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When is a boycott not a boycott?

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Last month Alan Moore of This Northern Soul told us why he was going to boycott his team’s visit to Elland Road. Alan was quite clear this wasn’t a criticism of Leeds United supporters but rather their club’s ticket policy (£36 for a ticket in the away end). He explains how it went below…

Hello, my name is Alan Moore. You may know me as that lone crank that tried to convince Wigan fans not to go to Leeds on Boxing Day, the man who tried to organise a boycott of a game no-one would have gone to anyway or that bloke who, like King Kanute, tried to turn back the tide of fans clamouring after his club decided to subsidise the greed of Leeds United’s management.

Actually, I’m not any of those things, but I’m happy to be any or all of them if it highlights football’s issues of affordability.

For the record, all I ever sought to do was support and give voice to those people who chose not to attend the Leeds game because of the ticket prices. Whether it was through principle, lack of funds or sheer bloody northern-ness it seemed the perfect opportunity to make a point by turning what could have amounted to a couple of thousand individual, consumer decisions into a single homogenous protest.

Did it work? You’d be hard faced to say not, it made the news, it got people discussing the affordability of football and, on top of that, we got a reaction out of the club, which I wouldn’t have expected in a million years. The offer to pay half the ticket price for the first 500 sold might have taken most of the steam out of what we were doing, but it was a clear reaction to what we’d been done and, in a ham-fisted way, support for the notion of cheaper tickets.

Was there a boycott? I don’t know, all I can say is that only 238 people paid full whack for their tickets, the last time we went to Leeds we took going on 4,000. That might have been ambitious but the buzz about the game (prior to prices being announced) suggested a 1,500+ following was on the cards. On that reckoning three-quarters of the people who would have had to pay full price didn’t go. Because there was a boycott? Probably not. Because of the ticket prices? Definitely.

And that’s sort of my point, if 700-odd people decide not to do something, because of the same reason then we have a choice. It’s fairly easy to buy the narrative that modern football is a consumer item, accepting that the price is there to be balanced off against the cost of modern life, a luxury we might need to do without in these austere times. The harder choice is pointing out what’s really going on.

Football clubs are communities, or at least one of the few places where communities are allowed to gather together anymore and people are being priced out of joining in with their community. The attacks on the game during the Thatcher years recognised football’s role in binding society, she lost those battles, but unless we do something soon then the greed, vanity, and individualism of a select band of players and administrators will ensure she wins the war.

Look around you on a Saturday afternoon, there are empty seats at almost every ground from the top to the bottom of the pyramid. We don’t talk about it because crowd sizes have seemingly become a badge of honour over recent times, we take the piss out of other teams for their empty seats and hope that if we keep quite about ours then they might not notice them.

Stop being so soft, those empty seats are the lesions on the face of modern football and unless we stop pretending the concealer is working it will never admit the underlying problem. Talk about them loudly, articulately and often, and sooner or later others will too. Support people who can’t afford to pay the price of a ticket, make sure they know there’s nothing to be ashamed of, make sure people know it’s ok to say no.

That’s all I did last month, I wrote three or four articles and one email and look what happened. In reality, what we proved in those few short days last month was you don’t need to make any grandstand protests to make people listen. If the likes of tinpot Wigan can cause a media storm imagine what a few well placed words pointing at the visible plastic at Anfield or Old Trafford might achieve.

Before I finish, there was one regret that came out of this whole thing. At no time did our Supporters’ Club make an official comment on the situation. There were bland platitudes about the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign on their website, written by a man who’d told me me both publicly and privately that he was unable to make official comments, but nothing from their chair (who I’d written to) in support of their members who had chosen not to pay the ludicrous prices Leeds were asking them to.

In times like these, fans need organisations that will support them, but this time ours was found lacking.

It would also be wrong of me to finish without mentioning the £1,000 that fans who didn’t go to Leeds raised for local homeless charity, The Brick. It might pail into insignificance next to the £10,000 our players donated to Leeds United, but it hopefully gone a good way to making a difference for local rough sleepers and others who couldn’t even start to think about the price of football this Christmas. You can find out more about their work at the

Follow Alan on Twitter @notapatchon

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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 Action Images for the image used in this blog.

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