THERE certainly seems to be a lot to moan about when it comes to the modern day match-going experience, often in blog posts like this. So what can be done to improve things rather than just pine for an era that has gone forever, writes MATTHEW CRIST.
The loss of a new generation of match-going fans, the bygone art of creating witty football chants, the spiralling cost of tickets, ridiculous kick-off times; not to mention selfie-sticks and iPads.
If you believe what you are reading the game has finally gone to the dogs and we’re better off packing it all in and watching our local park team if we want to get our fix of the game we once loved.
But for some of us it’s not so easy to just call time on something that has been part of our lives for decades, despite the fact that the club we love would probably be quite happy if we did just that.
Many ask what can be done; some don’t even bother to do that, preferring just to harp back to an era when “all was good”. But few actually offer anything up when it comes to what might just make watching a game we all love a more enjoyable experience.
Yes, watching football has changed, probably forever and in many cases for the better. But this doesn’t mean that the match-going experience should be put to one side in order to make way for the action that takes place on the pitch (or TV).
So enough of the naval-gazing. Here are just a few things that could make watching football a slightly more appealing option for everyone while offering those who have been lost in recent years an avenue back to the game they have left behind.
You might not agree, and it’s unlikely any of them will see the light of day. But they are all more than possible, even if only as a platform for discussion.
As Bono would say: “This is not a rebel song.” So consider it as more of a five-point-plan for football rather than a lament.
Think, what could be rather than, how it was.
I give you my “Manifesto for Modern Football.”
1. Regulate Kick-off Times
The 3 o’ clock kick off is something of a rarity these days. But for the match-going fan Saturday afternoon is still by far the more convenient and most popular, allowing ample time to meet up with friends pre-match and still have something that resembles a social life post game.
But as 3 o’ clock games cannot be broadcast due to the “black out” rules, which protect the gates of lower league games (surely if you are a fan of Cheltenham Town or Accrington Stanley watching two Premier League teams that you have no interest in on the box wouldn’t keep you away from your first love?), maybe it’s time the top light league did the honourable thing?
Yes, it’s something of a compromise, but if Premier League games kicking off at 2 or 4 o’ clock would enable the TV companies the option of showing live matches on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday tea time or Sunday morning, that’s a good thing isn’t it?
2. Twenty is Plenty — for everyone
The £20 is Plenty campaign is an admirable one, but why should it stop at away fans?
Yes. Travelling supporters face extra costs for transport, petrol, food and everything else that goes with watching your team on the road, but such is the modern game that could also be said for plenty of home supporters too.
As it stands, the current TV deal for the Premier League would allow all clubs to reduce their ticket prices by around £30 while still making the same amount of money as they did under the previous contract.
So you don’t have to be a financial expert to work out what the “surplus” will be when the new £5 billion TV deal comes into effect next year — making £20 tickets an affordable option for both clubs and spectators.
3. Trial Rail Seating
The introduction of rail seating (sometimes referred to as ‘safe standing) is a hot topic at the moment due to the fact that more and more supporters are regularly standing at matches.
Of course this is a sensitive issue, but anyone who researches the subject will see this is not a return to the dangerous death traps of crumpling terraces and perimeter fencing of years gone by. It’s a solution which allows fans to stand safely at the match in a regulated and orderly fashion.
Understandably there will always be people who are opposed to standing ever being re-introduced to English football. But a greater awareness of how rail seating works in other leagues around the world has resulted in just as many calling for the idea to be given some consideration.
A considered debate and careful consultation on the issue would at least acknowledge there seems to be a desire for many fans at games to stand, while also addressing the problem of those who don’t having no other option.
4. Introduce Junior Sections
Price young fans out of the game and ultimately you end up with an atmosphere and a club which simply fades into the anonymous. A generation of customers only following their team out of a passive interest due to clever marketing and TV exposure rather than an unconditional love of the team.
Then where will the new generation going to come from? And how will the club ensure a fervent, loyal and vocal home support for the years to come?
I mean, ask any Kopite of a certain age and they will regale you with stories of how they experienced their first taste of going to games in the “Boys’ Pen.”
There’s no substitute for being at the match and in the way a young child is more susceptible to learning a language at an early age, the same can be said for the formation of their love and passions when it comes to football too.
Whereas years ago a 14 year old could pay substantially less to stand next to a full paying adult, a seat has now become a valued commodity that comes at a price — usually the higher the better as far as the clubs are concerned. That’s why I would like to see areas of grounds given over to under 16s.
The “you’ll win nothing with kids,” theory may have been disproved on the pitch, but off the field the future looks a pretty bleak place without them.
5. Let Supporters Sit Where They Want
All-seater stadiums may mean that we no longer have to get into the ground three hours before kick off to guarantee a half decent view. And as a result we now have more time to meet with friends for a pint and take our places with just minutes to spare in order to avoid being deafened by the pre-match PA system.
But it also means that without a bit of forward thinking and military-like planning you’re unlikely to be able to watch the match with your mates, dad, mum or even your own kids.
And as groups of like-minded supporters are displaced and separated, they become less able to generate anything that resembles an atmosphere, let alone enjoy the social side of going to the match.
The introduction of unreserved sections of seating at every ground would still mean supporters are required to purchase a ticket for a seat and through the usual means, but they would be taken up on a first come first served basis.
