Mails: Other fans, not prices, are the problem…

Date published: Thursday 1st March 2018 3:29

Anything to say? Mail

Ticket prices aren’t the problem
Bang on, Mark MCFC. I have only gone to about 10 Premier league or Championship games in my life, all but one at Villa Park, so am looking from a small sample size, but not one of those games didn’t have plenty of shrieking frothing furious men, from 15-80. Occasionally a couple of women, but overwhelmingly men. Offside decision goes against the team, linesman is a c*nt, and is told he is, at volume. Disallowed goal? Referee is a c*nt, and is told he is, at more vociferous volume. He’s sh*t, his life is sh*t, he should f*ck off, lose his job. I’ve seen the home fans grab a player who tried to get the ball from behind the hoardings at the Holte End to take a quick corner. Physically hold him. When he tried to take the corner, a shower of bottles and other sh*te. I’ve watched 30 travelling Norwich fans trundle to the front of their stand to hurl 5 minutes of sustained abuse at the ref and linesman because a Villa goal was allowed despite the ball hitting a Villa hand in the build-up.

Scarlet-faced, spittle-laced, thick-necked fury.

I mean, I thought it was a bit funny, these lads purpling, railing heavily against perceived injustice, in their minds it is their right to squeal and threaten, but it’s pretty clear that it’s not exactly a healthy atmosphere. I’m not talking about the poor kids’ delicate ears hearing bad language. The implication that this kind of sh*tbag behaviour is normal isn’t ok. Why would anyone want their children to see that? Unless as a life-lesson about the perils of attaching your real-life happiness and actual sense of self to a bunch of sportspeople. There’s tribalism and there’s an inability to control yourself. You can reduce the kids’ tickets to £1 each if you want, but people have to want to bring kids.
Paraic (Irish in Birmingam)


Other fans aren’t the problem
To Mark MCFC. With you having spent 25 years as a copper, I’m astonished to read that you think fans making hand gestures (I assume you mean the ubiquitous “w*nker” gesture) would get them nicked anywhere else. Especially considering there is no offence under the law, certainly without the effect on others and the intent of the swearer having to be considered. However, maybe this is yet more weight to the argument that (not all, but some) Police seem to feel that merely by entering a stadium a fan identifies themself as a potential criminal and isn’t afforded the same due process a regular citizen would be.

As for your assertion that you wouldn’t take a child, girlfriend or wife to the football. I’ll invite you to offer that viewpoint to my girlfriend who is a season ticket holder at Loftus Road and attends on her own, because there’s no way in hell I’d got and watch the nonsense Ian Holloway serves up. Maybe you’d be better off treating your wife or girlfriend as an independent adult who can make their own decisions on what threatens them…

I know that all the behaviour that you talk about goes on, but you want to imply everyone is at it, well I’m afraid that’s just clearly b*llocks. I follow Plymouth Argyle to a good portion of away matches, and also work as a sports photographer. Since March 2017 *checks calendar*, I’ve attended 67 football matches and I’ve witnessed two instances of what I would describe as the behaviour you allude to. I’ve seen plenty of 50/50 banter between fan groups, I’ve seen plenty of “the referee’s an *insert generic insult*” type chanting, and yes, I’ve seen grown men shouting at other grown men about football. But none of that would actually be considered a criminal offence under the law.

I saw a group of fans make some quite unpleasant homophobic chants at a nonleague game, and heard a solo rendition of the Harry Roberts song at Hampton & Richmond which was promptly shut down by other supporters. Other than that, you were either a copper in the 80s, in which case fair one, or you’re still carrying a rather large S*n-inspired chip on your shoulder about the average football fan. As for your assertion that going to football is “FAR worse than horrible”, just don’t go. You won’t be missed considering you clearly consider yourself better than everyone else in the stadium.
Tom, London (Former infanteer, and I’m glad you felt the need to point out that your service record assures us you aren’t some liberal snowflake softie. I bet you think that ‘orrible Jeremy Corbyn is a dirty old traitor who is going to force us real men to use gender neutral pronouns)


A ‘plastic’s’ experience
Very interesting debate on the experience of football fans, and the perspective of Mark MCFC. I wanted to share my perspective, and a recent experience on this.

I’m an Irish Liverpool supporter, who supported them when my aunt gave me a Liverpool pencil case when I was young. So under some definitions I am a “plastic” supporter. I’ve been over to Anfield a few times. With the way the season tickets system works, the only way I could get tickets was to pay someone for the use of their card, and hope to God I didn’t get asked for ID, otherwise the season ticket would be confiscated. It’s not an ideal way to watch a match.

