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FOOTBALL CLUB OR SUPERBRAND
The Lost Generation


In 1990 a Division One supporter on the UK average wage who wished to follow his team on a regular basis would need to spend 3% of his annual income.

In 2008 a Premier League supporter who wished to watch the same number of matches would have to spend a minimum10% of his annual income, or £2200.00, not dissimilar to the budget of a family holiday.

Many have grumbled in the pub or elsewhere for years about increases in ticket prices and how many fans who grew up watching their favorite team with their parents have been gradually priced out of reciprocating that same experience with the next generation.

This document will address not only the cold hard facts and numbers, but the shocking way that an important slice of our shared cultural heritage has been systematically removed from the adolescent experience in many parts of our community and the real damage that may result. The Lost Generation.

THE WAY WE WERE

The authors first experience of attending a big football match was in 1972 when I was 10 years old and my weekly spends given to me by my parents was 25p. With that I could catch a bus across south Manchester, run to the ground, pay my 20p into the Stretford End Juniors and get home again. This is no fable or tail from three Yorkshiremen.

Fast forward to1990 and approximately 40-50% of First Division ground capacity was standing terraces. This was where many young supporters first experienced top class football, either with their mates or with other family members.

Going to a game was a simple and affordable experience, which did not require the planning of a military campaign, ordering tickets 2 months in advance. The excitement of being in a large crowd, joining in the songs and sharing a sense of belonging stays with many all their lives. To say that it was a religious experience maybe a step too far, but on a big match day against fierce rivals the raw passion and emotion was both palpable and moving.

The logistics of actually going to the game was simple, turn up at the turnstile, pay your money and go in. For those who wanted, a season ticket for sitting was available, though waiting lists were sometimes long, and a League Match Ticket Book to stand cost about £110.00.


For the committed fan the adult expenses would work out as follows:-
Season ticket-standing £110.00
Match Day Expenses 25 games x £10.00 £250.00
4 Away match trips x 20 £ 80.00

Total £440.00

UK average wage was £15,000.00 therefore total spend on First Division Football …..3% of the average income.



THE MODERN DAY MATCH EXPERIENCE

1992 was a momentous year in English football, following the Taylor report on the tragedy of Hillsborough, terraces were being ripped up and replaced by seating, stadiums were being modernised and SKY had rewritten the scheduling of football matches.

It was a brave new world and with the nightmare of Sheffield still relatively fresh in every fans psyche no one dare question in which direction football was traveling.

Interestingly in the Taylor Report he specifically stated that there needed to be little, or no increase in ticket prices as a result of all seating stadia.
However, some, both inside and outside the game, began to envisage a very different future for the game than that espoused by giants of the past such as Sir Matt Busby. He would tell his young players â€see those guys working in Trafford Park all week in poor jobs on low wages, our job is to give them something to look forward to on a Saturday afternoonâ€.

It started with small-scale pre-match corporate entertainment, a good way the clubs would tell the time served loyal majority of the businessmen subsidising the rest of the tickets.

Over the next 10 years, the tail started to truly wag the dog, the corporate high spending super consumer became the main target of the clubs. There was nothing they wouldn't do to entice businessmen to entertain their clients at the newly created Executive suites. Ex-players were part of packages to woo the corporate market which post Euro 96 decided football was trendy once more.




In the meantime SKY went into overtime with matches taking place on all days and all hours with never a thought as to how the traditional fans felt about these arrangements or the massive inconvenience of actually attending Monday Night Football.

Merchandising grew exponentially and what used to be ramshackle stores with bare essentials turned into the Megastore we see at every large club.

Each year witnessed price increases for season ticket holders, and at the more successful clubs the only way to see your team was to possess one.
By 2006 a mere 10 to 20% of tickets available were at the lowest price, match day pay on the gate admittance became the exception rather than the rule.

Once inside the ground heaven help the guy in who wants to become passionately involved in the match and sing a few songs! Unless you are in a “Singing Area†then you are likely to be told to sit down and shut up by your fellow CONSUMERS or an over zealous steward.

The typical price to be paid in 2008 for the 10 most expensive premiership clubs.

Season Ticket for 25 home matches £900.00
Match day expenses 25 games x £35.00 £875.00
4 Selected away game = £100.00 £400.00

Total £2175.00

Average UK wage 2008 is £22,000.00 therefore total spend on the Premiership Football is 10% of income.


THE BIGGER PICTURE

You may take the view that football is simply a sporting event, at which two teams compete and spectators pay to watch. If that is the case either you have never been to a top flight match between rivals or you were so far removed from the raw passion in an executive or corporate area that you failed to connect with the true nature of football.

Mankind is by its very nature tribalistic and football allows in particular adolescent youths to live out this basic behavior without in the vast majority of cases resorting to real violence.

Most fans will shout, sing and swear during matches and purge themselves to some extent of pent up aggression, it is important for there to be this vent in society where people feel able to act in the most basic human manner without actual harm coming to anyone.

In decades past football was an excellent channel for this basic human male aggression, and whilst realising that one some occasions actual violence did occur, in the vast majority of cases it was usually harmless posturing. But my case is that it was much better for this behavior to occur inside stadiums or around grounds where authority was prepared for it taking place and deal with any excesses, than working class youths being priced out of going to games and having no outlet for their aggression.

The support of football teams is in many cases a generational experience and it is this fracture that the new owners in complicity with the Premier league has not only allowed to happen but have actually engineered.

The modern supporter is supposed to be affluent, middle class and well behaved, well this has always been part of the support base of all clubs and rightfully so-but the difference now is that the clubs seem to want only this demographic as their entire customer base.

The few fans on average or below average wage who's families have watched the same team from generation to generation are obliged to pay 10 or 15% of their total salary for season tickets. This they will desperately struggle to manage until it becomes a financial impossibility. Those who still manage to support their team will provide an atmosphere, live or die for their team, but in return be regarded by other supporters and the media much like a fish in a goldfish bowl to be stared at, or some freak at a 19th Century carnival. A quaint reminder of the past but not truly valued by anyone.

A large swathe of the next generation will not and cannot afford to become the new customers that some of the clubs would like. For many it is Game Over.

In 1980 the average age of a Stretford Ender was below 20 now it is 42. Where is the next generation of fans going to come from. They have been priced out of regular match going, and if you do not get the habit in your teens or early twenties then given the vast array of leisure opportunities out there it is unlikely you will start in later life.

It is this short term thinking that is in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Only if Peter Scudamore can turn the Premiership into a global jamboree which fills stadiums from Dubai to Melbourne would some owners appear to be happy.

This is a dire mistake as Jock Stein once said, “Football without Fans is Nothingâ€-fans Mr Scudamore–not Customers not Super Consumers.

TIME TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED

Most football Clubs are 120 years old and have been bought and paid for in reality many times over by their supporters, generation after generation have shared the passion and sense of belonging that being a real fan meant.

In a single generation we are in danger of destroying that bond between club and fan.

It would be simplistic and naïve to think that all club owners in the past were purely altruistic but most realised who their core support was and ensured a long term pricing structure for the benefit of all. Unless there is a radical change of course by the largest clubs in England in particular, the next generation will be lost to football, and they may never return.

However some fans have already seen the light!


It is OUR game and it is time to rebuild so let us work together, forge new previously unheard of Alliances, and Reclaim our Game.

A neutral territory for those who wish to discuss the future of our game now exists at
www.mapfm.co.uk/afa
so register now and get involved.
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