Featured image source: Supportersnotcustomers.com
Safer stadiums, better press coverage and goal line technology. If you were to tell football fans forty years ago that these things and more were just a few decades away from being introduced into the game, they’d probably be chomping at the bit to find the nearest time machine and jump forward to find out the marvels of modern football. Yet now, most fans who lived through that era would probably tell you how much worse modern football is compared to those times, and to be honest, they’re probably right.
Modern football isn’t all bad and it definitely has it’s perks, such as those named above. Plus, the pitches are immaculate and the facilities clubs have access to mean players have more chance than ever of maximising their potential. However it’s fair to say that the organisations involved in football (with the clubs themselves included) are making changes which completely overlook their most important stakeholders: the fans. The fans are what define our clubs, without them they are just businesses, yet more and more we are seeing decisions being made where the fans haven’t been given a thought, and it’s slowly and depressingly chipping away at the enjoyment of supporting our football clubs. Here are five things in modern football in which the fans are being completely overlooked.
1. Sponsorship Shambles
I get it. Sponsors are a big source of income for football clubs, and although some might not look terrific on our kits, it’s far from the likes of F1 where drivers are covered from head to toe in brands and logo’s. It’s not that part that’s the problem. It is when they are given naming rights to competitions and stadium’s, corporate seats at big games that they never fill which loyal fans could be occupying, bringing unwanted associations to their clubs and generally been given special treatment.
You don’t have to do extensive research to find a reservoir of embarrassing stadium names that fans don’t want their stadium being called: York City’s “Kit Kat Crescent” is infamous now and every football fan in the north east will remember the uproar that followed when Newcastle United’s traditionally known “St James’ Park” was renamed to the “Sports Direct Arena”. It’s a move none of the club’s fans wanted, but the commercial prospects outweighed fans wishes and they went through with the decision anyway.
Traditional tournaments aren’t spared either. Even tournaments as prestigious and historic as The FA Cup has had several sponsor names since the early nineties and has been known as “The Emirates FA Cup” since 2015. The League Cup has had several sponsor names as well, the latest being “The Carabao Cup” – Thailand’s second most favourite energy drink. Doesn’t that just scream prestige? It’s hard to feel passionate about a ground or a competition when you here these names read out over the tannoy and on the television. You’re not going to want to tell you’re grandkids about “that great night at The Bargain Booze Stadium” (yep, that was once poor Witton Albion’s stadium name).
Sponsors interference doesn’t end with naming rights though. Just last month the draw for the fourth qualifying round of the ENGLISH League Cup was held in China, which meant the draw came out at half four in the morning English time. Where is the consideration for fans there? This was just weeks after Carabao managed to draw Charlton out of the hat TWICE in a previous draw. All of this so that Carabao could broadcast the League Cup to a broader Asian market. Between you and me, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep knowing nobody in Asia cared about the League Cup, with the draw taking place at half four in the morning, at the minute there’s not even too many people in England who do.
This is before even mentioning fans being upset and frustrated at their club being associated with some sponsors, particularly payday loans companies. No matter how the fan’s seem to feel, if it’s commercially attractive for the club or the sponsor, it goes.
2. Kick-Off Time Chaos
Dear Sky Sports,
“Monday Night Football” and “Super Sunday” are great and all, but I think I speak for the fans when I say I’d much rather be able to go to the game at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon than have to travel the length of the country in the early hours of a Sunday morning to make a half 12 kick off. For what? So you can broadcast Crystal Palace V Stoke live, yeah cheers, that’s worth it.
Live football on the TV is great to watch at home or at the pub, and makes it easier to see more top flight football, but the TV broadcasters adjust kick-off times so that they can show the matches they want to show when they want, without considering the inconvenience it causes to fans attending the games.
Moving a match to midday on a Sunday or on a Monday night when there’s long travel times for away fans can mean fans have to travel from the early hours of the morning, or face late nights and having to take time off work just to follow their team. Yes, there’ll be mid week games with awkward travel times every season, but moving matches around so they can be shown live on the TV means fans face more of them per season than they should.
It’s not just away fans who get effected by this either. Fans who pay hundreds of pounds for a season ticket (and oh my we’ll get to that) expecting to be able to get to every game of the season end up missing matches they’ve already paid for because they are moved to fit into TV schedules. Games can end up clashing with their shifts at work or prior engagements, meaning the most loyal fans end up missing out on going to the game just so casual fans can watch from home. Where’s the logic in that?
It’s even more frustrating when some of these games aren’t even that important. Broadcasters often end up showing meaningless mid-table clashes, to ensure they cover all the teams in the league equally. This means fans are inconvenienced even though interest in watching the game on TV is low.
Obviously this all boils down to money. Broadcasters would rather have income from having thousands watch on the TV than worry about the massive inconvenience caused to the loyal fans of the game that keep football alive.
