Us football fans can be a fickle lot can’t we? It should be quite straight forward really, we support a particular club for whatever reason, watch them play every time we can, then feel ecstatic when a game is won or distraught when it’s lost. For the money we pay at the gate we earn the absolute right to imagine that we can be stronger in a tackle than Vidic, spray 50 yard passes more accurately than Scholes, head goals more often than Rooney and manage the club more effectively than Ferguson! Simple isn’t it? Or is it?
It seems that being a football supporter is becoming more and more difficult by the year! Winning some occasional silverware used to be quite sufficient for us, now we demand it every season otherwise the managers head is called for. We never complain when we hear of the ridiculous sums of money that our stars earn each week…as long as they keep winning otherwise those same players become lazy, greedy and hopeless!
There were reports last week suggesting that Sir Alex will be offering Darren Fletcher an extension of his contract with a pay increase to bring him in line with Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick on £80,000 a week which is fair enough considering the contribution he makes to the success of the club. It does however become one example of the contradictions that fans are being forced to face.
While few protests are heard about players earning those sort of salaries which are after all “the going rate” for players of that calibre, there are plenty when the matter of the high cost of season tickets and club merchandise is brought up. Why? Is it not to be expected? Is it not perfectly reasonable for any organization which has that sort of enormous wage bill to increase its income accordingly?
That is where being a fan is not as simple as it used to be. Everyone is more than happy to obtain instant, as well as constant success, nobody seems to mind the enormous amounts of money it takes to get it, but when it comes to the question of paying for that success by way of increased season tickets and so on, hesitancy begins to creep in.
When clubs used to provide us with a Vauxhall, football fans paid accordingly and were happy to do so. Those same fans then started demanding a Rolls Royce, their clubs did their utmost to provide it but supporters either could not or would not pay the cost of running it or only did so begrudgingly. That is quite a sizeable generalisation of course, but is it not reasonably close to the truth?
Maybe the best case to illustrate that fact was the creation of FC United 5 years ago. A few thousand Manchester United fans were not happy with the direction the club was taking under the new ownership of the Glazer family, were prepared to sacrifice years of traditional support for United because of it, and are now happy to run their old Vauxhall in the same way that their club used to in the past. It must have been one hell of a tough decision to make which brings us back to the difficulties today’s football fans are confronted with when supporting their club.
It has to be said that it was never an easy ride anyway, there was a fair percentage of fans who did not like the ways of Martin Edwards and going back even further, those of his father. Complaints were often loud and common when the club was a plc run by a board of directors on behalf of their shareholders while very few have any kind words to say about the Glazer family today.
What makes the present position one of such great concern is the huge amount of debt that the club has been saddled with, the thought that in the worst case scenario those debts may one day force the sale of the Carrington Training Centre and heaven forbid, maybe even Old Trafford itself.
On top of that there are grave fears of those debts getting so out of control that maintaining a highly competitive squad of players will need to be curtailed. And then of course, there is the pricing of season tickets which directly hits supporters where it hurts.
These are all valid fears, concerns which only arise because of the deep love that exist in our hearts for a club we support through thick and thin. The reality however is that they will never be completely alleviated, no matter who owns our club or how it’s managed. For that is the reality of being a football fan, one which ensures that the life of a supporter can never be as simple as we would like it to be!
Is being a football fan in 2010 simple enough for you?