can and will, without a second thought, tell us what to do.

All we hear, all the time from the Real Gods of football is that fans matter.

That is one of the biggest lies you will ever hear.

Football fans, as we know them (or think we know them) don’t matter at all.

The FA, EFL, FIFA, UEFA, TV companies, the betting companies, the alcohol and caffeine/sugary drinks industry and even our own beloved club are feeding us, just enough mind, in dribs and drabs, like some sort of weird Pavlovian experiment, because they know that we will keep coming back no matter what they do to us. The daft thing is – it’s true – we will.

Football, as I knew it, was all about going to games. Not just the 90 minutes on the pitch, but as is the tradition with our branch (and probably many other branches), a drink, a laugh with people who you only ever saw at football, a trip out to somewhere new, or to the regular annual pubstop and then a trip home in a drunken state, ending up with a late night kebab stood outside the Grand Theatre waiting for the last bus home or 2 for 1 pizza at Chicos, even if you didn’t want the other one. Great days!

Not now.

Those days are long gone and my generation of football fan barely exists.

Football fans nowadays are comprised of :

1) People , potentially, many thousands of miles away from the actual game who aren’t necessarily interested in the game, just what’s going to happen in it. Armchair fans who are basically waiting to see if and when there are any goals, yellow cards, red cards, corners, free kicks, whatever gets their bet in or their fantasy league points up.

No?  Yeah – like you haven’t done this before – you ACCA loving hypocrites.

2) People who have decided that they ought to like some sort of sport but haven’t actually honed in on one. But think they best belong to something, so it might as well be whatever happens to be popular at the time, and then they’ll change their minds when something better trending comes up. But whilst they are supporting sport, they are better sport supporters than anyone else who has ever been a sport supporter, and have the home and away shirts plus the pen, pencil and pencil sharpener to prove it or the mobile device case and ring tone. Oh, and their twitter handle and facebook name have the letters of their sports club in it as well.

3) People who used to go to games but then bigger priorities have forced them out, like children, wives / husbands, jobs, money etc. and now want to come back to watch games but can only watch it on the telly

4) Overseas fans who are desperate to get the opportunity to go watch a live game but realistically have a snowballs chance in hell unless they have won the lottery

5) People who go to watch games when they can, but it’s not the  “be all and end all”, and it depends on how many brownie points it can score with the missus if they take the kids off her hands for the day. Plus if the  rugby is on, they’ll go there instead because you can drink in the stand

6) People who go to games when they can regardless of how many brownie points they’ll get knocked off for spending the day out drinking with their mates and coming home in a state

7) People who have a season ticket who will go when they want to, but not bother when it’s a crappy lower league team in the second round of the cup on a rainy night in February.

8) People who have a season ticket and will go to a crappy second round cup tie even if it is a 700+ mile round trip and they have to have yet another tooth removed because of root canal surgery according to their manager’s sickness absence record.

9) Season ticket holders, who go to all games bar floods, locust plagues, tornados and the wedding anniversary

10) Season ticket holders and away season ticket holders who have activated their auto cup schemes who go to all games regardless of anything

11) Me and my miserable git mates

10 different types of fan profile that I can write off the top of my head and probably more sub sections available in each grouping. My point is which group of fans benefit the Real Gods of football more? It certainly isn’t the last 3 is it?

Yet we are told that fans matter.

We are no longer fans, we are customers. But we aren’t really customers because if we were true customers, i.e. consumers of a product, we would have a choice, and if we didn’t like what we were getting we could just go somewhere else. But we can’t and we won’t , because we are Leeds. And they know it. Like with SkyTVisf**kings**t.  What choice do we have? BT but no SkySportsLeeds? Virgin with BT sport? Not going to happen, is it? We are a captive audience.

The EFL have decided that all 72 teams should sign up and all be part of the EFL Trusts network. The EFL state that all clubs should actively involve a supporters group which should meet up at least twice a year to hear fans views. There are lots of things that the EFL feel that all 72 clubs should be signed up to doing – because fans matter.

In part I can see where they are coming from re input from fans, but who chooses the fans they engage with? The fans or the Club? Plus the last time Leeds United engaged with the fans, the result was that new crest!!! Don’t need reminding about that!