Recently I saw someone on a forum offering up tickets for a game. Got in touch, and he offered me the ticket and travel for about €100, maybe more. Their plan was to get the ferry from Dublin, and then a bus to Liverpool, so the price included all of that. I transferred the money via Paypal, and hoped to God I wouldn’t get shafted.

We got an early ferry with maybe 15 people in the mini-bus. The ferry ticket covered one breakfast, which everyone availed of. It was 6am and nearly everyone on the boat was drinking, most going to the Liverpool game, or the United game. Same again on the minibus, boozing all the way.

Got to the ground and I was directed to a certain pub to collect the tickets. I was instructed to buy a drink for my contact, and his contact. The two of them were running a fairly complex operation, distributing maybe 30+ tickets. Getting a drink each for each one, so there was a full shelf of booze behind them. It was clear neither of them really cared about the match. It was a nice little earner for both of them.

I took my ticket and was told where to go. Another lad was due to sit with me so we walked together. I remember asking, was it always like this, the side payments, the dodging security etc. just to see a match. The guy made the point that from the clubs perspective, season ticket holders are a drain, as they barely spend anything in the stadium. The club would rather a unique visitor to every match, who’ll buy a programme, stadium tour and a memento in the club shop. Not the same guy who has been there a hundred times and will be straight back in the pub as soon as the game is over. It’s a catch 22 though. The club can’t get rid of the season ticket holders (which is fair enough) but then the season ticket holders run these black market operations so someone like myself ends up footing the bill.

We get to the turnstile and our tickets are incorrect, or at least for a different area of the ground. Heart in the mouth stuff after coming that far, to be nearly turned away. After all that, the game itself was underwhelming, simple win for Liverpool, punctuated with a good cohort of the fans calling Lovern and Mignolet c*nts. Neither were really called on to do anything of note in the game and Liverpool kept a clean sheet. I felt like an imposter in the place.

Mark MCFC is right. Stuff happens at football games which would be unacceptable at other sports. It’s dominated by angry drunk men spewing abuse. It’s not family friendly. In Ireland, bringing a kid to a GAA or rugby game is fine, with child tickets available and a friendly and supportive atmosphere, which is how sport should be. There’s still way too much scummy behaviour at football grounds, an acceptance of behaviour that would rightly be condemned in any other context. There’s an ugly tribalism too it, I look at the recent Evra stuff online, the death threats that Lovern received, and it pushes me away from the club that bit more. Every club has an element of it as well. I don’t see that in other sports to anywhere near the same extent. There’s no point writing it off as a “minority element of the fanbase” when it happens to a much greater extent in football than any other sport.
Stevie (Ireland)


Attracting youth
Response to Mike LFC and the ongoing youth fan topic,

One thing we need to keep in mind about the average age of the football fan is that the UK as a whole is getting older. Meaning the average age of a person in the U.K. has increased as the demographics change (IE lower birthrates).

With that in mind, the fact that the average age of a football fan increasing isn’t totally weird, at minimum some of it will line with what is happening with U.K. demographics. I think I recall that U.K. hit around average age of 40 a few years ago and is continueing to grow older.

I haven’t checked the number of average age of football fans that of nations of Wales and England (or the other U.K. leagues) but I’m going to take a shot and assume quite a lot of that is due aging population of the country.

Even if the average fan age did increase more than the average national age increase, comparing the two stats showcases how much of this is due to football and how much of it is……well not there being as much younger people in the U.K. as it used to.

(I would look up the numbers myself and compare but I’m not sure where to look up the average fan age – not with the amount of time I can spare for this mail anyhow)

This is of course not to say that the football industry shouldn’t be doing more to attract younger audiences like previous mails and Storey have suggested (which is always a good thing for long term health), but measuring the degree of the problem accurately is also important given other outside non-football factors that might affect be affecting the average age fan stat.

Yaru, Malaysia


Give me more VAR
I for one am looking forward to this coming to the Premier League. The fact that players are going to have to suddenly adjust to the fact that if they grab a shirt in the penalty area could result in a disallowed goal or penalty will hopefully reduce that behaviour.

Also it will probably reduce diving as well. You dive then chances are it will go to VAR at which point you’ve got yourself a yellow card.
First few weeks will be chaos as players try to break habits that “are just part of the game Jeff” because now refs can actually find out what went on and act accordingly.

