I’m not a fan of video assistant referees (VAR). It’s merely technology for technology’s sake, like talking toilets on Virgin Trains. We’ve absolutely no real need for it, but someone with money thought it was a good idea, so now here we are, pissing into the mouth of Tomorrow’s World. Continue reading Let’s get VAR, VAR away from here
I’m not really sold on the book I‘m currently reading. It was recommended by a friend, so I’m giving it a fair go, but I’m 117 pages in and struggling to empathise with either the characters or the author. The main protagonist is from Yorkshire, but lives in London, yet any references to her life in Yorkshire are made as if written for a middle-class London audience. It’s cliched, dismissive to the point of patronisation, and I can’t get past it. Nor, given that the author is from and indeed lives in Yorkshire, can I begin to understand it. Continue reading On visiting markets over cracking markets
I’ve found it hard to write this editorial, and I think it’s ultimately because I’m so tired. Continue reading On being tired of football
Alas, the World Cup is over. Sadly. Wearily. We awake from the bright lights and beauty of a glorious holiday, and stare out of the plane window at the grey runway tarmac of reality that is supporting our local club. All James and no ‘Hamez’. Mundane. Dull. You need a pick-up. To help ease you into your everyday lives we have decided to pick out five of the best received pieces from last season’s fanzine, and share then with you here, to fill the void of the lost 9pm kick-offs. You’re welcome.
We start with this piece from issue 65 of popular STAND, as Jack the Miner envisages the not too inconceivable notion of a man shopping for a football team to support. Continue reading Armchair Supporters R Us
At the start of Doncaster Rovers’ fixture at Hillsborough earlier this month the Radio Sheffield commentary team voiced their surprise that the entirety of the upper tier of the Leppings Lane End was not completely awash with red and white hoops. Mickey Walker couldn’t believe that the away end was not packed out for a derby game. However, Walker’s opinion, and that of the match commentator, had been voiced with no knowledge of the prices Rovers supporters had been asked to pay. £29 or £30 for adults and £18 for juniors is quite frankly a ludicrous price to be asked to pay for a lower second tier fixture between two teams from the second poorest county in the UK. And, it was a price which rightly many Rovers fans refused to pay. Continue reading Not Going Away; On The Cost of Watching Football
I’ve mentioned this before in these pages, but a couple of years back I was in a pub when I noticed the television above the bar showing a Rugby League match. There was no sound, but the anchor and pundits were rolling through their pre-amble in front of backdrop of red seats and newish concrete; I gazed for a good couple of minutes wondering where they were; Salford perhaps? Maybe St Helens. Wakefield? One wide-panning shot later I clocked it. They were at the Keepmoat. Continue reading Stadium Tedium; 10 Things That Modern Stadia are Missing
Issue 60 of the fanzine went on saleat Saturday’s game against Shrewsbury. As a taster to what you will have missed if you failed to get your hands of a copy we bring you Glen Wilson’s editorial on modern football pricing and consumerism.
Let me start by thanking you for bravely striding towards one of our band of frankly odd-looking fanzine sellers to purchase Issue 60 of popular STAND. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t, and the stilted communication of a fanzine sale is the only human interaction our sellers get outside of captivity.
In monetary terms this transaction cost you just a pound. Just as it has done for the preceding 59 issues. Fifteen seasons without a single price rise; there can’t be much in football, if anything, which can offer a similar boast.
You don’t need me to tell you modern football is expensive. You don’t need me to, but I’m going to anyway. However I’m not about to wax lyrical about a sepia-tinted mythical age when we could go watch a match, have six pints and a fish supper on the way home and still have change from a shilling, because I can’t. In my adult life, I’ve never known attending football as anything other than a dear do.
The key problem with football pricing – from tickets, to merchandise, to players even – is that it is insular. Cost comparisons, assessments on value for money are only ever made in relation to the other participants in an over inflated game. It’s like promoting your Faberge egg as a worthwhile purchase because it’s cheaper than another Faberge egg. Take ticket prices for example, clubs will often boast their match tickets are cheaper than other sides in the same division, but what comfort does that offer us? So what if we’re £2 cheaper than Colchester? Or £1 less than Oldham? It’s not like we’re shopping around for our football. We’re Rovers fans… we’re stuck here.
What is considered reasonable pricing in the world of Faberge eggs is still, in the real world, seen as a ludicrous price to pay for a jewelled orb you can’t even dip your soldiers in. And so it is with football. £20 is reasonable compared to the rest of League One, but in the real world that twenty pounds could provide you with much more than 90 minutes of twenty-two men taking it in turns to try and con a fella with a whistle and his two mates.
But, like too many facets of modern football, it has just become accepted as the norm. Supporters make up the shortfall for players’ earnings. The reasoning is competitiveness, if we want our side to be competitive, to be challenging then we have to pay £20. Somehow we’ve just come to accept that it takes 6,000 people to cover the salaries of 18 sportsmen.