The EFL are putting Leeds United, with it’s massive world wide fan base and a massive away following, in with the likes of purely local fan based groups e.g. Forest Green Rovers, and the likes of Boro, say, who although are in our league, barely take a taxi full to an away game (I’m exaggerating slightly but you know what I mean). The EFL are also assuming that trusts are the way forward for all football fans. Don’t get me wrong, it seemed to work with Swansea (but they aren’t in England??) but how exactly did the EFL and FA help and are helping, the likes of Bury, Blackpool, Bolton, Blackburn (and these are just the B’s) when it comes to reigning in the errant owners by signing up to their grand “because fans matter” plan?

Simple answer, their Grand Plan hasn’t worked at all.  They haven’t been able to stop owners / Chairman bringing ordinary match attending fans to their knees. They don’t have that power and even if they did, would they actually pull their finger out and do it? It’s all bobbins. This isn’t a recent thing either, it goes way back to the debacle at Coventry and Charlton (the C’s now) when it was just down to the Football League, before the Premier League broke away, probably even further. Fans don’t matter.

Leeds United are in a unique situation. Not just because we used to be great and now we are (hopefully not for much longer) a bit crap. Look at Forest, not that I think they ever endured Division 3 football as badly as we did though. Not just because we have a load of season ticket holders now (not going to mention the 10,000+ that disappeared after we got relegated from the Premier League and then the other 10,000 when we hit Division 3) because the likes of Newcastle and Man City have always had decent home attendances. It’s because outside of maybe Scum, Citeh and the Scallys, our worldwide TV audience is bigger than anyone else in our league and the Premiership. Our commercial potential alone outstrips the rest of our league put together when it comes to advertising. Yet because of Harvey’s pathetic attempt at getting the EFL a “good” TV rights deal, we get peanuts for our games on the telly compared to the millions that the Southamptons and Burnleys of this world receive for their dull as ditchwater drivel. (It’s also because under Bielsa we play some pretty good football).

Basically, Leeds United deserves to be paid for the entertainment we provide and the revenue streams we attract because of the football we play and the atmosphere created by the people who go to watch the games. Which is what Massimo Cellino was trying to say when he tried to stop SkyTVisf**kings**t that day (and got slated for).

Why is it so important? Because ultimately it boils down to money, FFP and balancing the books and therefore what happens on the pitch, especially in the transfer window.

Back to my original point, little boxes.

I don’t want to be put it a box because I have no need to. I don’t fit anywhere in particular and I don’t care. I just want to be allowed to follow Leeds as I have been doing for half my lifetime. I know some other fans might not feel the same.

We should just be allowed to be what we are. It’s like the dreaded Personal Development Portfolio meeting, where once a year you sit down (with your equally uninterested line manager) to answer your “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question. Where the “on a beach sipping margueritas – anywhere but here” is not an acceptable answer. You are not allowed to be just what you are good at and leave well alone, you have to develop, you have to  be better-er.

They tell us – “We” (the EFL / FA / Leeds United)  are doing things this way because fans matter. And how do they know this? Because they have done surveys and from the information they have gathered this is how things should be. Fans have told us this, and we have acted on their wishes, because fans matter.

No, “they” are doing this, putting us into little boxes for their own selfish purposes, because it is easier for them to do it that way. They want us to go on unsocial media and press the “like” button because they will get our email addresses and our details etc. to sell on to advertising and database companies. They can say they are “actively engaging with the fans” to suit their own needs, so they can generate their own little target databases. It’s not all fans, just the ones that can be bothered to fill in their questionnaires and click the “yes, I want to be entered into a free draw for filling in this survey” button. They can say “this is what you have told us you want” so they can justify their actions. So we can be subtlety coerced into believing what they say, until it becomes the acceptable norm, convincing us that what they want is actually what we want, because in the end , that’s all that matters, not fans.

They can say “have your opportunity to have your say” – what they mean is, we will gather your information but if it doesn’t agree with what we want it to say, we’ll just manipulate it anyway to suit. I’m not saying they are doing this in a particularly malicious way either, especially the Club, because somethings have improved in certain areas. It’s just the bestest, easiest way to earn their money. It’s just business after all, but it would be nice if they were honest about it.

Whether it be how Leeds United choose to distribute the away tickets or how many times SkyTVisf**kings**t put us on the telly and f**k up our travel plans or whatever.

Fans do not matter.