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“A game for those who can afford it” – Norwich fans

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Norwich City and Derby County supporters recently joined forces to protest ahead of their fixture at Carrow Road. With Derby fans being charged £40 for the privilege, away ticket prices were once again the target. Thomas from Norwich’s Barclay End Projekt group tells us more…

We are often reminded that football without fans is nothing.

The feeding trough for clubs may grow exorbitantly fuller with each passing television deal, but one of the key facets of those deals are the fans who turn up, week in and week out, to watch their side.

Television companies need match going fans in order to fully sell their product. Read any article on “match day experiences” and rather than extolling the virtues of watching your team on television, the writer will always laud the unmissable experience of actually attending a match.

The line between what sort of supporter you are may have blurred to the point of invisibility by the plethora of televised football on offer, but those in the stadiums still remain an integral part of the game. They are the visual metaphor for passion and dedication. Celebrated and sometimes maligned; their joyous celebrations, despairing cries and contorting faces beamed on to millions of screens across the world.

And yet, as we all know, supporters at all levels of the professional game are being priced out of attending live football.

Wider economic pressures have not helped, but it is an inescapable fact that the cost of attending a football match has exponentially increased far above the rate of inflation over the past two decades. 

Football should be a game for everyone. Increasingly, however, it is becoming a game for those who can afford it. That is demonstrably wrong.

It is because of this belief that we at the Barclay End Projekt have passionately endorsed the FSF’s ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign. 

We believe that the prices that fans are expected to pay – both for home and away tickets – have risen to a point where one must begin to take a stand. Supporters from poorer economic backgrounds are being marginalised and we feel that this misses the traditional and ideological view that football can and should be a tool for social inclusion.

Norwich’s recent fixture against Derby County raised a number of eyebrows nationally when it was revealed that away fans would be charged £40. Understandably, many Norwich fans were frustrated that national media attention painted our club as the sole villains in the ticket price argument, when it is apparent to anyone who even occasionally attends football matches that the issue is widespread.

However, only examining the debate around pricing from the perspective of one’s own club misses this wider issue in football and, because of this, we at the BEP felt duty bound to display solidarity with those Derby fans who had planned a small demonstration ahead of the match.

We have previously distributed leaflets in support of the Twenty’s Plenty campaign and did so again prior to the Derby game. We also met up with some Derby fans in order to unfurl our own “Twenty’s Plenty” banner outside the ground, before unfurling the banner again as the teams walked on to the pitch.

Issues regarding the banner design aside – yes, we probably should have done the E’s as pound signs, not the L! – the protest, although small, was positive. We were able to engage in generally reasoned debate with other supporters, many of whom shared our frustration with ticket prices. It is worth remembering that home fans were also charged £40 for the fixture!

In the end, although not a full on march or demonstration, we felt we made a point. At times, efforts at the higher levels of the game may feel futile when faced with the seemingly unending apathy of the governing body and clubs to engage in anything resembling progressive conversation on the ticket price issue. However, if we didn’t stand up for supporter views on this issue, then we would be doing ourselves a disservice.

Football without fans may well be nothing, but it is only fans working together than it going to bring about any meaningful change for the better.

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF. 

Thanks to Blue Square Thing for the image, reproduced here under CC license.

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