It sounds a bit greedy, it sounds a bit needy but PLEASE put us first.

I’ve done many pieces over the years around the subject of how marginalised I personally feel by the rise of “modern football”. They’ve been under the banner of “Fans Don’t Matter” and in the main, they’ve been a lighthearted look into  how abandoned I feel by the money men and TV companies that are the “True Gods of Football”. I suppose there’s been the odd one when I’ve blown my fuse and had a rant, but it’s been deserved.

I personally feel that long standing supporters like myself aren’t valued by, well, just about everyone really. I’ve pledged my undying allegiance to Leeds United, and I’ve spent a long long time unconditionally following my beloved team all over the country and the world. I’m not alone in this, there’s thousands more like me who win, lose or draw support Leeds United. We put our club first, it’s about time Leeds United put us first.

I will never tire of saying it either. It’s not selfish, it’s the truth. Those of us who tirelessly supported Leeds, home and away, when we got relegated, and relegated again, and still steadfastly turned up to cheer them on at those horrible crappy grounds (and not just to tick off one of the 92 either), all deserve to get away tickets, this season, next season and for however long we stick with it. We know who these people are, probably only 1000 maybe, who went to the majority of the aways, so it’s probably less than half of the normal away allocation in this league.

The Club know who they are, they could tell us, but they won’t. They should be proud of these supporters, they should be proud of our loyalty and we should be celebrated and acknowledged.  Any other club who are proud of their fans would. At least this season they have given us the “Super Away Attendees” , so at least there has been some recognition of loyalty over the last 10 years. Selfishly, I believe this recognition of our loyalty  should be maintained should be continued, in perpetuity. We aren’t going to live forever, if these last 2 years have taught us anything, it’s that we should value these things, before they are lost. Please put us first.

Why am I digging this up again?

Not just access to away tickets, this time. This time it’s properly about match going fans, primarily the safety of match going fans.

Ah! Now you’ve clocked it.

Everybody knows what happened at Chelsea. We have all seen the scenes on social media about the calamity in the shoddy Shed End at Stamford Bridge. Those of us unlucky to get caught up in it, experienced the mayhem first hand. Surprisingly some had no idea it had even happened until they heard about it afterwards. Many of us complained, some sent in videos for supporting evidence. The result? The usual cover up and as usual the blame was on us – the fans. For those of you who haven’t seen the official response, see snapshot below.

For once, our experience wasn’t in isolation.

Unfortunately, another near miss at the turnstiles occurred, this time at our own club. For those of you who haven’t seen the shocking scenes, here’s a link to The Chronicle

Put fans first.

The above two incidences are two extremes of how little match going fans are engaged with. There are many less extreme examples of how fans don’t matter at ER. The loss in pre match facilities for families has been previously highlighted in this blog. The move to give the Pavilion over to the Corporate Animals has meant that short of cramming into Billys or The Peacock, there is no place to meet family and friends for a pre match drink or some scran.

The introduction of cashless systems has forced many into not buying anything in the ground ever again. It was done in the name of convenience, but has it made much difference in the queues? It’s difficult to say at the moment because it’s winter, but when it gets warmer, will the service be better and more efficient, or will they still run out of beer, like they did at the start of the season? There hasn’t been much difference in the quality of the food or alcohol by all accounts – but I don’t buy anything anymore – so it’s just hearsay.

Electronic payment, well electronic systems are my bugbear full stop.

As we saw with the (now redundant – hopefully forever – papers please) passport, there were all sorts of issues because the signal at ER is so poor. Even though the PL rules said that you needed to show proper electronic ID, people were forced to take screen shots of their pass or (Heaven Forbid!) print it out on a piece of paper.

They are even stadia round the country who are pushing paperless e tickets. Given the problems with the turnstiles already, it’s not looking good is it? There’s nothing wrong with paper tickets and season ticket cards. Would they be any more difficult than e tickets? Probably not. Are they anymore environmentally challenging? Probably not. At least they wouldn’t be dependent on getting a signal on your phone and having enough battery on your phone. Yet, they tell us e ticketing and cashless is they way forward, and having the choice isn’t. Put us first.

