Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Points of View.

The following letter made it's way into 'Bitter and Blue' inbox recently and with permission from the sender of the letter, I am posting it up as I'm certain it covers issues that a lot of fans can currently identify with.

Dear Mr Chairman,

I am sure that this is not the first or last letter to be sent to you by a season ticket holder that thinks he knows best but please read on as what I have to say should be of great interest to you.

Much as you are undoubtedly a fan of Manchester City Mr Wardle, it is impossible for you to still be in touch with the majority of ordinary fans that go home and away week in week out.

This is by no means a criticism, it is just something that goes with the territory of being the Chairman of the football club. So this is where I come in. To be blunt, being a fan of Manchester City is no fun at the moment whatsoever. This goes way beyond the abject performances on the football pitch. City fans do not expect much. We are not in it for the trophies, if we were we would have taken an altogether different direction at a very early age, but we are in it for the enjoyment factor. The only reason we got crowds around the 30 000 mark in the old Second Division was because, come what may, we could be guaranteed a good laugh with our mates at the games. Believe me, if we plummet the depths we have previously we will not get those sort of crowds. Why? Because it's not a laugh anymore, particularly at home matches.

I sit in the second tier of the South Stand and see the heavy handed, sometimes brutal, treatment of Manchester City fans by testosterone fuelled security men on your payroll. The City fans crime? Standing and singing at a football game. The very same behaviour that got our club such a good reputation in the first place. Other fans don't say 'Oh Manchester City are a great club, their balance sheets for the last financial year made fantastic reading'. But what they are likely to say is 'I really admire Manchester City, their fans are so passionate and vocal'.

Unfortunately, at the moment, what they are actually saying is 'Manchester City? Isn't it quiet in their new ground? And did you see all the empty seats? They're no better than Middlesborough'. Of course we are better than those jokers but that's the public perception outside the club, and surely this is hampering potential outside investment. People are not renewing season tickets because of this so it is a very serious issue to be addressed.

Now please PLEASE read the following carefully. The problems we currently have cannot be solved by piping crowd noises through the loud speakers during games or playing any kind of music after a goal is scored. I very nearly left the ground in disgust when the former occurred and if the latter ever does occur then my most recent season ticket renewal form will be the last the club receives and I am sure I won't be the only one. Over the years City fans have been known as people to lead, not follow. Yet we are slowly but surely being forced down the same road as the likes of Middlesborough. A stadium 2/3 full with 'happy clappy' fans devoid of any passion watching millionaires prance and preen their way through ninety minutes of football. Like I say, it is not much fun anymore.

It would be unfair of me to write a somewhat critical letter without putting forward some suggestions as to what can be improved. Now I realise I am not a successful businessman and I also realise that a business mind is needed to be the Chairman of the football club. However, I have been immersed in Manchester City for long enough to know what the average fan does and does not want to see or hear.

For starters, when our prize asset, one of the only reasons watching City was enjoyable at times, is sold, we do not want to hear, more or less straight away that an ex Manchester United legend/veteran has been signed on a free transfer. Don't get me wrong, said player has been a decent signing, when fit, but it's all about being in tune with the supporters. Couldn't the announcement been delayed further? It also doesn't help when we are then told that his past doesn't matter. It does. That doesn't mean we don't sign him, but we shouldn't be told how to receive him. We'll decide that thank you very much.

In the same vein, when we are linked with another Manchester United legend, a legend that ended a former City captains career, a club statement should be issued to the press immediately along the lines of 'Much as Manchester City are a club open to all, we realise that there are certain players our fans would never accept and the football club understands this. We can categorically deny any interest from our part'. Simple and a great PR exercise too boot.

A much better exercise than hearing that there is very little money to spend on players in the summer when the ink is barely dry on the season ticket renewal forms and certain fans are undecided whether to renew or not. Do you really think the prospect of another season of nothingness is going to tempt them in? Believe me, it isn't.

Loyalty is a two way thing, and we aren't being treated well by the club. Sorry to be so frank. The West Ham ticket fiasco was just the latest incident. I'm on the Direct Debit Cup Ticket Scheme yet had to spend over three hours on the phone trying to get a ticket as West Ham fans were allocated my seat. And this was after I went to the ground and had toleave the queue to get back to my office empty handed. This from the club which is apparently 'Supporting Our Supporters'. Not good is it Mr Chairman? Maybe being automatically allocated a seat in another area of the ground might have been a more favourable policy to adopt.

In addition to this, I don't really want to get embroiled in football matters, but the senior players aren't up to the standard I would expect for a club which gets 40 000+ attendances week in week out. So how do you think we feel when we see players, naming no names, get lucrative contract extensions when they have never proved their fitness or have proved over the years at the club that they are simply not good enough? Disillusioned is how we feel, and this disillusionment is turning to apathy in certain quarters, and anger in others. Either way, it potentially leads to more empty blue seats. We've muddled through this season with two senior central midfielders, one who is permanently injured and the other who is suspended a lot. It's a problem and one which cannot be solved by unknown Scandinavian midfielders who never get in the first team squad, never mind the team. We need to spend money on proven quality and if we are unable to do that we deserve to be told in plain terns. Is the club in such a mess that we should be happy with Premiership survival every season or do we have any aspirations of actually achieving anything on the pitch? If the club told us straight we might lower our expectations, which believe me, are pretty low to start with.

