Match-going fans are ‘no longer essential’ and this is a sad day

Supporters have been shafted for years but football's return underlines just why

The importance of the football fan has been criminally underplayed by the Premier League, the FA and the media for decades now. 

Since the start of the Premier League era in 1992 more greed in English’s top flight has developed with each passing year. England’s top division sold its soul and with it their paying public for a suitcase of brown envelopes stashed with cash when Rupert Murdoch and Sky decided to buy the rights to Premier League Football in the early 90s.  

It, of course, started small with just one channel showing live sport but as time went on, more games were being shown on the small screen in houses up and down the country. It was a seismic change in the way in which the paying punter was treated, especially with games beginning to be shown on a Monday night.

Whether you were a Newcastle fan having to travel to London and miss the last train home or not, it was a like it or lump attitude from the powers at be.  I am realistic enough to know that money is important in top level sport. To sell a brand worldwide you must have the best players on display and to achieve that clubs need sponsorship deals, TV money, extortionate season ticket prices and of course, mega rich owners.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up in the era where football players mingled in the bar with their adoring fans after a game.   These days players are paid so much money they fear being seen by a mere mortal in public in case they get snapped on a mobile having a good time.  

The level of trust between the player and the media has also died. I remember reading that journalists used to turn a blind eye back in the day to ‘naughty’ antics by players as they were well aware that the closer the relationship they could build with that player the better the story they would get when they had something to tell. 

In this modern era, only scandals sell papers. Players are so scared of getting caught they wrap themselves away from the media (in the main) and only drink or party in private clubs and arenas. Sky Sports and BT Sport have a huge role to play in understanding your season ticket holding fans, and I genuinely do not believe they have a scooby doo, and if they do understand, the level of care about the fan is shocking.

I have lost count at the number of games that have been moved from the traditional and much-loved 3pm kick off time to 7.30pm on Saturday, 12pm on a Saturday, 8pm on Friday or 2pm on a Sunday since I have owned my season ticket.   I remember in the Championship season in 2011-12 playing Leeds United at 12pm on a Saturday, do Sky not realise how far Leeds is from London — those fans would have to get up at 6am to realistically get a proper pre-match atmosphere.  

Worst still, West Ham fans this season have had a number of matches where the game is ongoing as their final train home pulls away from the station.   It is disgraceful. Sky has a social responsibility to treat the attending fans with a level of respect because at the end of the day without fans what is the point?

The only small crumb of comfort the fans of Premier League has offered is £30 away day tickets, but in reality that is a pebble of good in an ocean of bad. Having watched some of the Bundesliga games behind closed doors in recent days, the spectacle shown on TV is horrendous, there is no atmosphere. You cannot gauge the excitement factor within the terraces and ultimately the experience is frankly a little dull.

Greed has also raised its ugly head with the resumption of the Premier League. Following pressure, no doubt by Sky and the media, the resumption is set to continue without fans – they are not important anyway right? This desperate nature for Liverpool to win the Premier League on TV cameras, and for their completed deal to see it out is all that matters to the Premier League.  

They are forgetting the human side. Players will be putting their lives at risk for entertainment. They are not stunt men, they are people that happen to very good at kicking a ball around. There was always a simple solution to this, but of course money doesn’t do simple.

The entertainment business says the show must go on, so the show will go on. You could’ve not relegated anyone, gifted Liverpool the title, and promoted the top two in the Championship and made a 22-league season as a one-off next year.   More games, and the respect of the importance of the fan restored.

Instead, we have plastic placards to replicate fans and a level playing field. It is no surprise that a lot of away teams have won their games in the opening stages in the Bundesliga, without fans football is ultimately an 11v11 training match.   I think that is the key point to take from this; Home fans and to a degree away fans are the most important people in football, they bring an edge in the David vs Goliath matches.  

Instead, you’ll just see the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool steamroll teams away from home because they don’t have that awkward atmosphere to play in. Roll on normality and having football fans back where they belong, on their feet, singing and shouting and come up with witty songs in the stands.

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