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Wigan fans boycott Elland Road over prices

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

A group of Wigan Athletic fans say they’ll boycott their club’s trip to Elland Road because of the cost of away tickets. Adults will have to fork out £36 for tickets, while over 60s, students, and young adults (16-21) will pay £24. If you want to pay at the gate, there’s a fiver premium on those prices too.

Leeds United supporters pay some of the highest prices in the Football League and Latics stress this isn’t a dig at fellow fans. It’s a criticism of a club’s pricing policy that affects everyone. Clubs should back the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign, fans can support it here. Alan Moore of This Northern Soul explains why he won’t be going to Elland Road:

It started with a tweet…

It was a simple knee jerk reaction to the announcement of ticket prices for Latics’ Boxing Day visit to Elland Road. I didn’t expect to get much of a reaction, and after a flurry of retweets thought that might be it, but then I got a DM from someone asking me whether I was serious that made me stop and think about it a little bit. A quick look around Twitter and Facebook showed that I wasn’t the first fan to throw the suggestion on the table, but I was the first who’d got website to shout from.

So I decided to test the water and all hell broke loose…

Although I wasn’t 100% sure about where that article would lead to, I knew that talk of Wigan Athletic fans boycotting a match would bring out a million BANTS kings suggesting that we boycott every away game. You know what? They’ve got a point. Latics don’t have the largest of away followings these days, but it’s not always been that way. During our rise through the leagues, and before, a large proportion of our regular spectators were home and away-ers.

Then we hit the Premier League and, after the initial glitz and glamour wore off, things started to drop off. Wigan isn’t the most affluent of towns and like other small, northern towns has been hard hit over the last ten years of recession and austerity, the simple fact is that not many of us can afford to travel to away games on a regular basis, not at today’s prices anyway. Opposition fans might prefer to call it “shit support”, the more astute might recognise it as a sign of the times, but if we’re going to put a name on it then why not call it a boycott?

Over the past couple of weeks, despite the shit-storm that’s surrounded the club, I’d got the feeling that Leeds away was going to be one of those one or two games a season where circumstances combined to give Latics a decent sized away crowd. Everyone I spoke to was either planning their trip or thinking about going. I don’t think anyone had given a thought to the game being given Category A status, I mean who wants to go and watch a game that at best would be between two averages sides, especially when one of them is Wigan Athletic!

But Category A it is and plans were changing all over Wigan from the moment it was announced. A few people were banding the “b-word” about but more were saying “sod that” my immediate thought was, what if you could get that second group to think about what they were doing more positively, what if you could get a few more people who were wavering to not go and what if you could get all of them to make noises about why they weren’t going?

Can you turn what started off as a mix of individual decisions (or for some of them, a lack of choice) into collective action? Can you turn a series of commercial choices into a protest? It turns out that you can and you can make a few quid for charity whilst you’re at it.

It’s a brave option for football fans to stick their necks out and it’s an even braver one to do it by effectively withdrawing their support and I applaud every single Latics fan that stood up and got behind the notion of the boycott. That’s why I wrote to the club and supporters’ club to ask them to back those making the choice not to go to Leeds, not over and above those choosing to travel but in support of the cause of affordable football.

The response from the club, predictably, fell short of full backing but recognised that they had a point. The response from the Supporters’ Club is, to date, sadly lacking.

Support from elsewhere has been great, including from Leeds fans. They recognise that this isn’t about them, at the end of the day they have to put up with the club’s ridiculous ticketing policy every game and then deal with being asked for ideas on how to recoup the £1m shortfall in matchday revenue the club has experienced this year. It’s just a pity that the organisation set-up to represent Latics fans couldn’t see fit to do the same.

Without that support, and in light of our players (no doubt well-intentioned but misplaced) offer to go halves with the first 500 fans to buy tickets it might prove difficult to keep the momentum behind a boycott going. We were never going to get 100% non-attendance, but it will be easy for people to paint 500 as a good turnout, no matter what is said about the potential size of the away crowd before all this.

But we should keep pushing, we’ve achieved a lot already. Whilst some are feeling downhearted about the club’s offer undermining what they are trying to achieve, they should take it as a positive sign instead. After all it’s a direct response to their protests. Protests which over the last couple of days have escalated the issue of spiralling ticket prices to a national level and have gathered support from all across football.

More importantly, we’ve shown that acting together can make a difference, can make people think twice, can start debates or make conversations louder. Which, at a time when the game is slipping further and further away from the fans, is as much, if not more, important than how much Leeds United want us to pay to watch a football match.

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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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