3. Merchandise Prices
Again some clubs are worse than others for this, but if your team is a top flight English club, then showing your support is going to put a significant dent in your pocket as well, particularly replica shirts. Most die hard football fans want a replica shirt to show their support for their team, but it’s not a cheap commodity. If your team is in the top two flights of English football and you wanted a shirt last season, chances are you will of had to pay over £40. Adult home shirts of teams in the top two flights of English football cost an average of £47 last season, with the most expensive costing £60. It’s not just in England where this a problem either, AC Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich are all selling their shirts for a price equivalent to over £75.
That is just for the adult replica shirt, which as it turns out, aren’t always that close a replica. Some clubs have introduced “authentic” shirts, which are designed exactly like the actual kit worn by the players, meaning the replica kit’s are what exactly? This is a move that has been done mostly by the top clubs, including Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. To make this worse, if your a particularly loyal fan and want one of these shirts, it’s going to cost you one metric fortune to get a hold of one. To get a fully authentic Arsenal shirt with your name on it, your looking at over £120! To put this into context, with that money you could get yourself a tailor made Ted Baker suit and still have money to spare. Football shirts have never been particularly cheap commodities, but if they keep going at this rate, many loyal fans could find themselves priced out of being able to buy them.
4. “The Price of Football”
I said we’d get to this. How many of us have heard the “football used to be the working class man’s game” line? Well, it’s right. BBC’s price of football survey has almost become a yearly tradition now, shining a light on just how ridiculously expensive it has become to support your club up and down the leagues in England and Europe, and the results are more often than not – absolutely eye-watering.
To be fair, things are getting slightly (and it is only slightly) better. The outrage that surrounded Man City fans being charged £62 for their match at The Emirates against Arsenal in 2013 acted as a catalyst for the introduction of a cap on away ticket prices in the Premier League (which now can’t exceed £30). As well as this, almost three quarters of football tickets across England and Scotland have been either reduced or frozen since 2015.
However, ticket prices at clubs are still astronomical. The average match day ticket price in the Premier League and EFL is £44, with some tickets costing up to £97. Season tickets are no different, with the average season ticket price for Premier League/EFL club costing over £450. You’re going to be particularly smarting if you support a club in London as well, as the top three most expensive season tickets are all London based clubs, with Chelsea charging £1250, Spurs £1895 and Arsenal £2013. Admittedly you’re always likely to pay more in London and Arsenal’s season ticket does include seven cup games, but that amount of money is likely to be a month’s wages for some people.
Prices are getting better, but the fact that fans loyalty has been exploited to this degree in the first place says how little consideration we’ve been given until this point. Not only that, but with the introduction of the new improved TV deal with premier league football clubs last year, clubs could afford to let all of their fans in for free and still have as much money as they did before the introduction of that deal. Considering that, having frozen and slightly reduced ticket prices seems almost like a compromise, and more like something done by clubs to make it look like they care about the cost to fans of watching football than actually addressing the problem seriously.
5. Pounds Over Passion?
This is hardly breaking news to anyone, but footballers have been getting overpaid for a significant amount of time now. Many professional footballers make in a week double what most of us make in a year. The thing is that stat isn’t reserved for just the best players in the world anymore. Even players who are pretty average cost a fortune for clubs to buy and pay and we see mid-table clubs breaking transfer records every summer now because of it. This means we are seeing more players playing for money rather than pride.
The reduction in passion in football is often noted by some of the older generations of football fans. It’s a criticism that often receives backlash as fans don’t like the idea of the players in their team not sharing their passion for the club, but it is happening. Many players simply don’t care about the result, they do what they have to do to earn themselves as big a pay check as possible, then post “Gutted for the lads, we battled hard, we go again” on Twitter after every result to make it seem like they care. When weighing up which clubs they want to sign for, they’ll just go for the one which offers them the most money regardless of the quality of training facilities or fans. This certainly doesn’t go for all players, there is passion in places but overall football teams very much lack the heart they had many years ago, and great wages for average players has a lot to do with this.
This isn’t really the clubs fault either. In order to remain competitive they have to keep up with the going rate to keep attracting players, even if they are pretty average. For this I blame the players themselves. There are a lot of players out there that are exploiting the fact that they can get big bucks without having to put in the big performances every game. I’m not saying players don’t try, just that they haven’t got the heart that used to be there because they are playing for the money, not the club. This is what I don’t like, fans are paying extortionate money to essentially pay their team’s wages, the least the players could do is play with some passion. It completely overlooks the fans commitment to put achieving financial goals ahead of scoring goals, but it seems the desire for cash is extinguishing the fire in footballers.
What are your biggest problems with modern football? Are they in this article, or did we miss it? Or are you actually a big fan of modern football? Let us know in the comments and please like and share the article if you liked it, because it really helps us that’s why.