At the top level it is just another world, even further away, even further removed. Did those who paid a minimum £62 to watch Arsenal against Chelsea the other week really get value for their money? League football is becoming less a hobby, or a habit, and more a day out or an occasion. Watch Match of the Day, and when one of the six clubs that make up ‘the big four’ have a corner note how many of those spectators near the flag, rather than being caught up in the tension, are busy photographing the set-piece taker on their camera phone. Fans at the top level have been replaced by spectators, by tourists; for whom it is less about the result and more about getting a good close-up of Gareth Bale to use as their Facebook cover photo.
‘Modern football’ and all that encapsulates is now the norm for most folk under the age of twenty. Their whole footballing lives have been lived between Champions League Group stages and Super Sundays. That’s what football is. It’s the Premier League. The rest doesn’t matter. That’s not football, there’s no ‘banter’ outside the top flight, that’s all just a sideshow; an oddity for the freaks and the geeks. At some point we have all had a conversation with a colleague who professes to be a huge football fan that has included them asking “so what division are Doncaster in then?” Our players aren’t available for selection for their Fantasy teams; ergo they’re not on the footballing map.
The other weekend I was watching the Football League Show – with the sound off naturally – whilst Clem took his own brand of over-familiar music teacher mateyness to Broadhall Way for a feature on Stevenage. During the piece, in between Clem harassing the staff with nonsensical questioning like a mauve jumper clad Jim Henson creation that had gone sentient, there was footage of the players signing autographs for young fans in replica shirts. Not Stevenage shirts no, Manchester United ones. What message does this send to the players? Can I have your autograph please as dad won’t take us to Old Trafford?
This is what they hype of modern football has spawned, children who’s allegiances lie hundreds of miles away, with people they will never see in the flesh; consumers of the product rather than supporters of the team. These children, and grown-ups, who walk round Doncaster in Chelsea shirts are what modern football has left us with, the living, breathing manifestation of those ‘my other car is a Porsche’ bumper stickers.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, we still have a few copies of Issue 60 available. If you’d like one, get in touch with us via the details on our ‘About us’ page.
Valentines Day. I suppose that’s as good a day as any to realise you no longer feel the attraction you once did. On Valentines Day Matt and I sat at the back of the West Stand and held something of a mid-match confessional. Whilst below us Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who looks more like the proprietor of a fish and chip shop at an out of season seaside resort than a footballer, meandered through the Rovers defence as if picking his way through pensioners in a shopping centre, we sat and confided to one another that we weren’t really enjoying this any more.
As much as I would love to apologetically and gallantly proclaim “it’s not you, it’s me” at the plastic seats and breezeblocks of the Keepmoat, I’m fairly sure it is both of us. We’ve had some great times, the Rovers and me, but lately we seem to be straining in other directions, and I find it harder and harder to understand and relate to them. They’re not the same club I fell for all those years ago, and increasingly I feel that all that connects me with Rovers is a home-town and shared memories.
It’s not about losing games. Losing games I can take, losing games is part of football, and for long periods of our initial courtship losing games is all we knew. I don’t understand the mentality of those fans who demand a refund from their club after particularly humbling defeats. You were beaten 8-2 at Old Trafford and dropped to fourth, must be awful, come back when you’ve chucked away a 4-0 half-time lead to Telford at a half built Buck’s Head… and I’ll still think you’re crazy. No-one has a right to avoid being stuffed, it’s part of the package, if you think it shouldn’t be then you should be investing in a Harlem Globetrotters vest rather than a football ticket.
Instead it comes down to ethos, to direction and to aspiration. The togetherness, the ‘us-against-them’ element that framed my support from the moment Rovers and I first met at Belle Vue dissipated last season. After years of steady improvement and achieving against the odds the club got greedy, panicked, treated a loyal and honest man awfully, and embraced a flawed strategy presented my a magic beans salesman who turned out to be pedalling ordinary beans on which he’d desperately prit-sticked glitter.
I didn’t want to see my club used as an agent’s ‘experiment’, and still can’t believe anyone could warm to such a thing, no matter how it was spun. I didn’t need big names to get my arse on a red plastic seat, I just wanted to know my opinion, and those of people like me, actually mattered. But as the season went on and the lies continued – about partnerships and contracts and roles – in an effort to justify the means, it became clear that our opinions didn’t matter, unless they matched the views of the club. When reasoned debate is shot down as ungratefulness, when your concerns are singled out by fan leaders as nothing more than self-gratification, and when the club’s legal team are hovering over your opinions then it is very hard to maintain the love you once felt and get enthusiastic about backing your club.
The ruthless desperation with which the club attempted to remain in the Championship split the support like nothing before. It was a win by any means possible approach that many of us simply couldn’t relate to, an alienation not helped as the key supporters group appeared to stop listening to us and instead canvass for the chairman. A month back a friend posted on a Rovers messageboard about the split in support the ‘experiment’ had caused. Flying in the face of irony and with an unintentional zest for satire a ten page argument then ensued about whether the fan base was divided or not. But then online the token response to hinting at a feeling of disenfranchisement from the club is to be told by your fellow fans to “f**k off and support Leeds then”. Our forums don’t allow for greyness.