Hopefully they will follow rugby’s lead and have the video play on big screens where possible and have the red miked up and let people buy radio sets to listen in.


…It is probably about 7 years since I’ve graced the mailbox so a publication would be delightful, I continue to read regularly but my work/life pressures no longer allow me to commit so much time to F365, cry for me Argentina.

So today the subject is VAR so I thought I’d ask a question, how long does it take the generic armchair pundit to make a decision on is it penalty, was it a foul etc? I’d suggest a long time since you’re probably all still talking about it over your smashed avocado on toast the next morning, we are complaining about a committee in their first season taking a minute to come to a conclusion – what did we really expect, Marty McFly? If we expected all decisions to be made within 10 seconds then we are all as stupid as each other, yes there may be occasions where it is very clear and a snap decision can be made but chances are it will not have gone to VAR in any case, we have to allow these guys time to come to a conclusion or it negates the point of VAR in the first place, generally as they begin to improve the processes of making these decisions quickly we may see improvement, we may, thats it – it’s a simple as that, see how it goes instead of crucifying it after a short testing period, not everything is a hit from day 1.

From my own personal experience, I saw the first VAR assisted goal – Kelechi Iheanacho against Fleetwood for my beloved Leicester City [Yes we are decidedly more big time than when I last managed publication] and you know what, for all those people saying ‘Ohhh the fans, how can they manage in the stadium, how do they know what’s going on’ – I didn’t really care, it was pantomime, we all saw the ref was consulting someone as he was jamming his finger deep into his brain and his eye was twitching, so we did the thing any normal football fan would do in that situation – Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo and when he made his decision we cheered – I enjoyed it.

In conclusion, every armchair fan or pundit will tell you it’s awful for the fans in the stadium and granted it’s not perfect but it’s very early days, lets allow it to develop and it may well turn out to be something that adds excitement and provides more accurate decision making, oh but you might have to wait a minute and god bless Danny Rose the poor chap having to stand for 1 minute in minus 4, how on earth will he survive?
Simon [Do we still do the brackets thing, not even sure] Headley


Until this point, I’ve avoided wading into the VAR debate, because a lot of it is just people responding negatively to change and/or deliberately seeking drama. However, Dave B, Stevenage made a very good point this morning about the grey areas in football refereeing. I genuinely don’t think there is any way to clarify those grey areas without having a huge impact on how the game is played. I don’t want the slightest contact in the box to be given as a penalty, and refereeing has to take context into account more than pedantically defined rules would ever realistically allow. The bigger problem for me is when we are being told that VAR is going to give us correct decisions, and then seeing it being used to make debatable decisions.

Surely the best solution is to just start using VAR as I thought it was intended to be used: to correct clear and obvious mistakes (I don’t remember the exact wording). In essence, this means that VAR should only really be getting involved in foul calls if it is a penalty given that, on replay, can be shown to be a blatant dive with no contact at all. If the referee hasn’t given a penalty, there shouldn’t be a review, except possibly in the case of handball shouts.

In all cases, VAR should be used with the stipulation that, in order to overrule the referee, the replays have to show absolutely inarguably, that they were incorrect with their initial call (this also includes giving a slight margin for error either way for offsides, for reasons that might be to lengthy to explain in this email). It would mean there still being occasional penalties that result from minimal contact, it would mean there still being penalties not given that possibly should have, but at least we’d be using VAR solely to make objectively, inarguably correct decisions, and leaving the rest to the referee and his assistants.
Tom, Manchester

…The explanation for why VAR cannot and will not work is extremely simple: Football is subjective.

One morning mailboxer brings up the Lucas Moura incident, which he states should have been a penalty. To me it was an absolutely blatant dive under minimal contact, so why did the VAR review not result in a yellow card when the penalty was denied?

To answer Mark Kelly, I sent an angry text to friends bemoaning the penalty decision then checked the rules, and it turns out that a foul which begins outside the box but continues inside it is actually a penalty. Who knew? However, what nobody has mentioned is that it was a blatant dive by Trippier and he too should have been booked. The contact which started outside the area was evidently not enough to bring him down, but as soon as he knew he was inside the box he fell like a sack of spuds in a display of total gamesmanship.

If you are reading this and disagree with the above then surely that proves beyond doubt, when two people come to opposite conclusions over the same incident, that VAR cannot work. Leave the decision-making to the referee and leave VAR to other sports.
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire


…A bit long, but bear with me on this…

I wanted to follow on from Fraser Mullen’s letter in this morning’s mailbox. I was also at Wembley last night – and I’m very glad that I made the effort to get across London in the snow, because I witnessed a game which, I think, will prove pivotal in the honing of VAR. Its implementation in the Premier League is obviously inevitable, but last night was such a farce that it must – surely – prompt discussions on how it will work.

