Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Wednesday March 1 2006
In what has been a quiet week on the football front I thought I would again address what is becoming a very trying issue for those of us who try to support Manchester City Football Club.
I was at Villa a couple of weeks ago for the cup game and it reminded me of what football used to be like. Ok, admittedly, there was no terracing but I was allowed to stand for 90 minutes, I wasn't harassed by stewards, I was allowed to support my team vocally and I had a good time, as did the majority of blues in attendance.
Go back a week prior to that and observe the empty rows of seats in the South Stand, Manchester City's latest tactic in its ongoing war with its own supporters (sorry customers). Would any other business get away with treating its customer's so badly? Would any other business employ goons to physically restrain a person from trying to watch a product they had paid for? I don't think so. So why is it that Manchester City and football in general get away with it?
The club would hide behind the law and Manchester City Council's licensing authority. They argue, quite rightly, that it is illegal to persistently stand at a football match (as far as I am aware watching football is the only thing on earth that I am forbidden by law to do whilst standing) but are unprepared to lobby the authorities for a change in a law that discriminates against a specific group of people, namely their customers.
I can watch any number of concerts at Eastlands and stand all night long with the blessing of the very same licensing authorities that say my standing at a football match in the very same stadium is a somehow more dangerous activity. Amazingly I can also purchase a ticket for a football match in the visitors section of the South Stand at Eastlands and stand up for 90 minutes and laugh at the home supporters as the stewards attempt to force them to sit down and watch the game. It begs the question ‘what the f**k is going on?
I have my own theories, naturally, and most of them revolve around the idea that the seating law suits football clubs since it allows them to charge their customers a premium rate for their product. If we were allowed to stand it would have to be at a reduced rate and god forbid that happened in this day and age of greed above all else. Because of that all seater stadia are here to stay at a cost to both those of us who wish to stand and those who wish to be seated. Instead of being able to make an informed choice, it is now pot luck who we find in front of us at a game.
So where can we go from here? It is quite obvious that neither the authorities nor the football clubs are willing to change a piece of legislation that, for a number of reasons, suits both of them. It has to be time for the supporter to act. Perhaps by staying away and hitting clubs in the pocket, mass stand ups at football matches or even perhaps by remaining on the concourses at grounds and watching the game on screens whilst standing; let the club explain the empty seats.
Whatever happens over the coming months and years, football has to start listening. It is driving away the supporter with the contempt it shows for them. If the only way it will listen is through direct action then direct action it must be. After all is it any safer in the stadium when professional goons are employed to distribute the violence they are employed to prevent?
Date:Wednesday March 1 2006
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