Few issues in the world have troubled me more than whether football fans in England have had it worse since the creation of the Premier League and the rebranding of the lower leagues over a decade later. More specifically, in fact, since foreign billionaires injected their capital into the beautiful, English, game.
The rise of wealthy, tycoon owners have been apparent for all to see in recent history, yet few seem to question how this has impacted those who make football so special, the fans.
Why is football operating for the rich? Why are fans treated as an after-thought? And what can be done, or is being done, to quell this?
In its current state, football is operating and serving the affluent. Most owners and shareholders across England’s four divisions prioritise at the expense of fans. Wigan Athletic are the latest in a long line of teams that evidence this claim.
Those who invest in football clubs do not care about fans. Increasing ticket prices, increasing merchandise prices, increasing food and drink prices, actions that have become commonplace in today’s world all negatively impact the normal, avid fan.
The unique fan culture that surrounded the game in years past has been replaced by middle- and upper-class sanitisation.
Games, particularly in the Premier League, can often be boring and unenjoyable for fans due to a lack of atmosphere and excessive expenses incurred for food and drink, for example.
This has led to less fulfilment and excitement for match going fans than there once was before the super wealthy took over. The fan experience is worse than what it once was as a direct consequence of the rich and powerful hijacking the sport.
Those who run the leagues should also shoulder their fair share of blame. Organising mid-week matches at stupidly late times and 12 o’clock kick offs are disgraceful. These actions serve only the money in football, big corporations and not average fans.
Moreover, there is a lack of care from those running England’s football leagues in terms of club takeovers. It appears those in charge see the dollar signs and not the obvious potential risks like administration or even going out of business completely. The impact on fans is irrelevant.
The normal, match-going fan is therefore an after-thought, or simply no thought is given to them whatsoever. Profits and greed have corrupted the sport I love. Naturally, the nostalgia factor does play a part with elements of the past seeming better than the present, but there is definitive validity that fans are not treated with the same respect they once were. Football clubs understand the vast majority of supporters are fiercely loyal and so typically abuse this loyalty. This, ultimately, means average fans are an after-thought or simply not catered for all together, leading to a less enjoyable experience.
There are signs, however, that traditional fan culture is making a resurgence causing enjoyment and excitement for the average fan to increase, thus quelling the current state of affairs (to an extent). It is no surprise that BOSS Nights in Liverpool has been such a big success. They have combined everything that’s good about being a football fan and are everything the average fan has been craving for years. Singing, alcohol, having a laugh with your mates, these are all things every match going fan wants but, unfortunately, can’t have.
As mentioned previously atmospheres at most grounds across England is stale, alcohol is prohibited in stands and due to high demand for premier league tickets and exorbitant prices, gone are the days for attending a game with four or five of your friends.
Fans are beginning to express opinions and football clubs, albeit only a few, are beginning to listen and act accordingly. It was not long-ago fans expressed concerns when Liverpool decided to furlough staff and, despite not being the first club to do so, they listened, and u turned. Fans are beginning to make themselves heard and make the game they love work for them.
Yet these are only baby steps. Clubs like West Ham and Blackpool are part of a collective of clubs who have consistently ignored fans.
Clubs in this day in age are often praised heavily for doing the right thing because it is such a rarity. This has to change and can only change if fans are assertive in their requests and follow through on their proposed warnings. Even Liverpool who, granted, in this piece have been praised significantly were willing to charge fans £77 recently. Clubs will never be perfect, but they can certainly do a lot more for those that make the game special.
Should supporters want football to work for them, many need to be more proactive and demanding.
Fans should not be an after-thought. Football should not operate for the wealthy. More needs to be done to prevent football rotting to its core.