I don’t have a problem with the disallowed penalty, for a couple of reasons. One – it shouldn’t have been a pen in the first place. I totally agree with Fraser’s embarrassment with it being given – the initial foul was outside the box. Two – there was enough of a stop-start nature to Son’s run-up to justify the goal being chalked off. Although I wasn’t aware of the ruling last night, having read through the regulation since, the referee’s decision looks about right – although whether it should have been a retake is another matter. I assume this rule will apply to all Cristiano Ronaldo penalties in future.

My issue is with the disallowed Lamela goal. I think John Nicholson wrote a piece a few weeks ago about the likely “mission creep” with VAR, and it’s already here. The system is meant to overturn “clear and obvious errors”. But I’ve watched the Lamela “goal” several times since (I was at the other end of the ground last night, so couldn’t tell why it was chalked off), and I can’t see a thing wrong with it. I’m not saying that with Spurs blinkers. I just don’t see where the foul is.

And that’s worrying. If every goal is going to be checked and potentially disallowed for – at best contentious, at worst invisible – infringements, we’re in for a lot of trouble. Imagine – with no disrespect to Rochdale and a fifth round replay intended – if that goal had been disallowed in a game that really matters. Imagine if that was the sixth minute of the cup final in May, Lukaku had just put Man United 1-0 up against Chelsea (Spurs will lose to them in the semi. It’s what we do), the goal was disallowed because Matic had done whatever Llorente is meant to have done last night – and this turned out to be their only “goal” in a close game that Chelsea went on to win 1-0. There would be meltdown. Leaving aside that Mourinho’s post-match comments would be hilarious – decisions like that will be way more controversial in matches of few goals and tight margins. It’s only because Spurs won so easily in the end last night that it isn’t more of an issue than it is.

I’m actually in favour of VAR. Pedro Mendes’s ghost goal at Old Trafford in 2005 still makes me angry (I know, let it go). But not VAR as it was implemented last night. A lot of work needs to be done. It needs firm guidelines on when it is brought into play. And surely if – as in cricket – the referee has not made a “clear and obvious error” on the pitch, then the decision on the pitch has to stand.

On a semi-separate note, all praise to Rochdale, who gave us more of a game over three halves of football than half the Premier League has this season. They played some lovely stuff and were still knocking the ball about beautifully at 5-1 down. I hope they win their battle with relegation. Shame that their night was also tarnished by a farcial use of a technology that is meant to make everything better.
Chris Leadbeater (THFC)


Secret code of the referee
Dave B makes a good point regarding refs not explaining their logic on decisions. I think the issue is that while refs have a set rulebook to follow, there is also a lot left to another set of codes that if explicitly stated would have everyone in uproar – The Secret Code of the Referee.

You know, the one that…
-Deems something an offence outside the box but not in.
-Deems something an offence to an attacker but not a defender.
-Deems something worthy of a yellow only if not already booked.
-Gives a free kick to a goalkeeper if you breathe upon him.
-Is blind to pushing in the box (despite refs being told to change their attitude on this)
-Allows all but the most blatant time-wasting without increasing added time.

Have I missed anything?

Of course a transparent VAR implementation would expose this layman’s code somewhat to ridicule, and is why the problem of a lack of transparency is portrayed to the media as a quantum physics level problem rather than a case of adding a microphone to the ref.
Nic (Lancaster)


Encouraging signs
After watching Willan score against United in the first half at the game on the weekend, I was fearing the worse, as Chelsea had won all 15 league games in which they had gone into the lead this season, which is quite impressive for a team having a ‘terrible’ season. I really do hope Conte doesn’t get sacked if they lose to Barca in midweek, it wouldn’t be a surprise, but would be a shame.

However I was very convinced at how the team came back from 1-0 to win 2-1, I genuinely do not remember the last time United did that against a Top 6 team, and played very well in the second half and saw the game out well (Although the Morata goal did scare me a bit). This should give the team some confidence and honestly signing Matic was so important, his decision making on the pitch is unreal and United were lucky Chelsea let him go. However knowing how the majority of United fans get after a result, some fans are probably think we could beat Liverpool with no problem whatsoever. I do not want to see United defending at home and just want to see some good old end to end football. If United cannot compete in terms of intensity and pressing compared to Liverpool, how are United going to challenge City in the next few years? If the club want to make signings in improving, they need to sell first before buying, similar to what Jose did in the 2014-15 season with Chelsea, where they had a fantastic squad. I do have faith in Jose, I am just unsure as to whether he understands the club need to play a better style of attacking football, particularly against the smaller teams.