The club’s actions over the past year have led me to realise we are chasing very different dreams, and that they could take or leave my involvement in their future, so long as someone else chucks their wallet in my place. Income. It all comes down to income. We need income to ‘compete’, we need income to be where we want us to be is the message. The hunt is always on for million pound investors who we can attempt to convert into supporters. Surely the way forward is to take the opposite approach and maintain and secure relations with fans who can one day become investors rather than pinning our hopes on investors who may one day become fans. Investors come and go, fans remain, if we’re looking for long-term parity then it seems obvious which demographic we should be aiming to please.
There seems to be a belief within the club that fans are only happy with success – that unless the club is striving upwards then we will not come back. Perhaps it is the fixation with the Premier League; unless you’re in that top 20 you’re irrelevant. Too often, ambition and success are blurred into one and the same. Earlier this summer I saw a messageboard thread criticising the club for not having ‘ambition’ during their stay in the second tier. The crux of the thread that the club weren’t prepared to spend money to try and ‘do a Blackpool’. Money that wasn’t there, except for in the personal fortune of board members. Why should they chuck their own money in when returns aren’t guaranteed? Why do supporters simply expect them to? Too often in the minds of many if you’re not spending money then apparently you don’t possess ambition, as if one signals the other. “They were happy to just survive in the Championship” was one criticism, as if trying to remain in a division in which we’d only ever had one meaningful spell in 130 years was in some way regressive.
What I’ve never quite understood is why people are so desperate to reach the Premier League anyway? From Game 39, to reserve teams in the lower leagues to Premier II, since it’s inception those who populate and promote the Premier League have made it abundantly clear that they couldn’t give a shit about teams like ours, so why are we still striving to join them? Why do we so desperately want away games we can’t afford and kick-off times we can’t make?
What makes anyone think we’d be made to feel welcome in the top flight? Look at Wigan, there on merit and yet constantly hounded for having the temerity not to sell-out their ground to a local population who largely deserted them for the big clubs from Merseyside and Manchester years ago. In the way that many of our own fans blur ambition and success, supporters of Premier League clubs seem to blur history and honours boards. “You’ve got no history” we’d be told by fans who watched matches from their sofa, whilst we were making funeral marches to the ground.
Across the Pennines right now there are two clubs who represent polar extremes of what a football club can be; Manchester City and FC United of Manchester. One of those models is significantly more achievable than the other, and yet so many supporters, and the clubs themselves, seem to want to be like the former rather than the latter. Are Rovers chasing the wrong dreams? Maybe top flight football would give a brief boost to the town, but pride is forged on much more than winning games, pride can come from heroic failure – as we saw on our Carling Cup run – and pride can come from doing things right.
For as long as Rovers seem keen to be like City rather than like FCUM then I will find it increasingly hard to maintain my attachment. And so, whilst our relationship has been on the rocks, I have done what many a man has done over the years, and sought alternate pleasure. In the past few years I’ve played away, I’ve snuck off to watch and regularly follow not one, not two, but three other clubs – variety is the spice of life and all that. And what has struck me when watching Worcester City, Rossington Main and Doncaster Belles is that unlike when at Rovers, at each of these three I have genuinely felt like I’m wanted, like my presence means something to those clubs, a genuine gratefulness for my support more than my income.
Maybe I’m a romantic (although seemingly not monogamous), I don’t know. Increasingly people want success, and it would appear they’ll take it at any cost. As seen by the ‘experiment’ at Rovers, and the rebranding of Cardiff City, just the promise of success, no matter how flimsy, is enough to make many tuck their morals away in a drawer and tug their forelocks for the new lords of the manor. I just can’t relate to that. Of course people will say “well, that’s football”, but every time you say that a grass-roots club dies. Whilst many Cardiff City fans refused to renew their season tickets in the face of the club’s rebranding, of the many thousands who already had only 70 asked for a refund. Chucking away your heritage for an unproven and unfounded business plan to win over people thousands of miles away who’ve never heard of your club? Well, that’s football.
The thing is, as I’ve found on my trips to St Georges Lane, and Oxford Street, and when backing the Belles, that doesn’t have to be football. You can have success without relentlessly going on about the need for income to compete. In the past year Worcester, Rossington and the Belles have seen crowds increase significantly, and it has come from striving to engage with the community, of encouraging their population to be part of what they’re doing. And, as a result, I have found much greater enjoyment these past twelve months with them, and I felt a part of their triumphs much more than I felt part of Rovers’ wins.
The new season is now a month away, and for the first time in years I am finding it really hard to get excited about watching my team again. I ceased to have any more than a passing interest in football’s top flight years ago, and now Rovers are starting to slip into the same pigeon-hole in which I’ve long placed the Premier League, of being an unrelatable by-product of a sport I still love. The wounds of last season run deep, and though I inevitably will give it a go again, embracing that inner-Barnstoneworth fan inherent in us all to trudge to the Keepmoat as if painted by Lowry, I can’t ever envisage being as happy at Rovers as I once was. The honeymoon period is over, we’ll move forward in separate beds, and keep it together for the sake of the children.