Realistically, it’s not about what fans want, it’s what PL and clubs want. It’s probably to do with making all stadia “One size fits all”, so all the clubs are all the same. Who wants that? We value our individuality. Each club is unique. Who wants to be another identikit club, with an identikit ground and identikit fans? Ah! Therein lies the answer – it’s not about the fans, it’s about the commercial enterprise that is “Modern Football”.

I can see behind the scenes there are deals with e ticketing firms, internet security, infrastructure companies who make turnstiles, electronic supplies, etc. etc. etc. all partners with the PL, FIFA and UEFA, all with vested interests to make each club, in each country, all use the same companies and facilities. All in the name of progress and convenience, but in truth, it’s all about money and contracts. All of these companies will all have deals selling on your data as well, to make more money out of us. The digitally excluded will be just that. Excluded. If you can’t afford the phone / device , that’s your luck out. Just like trying to order tickets – if you don’t have decent broadband reception and a decent device, don’t even bother.

If the turnstiles were all manned, like they used to be, would there have been the problems experienced at Chelski? Would there have been issues at the West Stand with the visiting Geordies? Who can say? But I doubt it. It’s supposed to save money on staffing I’m guessing – but fans should come first and no money saving measures should compromise fans’ safety – surely?

This season we’ve actually managed to visit Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea etc. and seen the impact on the grounds when all the corporate hospitality all disappear at half time. The stadia are soul less and needed the managers running up and down the touchlines to stir up the noise and support from the home fans. I’ve heard that they deliberately sell more corporate tickets, at a premium price, to those who can afford it in order to keep the prices down for the normal fans in the cheap seats. Well, after speaking to a few season ticket holders from these London clubs, there isn’t much sign of that helping them out with their match day prices. If and when ER gets its’ make over, what is going to happen to us? Are we going to sacrifice swathes of seats for the corporate animals, just so we can keep our season ticket to less than £600 a year? Is ER going to end up cheap but bereft of atmosphere? Are there going to be anymore proper seats for normal fans, or is it going to be full of corporate entertainment? 

There’s mention year after year of the ticket prices of the German clubs compared to ours. It gets brought up every season about how the Chairmen in the Bundesliga are proud that they don’t charge their fans anywhere near the prices that the PL charge. Because they value the fans. Tonight Boro are playing Sc*m in the Cup. I believe Sc*m are charging the Boro fans £46 quid! Scandalous. Mind you they charged us £42 and that was yonks ago.

The PL boasts that it is the best league in the world, yet the Bundesliga treats fans better than the PL does, not just in ticket prices but the standard of food and facilities. You’ll not see the Germans paying nearly a tenner for a nuclear chicken balti pie and flat lager.  

No doubt though, in future years the PL will also try to bring in an identikit price for season tickets and match day tickets, to go with the identikit stadia and identikit fans in their bid to standardise everything. However, at least away tickets have been capped, so there is one tiny glimmer of hope.

Put fans first.

To conclude, this week Derby have been given another stay of execution. Some might not sympathise much with them after the Fat Frank shenanigans, but as I said before when I wrote about Bury and Bolton, this isn’t the fault of the fans. Once again, the problems at Derby County are down to the greed of the money men. Like so many clubs, ours included under B*tes, the fans are always the ones who suffer the most. The fans are the last to know (if in fact they ever find out) about what is happening behind the scenes in the boardroom.

The Chairmen, the owners, their accountants and their lawyers, in cahoots with greedy agents and oligarchs, chicken farmers, small nation states and businessmen with big mouths but shallow pockets and all manner of shady figures lurking in the shadows, they control everything. If it goes wrong, they move to their next vanity project.

The fans? We are left to suffer with the fall out. They’ll all be there though, piteously wringing their hands in public,  pretending they didn’t see it coming, whilst in private they are blaming their accountants for not managing to fiddle the figures better, and their lawyers for not leveraging up the loopholes properly.

It’s a romantic ideal that they should put the fans first.

But we have to dream about something right? Other than having a fully fit first team.