The club has been a success in certain areas. The 'THIS IS OUR CITY' campaign was a masterstroke which wound United up brilliantly. More of the same please. And the Academy is producing high quality youngsters who are getting a chance in the first team.

Losing is made that little bit more bearable when you know hungry young lads, who in some cases are City fans themselves, have gone down trying. Please makes sure these lads are tied up for a long time at City, because the loss of the likes of Micah Richards could be the final straw for some people. It has also been good to see ticket prices slashed for cup games. Now if it was just made that little bit easier to purchase said tickets the club might be on to a winner.

You don't have to pen a reply to the above but it would be appreciated. I'm more interested that the points made are taken on board. If they are not addressed then the club is just going to become another football club, and it's far far better than that.

Yours sincerely.

vote it up!


Jim I - Dumfries, Scotland said...

Excellent letter and I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. I am (was)one of the sufferers in the lower tier of the South Stand and having written to Mr Wardle with my concerns and suggestions of how to overcome the problems .... I do not have (nor expect) a reply.
I therefore have NOT renewed my seasoncard for next season, and neither has my son, so that is two seats that they can allocate to someone else.
We travel 330 miles (return trip) to almost every home game (evening KO's and work the next day are not good)with all the associated costs and we are sick of being treated like second class citizens whilst 'away supporters' stand with impunity.
Some of the 'half-time' entertainment (?) is a joke and I just don't like the direction that the club is taking, so after 40 years its time to call it a day unless things improve.

Teddoh said...

From my first match (Luton ‘83 would you believe?) I was hooked on going to watch City. I then spent the next 15 years with season tickets following the blues home and away. From Sheffield United away in the first Full Members Cup to the 5-1 and many more, I’d queue for hours to get tickets to the big away games and cup matches.

When the membership scheme was first introduced for the Kippax, I had a card no of around 1,500. The following season a friend got one with a no of around 154,000. Attending football wasn’t as popular then and City were one of the best supported teams with gates of around 27,000. This indicates how many people used to go occasionally to watch City. The gates are bigger now, but I bet fewer different people visit the ground every season than in the past. So it should be simple really to sell 47,000 tickets for every match and fill the ground.

For me it all started going wrong in the late nineties, relegation wasn’t the issue. I got fed up with the method of ticket allocation via the points system, which combined with the reduced capacity meant you could only continue to get tickets if you went to every match. Most of us had families by then and couldn’t find the time every Saturday to go, so the only tickets you could ever get were the worst in the ground, tucked away behind a post or pay through the nose for corporate hospitality (half decent ticket, crap food, fancy key ring).

I remember one work colleague wanting to take his son to his first match. Starting in 2000, he applied for tickets for every game when they went on open sale, and it took him 18 months to get a ticket for a league match!

The new stadium and extra capacity provided hope, but the same Cups for Cocks Ups tradition has developed such a convoluted method of buying tickets that beggars belief.

Cup games at Eastlands get gates of ~30,000 not because no one wants to go, but because there is only enough time to sell that many tickets via the ticket office err sorry "Box Office" as it is stupidly referred to on the website. Why is it still only open during normal office hours when those that can afford to go are at work? So far I have managed to get tickets for 2 matches since we moved to the new stadium. In short magnificent though it is, moving to the new stadium has been a complete farce, and I just can't be bothered trying to get tickets anymore.

The atmosphere is poor, the fans are too far from the pitch and the incessant merchandising and branded clothing make all fans look the same, and consequently behave like sheep.

That said, I can't get City out of my system and for the last four years I have paid SKY about £30 / month, just so I can watch my beloved City when they are live on TV and also on Football First.

I now have a Season Ticket at Stockport, and watch football how it used to be, with an atmosphere, with passion and with a bit of good football recently as well. It isn’t City, but it is good. With Sky, drinks, programmes etc, in total that is about £1,500 a year I would have otherwise been spending at the City turnstiles, but instead the club have turned me off and I doubt I will ever set foot in Eastlands again.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love City, and want every success for the team I grew up completely obsessed with. I will be watching the Youth team on Friday trying to overturn the 3-0 deficit. I went to an FA Youth Cup match in the early nineties when we knocked Liverpool out, the match ended in a mass brawl in front of the Moane Stand involving every player on the pitch, which was the most notable part of the match.

It is particularly sad to hear the comments about the behaviour of stewards towards the fans inside the ground. This reminds me how fans were treated home and away all over the country in the eighties. This utter contempt by the clubs for the paying fans led to the disasters at Bradford and Hillsborough. Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times in Blair’s Britain but that’s another moan for another day.

Ironically, if the fans hadn't stuck with City throughout the spell at the end of the nineties, these issues might have been addressed. Instead they have festered got worse and the club is taking fans for granted.

The club ought to do something to sort out the way they sell tickets and the way they treat the fans, because if they don’t more fans will stop going and I dread to think what would happen then.