I’m not going to Leeds United this weekend.
As a hardcore Brentford fan, it really pains me to admit that I won’t be off to my beloved Yorkshire (I love going to Yorkshire) on one of my favourite awaydays. But after examining the prices that Leeds were charging away fans this season, I made the decision that enough was enough.
The FSF fixed it in their #TwentysPlenty campaign that Premier League clubs were to charge no more than £30 to away fans. So £39 for away fans in the Championship is a disgrace.
Championship clubs may use the excuse that the Premier League can afford to because hey are swimming in money. But the fact is #ThirtysDirty and #FortysNaughty whatever division you are in.
I felt it was time to make a stand.
This wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. It’s been coming for some time.
It’s not as if I shirk away games. Last season I did all 49 Brentford matches. And since and including the season we got promoted in 2013/14, I’ve missed less than a dozen Bees games home and away. Recently I’ve been to Bolton on a Monday night. Sheffield Wednesday on a Tuesday night. I even went to Dundalk in Ireland a couple of weeks ago on a cold Wednesday night to watch the Brentford B-team play Dundalk FC.
I’ve got lots of good Leeds mates. I love going to Leeds away and have been to every Bees match at Elland Rd since we started playing each other again in 2010.
That year we bought 3,500 fans to Elland Road and we caused a fair racket. If we weren’t there, the ground would have been dead until Jermaine Beckford equalised for Leeds in the 72nd minute – when Elland Road finally erupted.
The point being – away fans add to the atmosphere of a home game. And more often than not, they actually fuel the home support.
It’s a known fact that people who run football and TV companies are desperate for solutions to ensure we have lively stadia up and down the country. There is nothing worse than the image of a morgue-like football stadium being transmit on TVs all around the world.
Last year, I remember waking up at the crack of dawn to head to Elland Road the night after we had our Beesotted Xmas party at the Fullers Brewery. It was the last Saturday before Xmas. The ticket price was a shocking £37. The year before, Huddersfield (you know that team who are now in the Premier League) had charged us I think £10 for our last away game before Xmas.
There should have been a load of us travelling to that game but many Bees fans decided to give it a swerve. Not because it was the last Saturday before Xmas. But because of the £36 match ticket AND it being the last Saturday before Xmas.
The problem is – and I mentioned it to them at the time – my mates made a decision not to go to the match as a protest against the ticket price but no-one knew the reasons why. It just looked on the surface as if Brentford were just travelling with less fans.
I went. And to be honest, it wasn’t the same.
This season, I made an early decision not to go to the game. We were in the middle of our ‘3 defeats in 21 matches’ run at the time so it wasn’t based on poor results. If anything, it was the exact opposite. Suddenly there were talks of Brentford in the playoffs and all sorts. The decision was a hard one.
And if I was going to miss the match, I felt it was important to make the reason known as opposed to just becoming one of the missing hundreds who disappeared in silence.
As a safety net – as I know what I’m like – I booked myself and my son a trip to Majorca for a few days to ensure I didn’t have a last-minute change of mind. The ironic thing is – the flight and car hire for 5 days in Majorca was cheaper than the train fare and match ticket for myself and my son to get up to Leeds. And I would have been dragging him up to Leeds too poor fella. I think he’s pretty happy with my decision.
I talk to fans from every team in The Championship regularly and I realise that I’m not the only one to have taken a similar stance. Fans from Reading, Norwich, Derby, Wednesday (ironically – last season), Ipswich, Preston, Birmingham, Wolves and QPR that I have spoken to have all said they have given Leeds a miss because of their ticket pricing.
A good friend of mine from Cardiff – who is top boy, does every match home and away and organises the coaches for away travel – told me he was boycotting the Leeds match despite his team vying for an automatic promotion spot.
The move is not a disrespect against Leeds fans who – to be fair – have been on the whole critical of their owners’ stance on ticket pricing. At Beesotted, we have always received messages of support from Leeds fans whenever we mention their over-the-top ticket prices.
Fans of other clubs with ridiculous pricing have – at times – not been so supportive uttering cried such as “If you don’t like the prices don’t come” but fair play to Leeds fans, they seem to understand.
The fact is this is an issue for all football fans. And the person who gets hurt most (in the pocket) at the end of the day is the fan. Because where you get Leeds charging Brentford fans £39, you also then get Sheffield Wednesday charging Leeds fans £39.
The fans don’t set the prices. They just pay them.
We at Beesotted were one of a couple of Bees supporter groups who called Brentford out at a time that they were charging a top price of £35 for away fans. We felt it was unfair on the away fans and had a conversation. Fair play to the club. They listened and agreed to lower it.
That’s how it should be. Fans working together for fans’ causes.
Some say it’s all down to supply and demand. Others would say some fans are getting taxed for supporting a team who happens to be more popular.
There is an pretty strong argument to say that clubs, rather than trying to run better businesses, prey on fan loyalty – knowing that fans won’t change their team in the same way that they would shop around for a better deal for exactly the same product or, more to he point, a better product at a supermarket.
At the same time, I feel that the football fans should not be victimized and seen as troublemakers for asking for a decent deal. We are on a whole are fair people realising that football clubs are businesses and for them to prosper, you have to pay a fair price for the entertainment that is being served up.
Fair being the operative word.
The question I will ask is how can we have such disparity in pricing in The Championship with some clubs charging £20 and other charging £40?
Should fans be made to pay for the fact that some clubs are obviously running their business very badly? In my book – not really.
You have teams with playing budgets of £25m, £30m and even £40m plus a year being matched – and even beaten – by teams with £10m budgets in this league. There is a fallacy that more money means more success. It’s simply not true. Surely these clubs should be concentrating on how to become more efficient.
And efficient doesn’t mean cutting corners. Efficient means better run.
If there was a universal price cap on how much away fans were charged, all clubs would then be forced to think about how they could be better run.
Saying that, I have written this note deliberately on the day before Brentford play Leeds as it’s not a call for an away fan boycott. The team needs our support. And I’m gutted not to be there.
Bees fans will have already made their minds up by this stage. The ones that aren’t going have made a call without any external prompting.
I put a shout into quite a few fans I know to help us with on-the-ground stuff up in Leeds – knowing that we were not going to be there as a fanzine – and I was very surprised to find the numbers attending from our crew were very low indeed.
People have had enough. Success on the pitch has been outweighed by the moral principal of not being extorted.
Even a Bees fan I know who lives in Leeds has decided to give the game a swerve – citing ‘expense’ as the excuse and claiming to be looking forward more to travelling to Burton in a few weeks on a Tuesday night paying a ‘mere’ £24.
However, for all the Bees fans who have decided to travel to the match, I have to give you much respect. Like you, I was there last year – paying over the odds – but have decided to give it a miss this year. Hopefully you will have a great day out, sing up for The Bees and come back with all three points.
And fingers crossed next season – if and when we go back to Elland Road – the Leeds United management will have had a good look at themselves and make the decision to price their matches more affordably for away fans.
If that happens, I very much look forward to my annual return to LS11.
Up The Bees
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