Sunday, February 11, 2007


No Prawn Sandwiches, but no atmosphere either

Yesterday I skived off leafletting for the day to attend Manchester United v Charlton, and take advantage of some hospitality tickets won in a raffle. After a beautiful carvery meal involving more food than was strictly necessary (and no prawn sandwiches in sight!), we assumed our seats in the North Stand for what was a fairly straightforward victory for Utd. It was the first time I'd been to Old Trafford in a while(I refuse to call it "The Theatre of Dreams" since, first, none of my dreams involve Utd, and second, it's the Premiership not Disney World), and it's looking very good with the new quadrants built in.

It was pretty disappointing to see the hundreds and hundreds of people leaving the game early though. I know we were in the hospitality area, but I reckon there were people there missing about twenty minutes of the match, including leaving five minutes early for half time, coming back five minutes late, and then leaving for good after the second goal on 82 minutes. Why bother going to the game at all? There is a waiting list for tickets that's thousands of names long (not helped by chancers like me turning up with winning raffle tickets and getting in, I admit), but there are loads of people with tickets who just don't care. I was joking with my friends on the way home thateveryone should be tagged going in and out, and once 90 minutes had been missed through leaving early, they should be banned from a match! It was only a joke, but I imagine there is provision for it somewhere in the recesses of the Terrorism Act...

I don't like the way football has gone these days. Tickets are stupendously expensive (£30 won't get an adult into Old Trafford these days, so it's well over £100 for a family of four). Even at Bury, where I had a season ticket for £42 in 1993, it's £14 to get in. That's over £50 to take the family to see football that is, frankly, rubbish. And I love Bury FC!

And there is just no atmosphere at all. Quite how quiet 76,000 people can be in such a confined space is a mystery... I applaud plans mooted by the Conservatives to explore the possibility of bringing back safe standing at football matches. Standing is where the noise comes from. And it'd be cheaper than seats. And I think Richard Caborn's plans to encourage clubs to lower prices is also a great idea. I must confess I have little idea what we Lib Dems think about this as a party. But I know where I stand.

There's so much money in the game these days, far more now with the new foreign TV rights deal, that it's short-sighted and silly not to encourage a better atmosphere and a more affordable day out for real fans. Seeing just how much of Old Trafford is given over to Corporate seats (and it's the same in other grounds as well, I know) makes me sad. Football used to be about so much more. Now it's about a few very rich men, a few very rich clubs, and lots of scrabbling about in mediocrity for all the fans and everyone else.

I love live football, and I fear for its future. It isn't how it was, and crowds almost everywhere are reducing, especially for the cup games. It should be worrying those running the game more than it is.


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