This would at least allow groups of friends, family and regular match goers to congregate together in a place where they can vent their feelings, swap stories and maybe even come up with a few new songs.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda & Jon Darch/FSF (rail seats)
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There’s only one place that ‘Surplus’ money is going to go, and that is into the pockets of already overpaid money greedy players who will want higher wages because if the new deal.
I would be shocked if we see ticket prices reduced.
Got to agree wholeheartedly with Stevie R, once the greedy agents get a sniff of spare cash they want it and get it for their clients.
There should be a stipulation that this extra money should be spent on the fans and facilities for them.
And while we’re at it how about improving access and providing more seating for disabled fans?
Increase the ticket allocation for away fans at league matches (as per the FA Cup)
Football is a sporting manifestation of civic & social identity. Running it as a sports entertainment business targeted at a sports entertainment market leads to “modern football” and the issues this piece seeks to address without tackling the cause.
All these people who make the match an event forced out, or apart, or in a chair passively receiving ‘product’.
The new chants get started in the pubs before the game at aways. Would away-ers stand together at home!
I have another idea How about allowing people to have a beer at their seat.
A good article with some interesting points, I thought I would respond with an opinion from a fan born in Liverpool, with family there who are season ticket holders, but I now live in Australia.
1. Regulate kick off times – I can’t see this one happening for the reasons stated above and also international viewers. Here in Australia, we get every single premier league game on TV. almost all of them live. A normal weekend we can watch up to 6 live games. and the other 4 replayed or recorded and watched. This is something they must be selling to the sponsors. I cant see kick off times changing and part of me is glad. I love watching football all weekend. However I do thing Monday night games should be scrapped.
2. 20 is plenty – I don’t think anyone can argue with this one. 20 is about right for people attending week in and week out. The only other idea I have in regards to ticket prices. Is when selling to international fans, whether than be through memberships or general sale. Charge them (including me) a premium. 40 is ok for people who are coming to a couple of games a season a most. For people like me coming back to Anfield is an event, a highlight of my holiday. I am happy to pay a little bit extra if it means the fans creating the atmosphere, promoting the brand can save a bit of money. (This isn’t a perfect suggestion but something could be done to charge the ‘event’ fans a little bit more).
3. Safe Standing. – you summed it up perfectly, nothing to add. Should be trialled.
4 & 5 – Junior sections and sit where you want – These two are linked i believe, get more kids in and allow people to sit where they want, with friends, people who will sing sit together people who wont sit together. The atmosphere with only get better.
The crowd is a big part of the TV entertainment, so why aren’t the passing punters subsidised by the multi-billion dollar TV deals? It seems the players are the only performers being rewarded when without the crowd it would be a greatly diminished product.
I’ve been going to the match since the 60s and it gets less and less of an enjoyable experience as the game becomes a cash cow for players, agents and managers.
All the points raised are fair and reasonable – which is where the argument breaks down. Money is the sole criterion for most involved in running the league we play in, so any attempt to reduce the dosh available to hand out to players and their agents is doomed to fail.
Kick off times are at the whim of TV who have paid handsomely for this right – they will not give it up for the supporters. Why should they?
Ticket prices are dictated by supply and demand, so no reduction (apart from token gestures) until tickets become hard to shift.
Safe standing is brilliant and long overdue. The problem is it will only happen if standing brings in as much money as seated ‘customers’ do. Until then it’s bruised shins all round.
Junior sections? I used to go in the Boys’ Pen until I could graduate to the Anfield Road, so my experience is somewhat traumatised by that! Again cheaper tickets for youngsters will need to be passed on to other ‘customers’ so probably not a viable prospect.
Sit where you want? Great idea although you might get the Health & Safety brigade up in arms.
Sorry to be so negative, but the game has long ago stopped being for the benefit of the supporters, these days we seem to either a marketing ploy ‘The Anfield Experience’ or a hindrance to the authorities.
I get to a few away games each season and that is where the true last vestiges of what going to the match used to be like can be found. Long may it last, but as for football seeing supporters as no more than wallets on legs, then let’s hope as I can’t see money being a fallen idol any time soon.
The old canard about so called safe standing improving atmosphere gets resurected yet again like creaking old zombie it has become. .The atmosphere on the standing Kop was like the Reading Room of The British Museum for all but the most confrontational of fixtures in the 70’s and 80’s when I stood there
The atmosphere was no different to the present time .Why anyone should imagine a plastic disc seat and a rail is going to improve that I do not know
Not the Kop I recall. Yes as we got so successful in the 80’s that victories became routine, the atmosphere did suffer. However the 70s were a different story. Whenever I heard the strains of ‘Walking down Lime Street swinging my chain..’ I and most near me braced themselves for the obligatory surge as the ‘Liverpool boot walk’ came crashing down. The Kop was still a place of noise, wit and expectation. I don’t think I’m guilty of wearing rose tinted specs, but to say it was like the British Library Reading Room is not true.
Besides Mattew’s point on safe standing is about ticketing not atmosphere
What about internet rights? I have a LFC tv subscription and watch the build up to every game before going off in search of an “illegal” stream. You might roll your eyes but I’d happily pay to watch the games on LFC TV for a regular stream and safe connection. Obviously TV companies won’t want their games shown but the other games could be shown with the money being used to subside ticket prices to protect attendance figures.
Brilliant solutions/suggestions – get them implemented – like NOWWWW!!!!