For the rest of the season, I predict United to finish 2nd or 3rd (Depending on how well Liveprool finish the season), reach the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, and win the FA Cup. The club need to keep winning trophies each year, and if they keep winning something each season, the club will compete for the league once again, only time will tell though.
Rami, London (Bored at work, no one has been arsed to come in)


Love you long-term
Mr Storey’s bit this morning on short termism was very wise and I don’t disagree with any of it.

But I still prefer it when my club invests in youth, looks to build a legacy and backs players to develop from season to season rather than just flogging and buying in a constant dead-eyed cycle like some Fantasy League obsessive.

Why? Because football isn’t just about points and trophies, it’s about personalities. Feeling that you are invested in players and supporting them throughout their career. And enjoying players, teams and managers often means watching them over time, revelling in their highs and ruing their lows.

So of course it’s nice when your team wins a trophy, but it’s so much better when that trophy is won by a group of players and a manager that, as a fan, you actually like and want to succeed.
Tom (I’m looking at you Nicky Butt), London


Not paying out on Markovic yet
In response to BC, (Still regret not betting on Kane to get the all time scorer record two years ago),


When ‘The Laser’ Lazar Markovic moved to Liverpool some many, many moons ago, in my mind he was going to become the greatest winger the Premier League had ever seen, a better Jesper Blonqvist if you would.

I promptly bet my Man Utd supporting friend (hello Greg) 20 whole English Pounds Sterling, that Markovic would contribute 20 League goals and assists (a combined total), before he left Anfield to either (I assumed) the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu.

Now we all know that hasn’t exactly worked out – but he hasn’t left yet – thanks to the rather lovely loan system now employed by todays cash poor clubs, he has always gone out on loan.

I still haven’t given Greg that £20 and still hold out hope ‘The Laser’ gives enough to get a long term contract and another 5 or so years of loan moves before I finally fold and give Greg the money he surely thought was his about 4 seasons ago.
Christopher (still hoping he comes good) Bodych


In response to Chris M (Hat-Trick lover)

Although Ed or other Palace fans may have gotten in ahead of me.

In Feb 2010 Danny Butterfield made history. Header in 60th minute, right foot 64th and left foot 67th. 3-0 up in a matter of minutes and all put past our current first choice keeper Wayne Hennessey.
Mike C – CPFC


…Regarding Chris M’s question on German/perfect hat-tricks in today’s mailbox, five players have scored ‘perfect German’ hat-tricks in the Premier League:

1. Tommy Johnson v Wimbledon 1995
2. Gianluca Vialli v Barnsley 1997
3. Yakubu v Fulham 2007
4. Gabby Agbonlahor v Man City 2008
5. Didier Drogba v Wigan 2010

Sergio Aguero was close to becoming the sixth in January, but his perfect hat-trick was separated by half-time.
GSC Will (I stole nearly all of this from an article by @ThatChris1209 last year)


Chelsea cycle
In the shower this morning, I was thinking about the Arsenal fans talking about how they were basically regressing to the mean under Wenger. I thought about how this could apply to my own team Chelsea, and had a quick look at the pre Abramovich XI vs the modern one as a comparison.

· (GK) Cudicini / Courtois
· (CB) Desailly / Azpilicueta
· (CB) Gallas / Rudiger
· (CB) Christensen / Terry
· (LWB) Le Saux / Alonso
· (RWB) Gronkjaer / Moses
· (CM) Petit / Kante
· (CM) Lampard / Fabregas or Bakayoko
· (AM) Zola / Pedro or Willian
· (2nd Striker) Gudjohnson / Hazard
· (CF) Hasslebaink / Morata

It is not quite a 1 to 1 mapping as for much of the 2002/2003 season, Chelsea played 4-4-2 rather than 3-5-2, but I think you can make a comparison and there is not much at all between the two teams. The defences, including the goalkeepers are at least comparable, but I’d suggest that 2002 Chelsea probably has the edge on the basis that all 3 were of an exceptionally high standard, whereas only really Azpilicueta can be considered a true top (top top) defender. Also, I’d also take Cudicini at his peak over Courtois this season who has been good, but not outstanding. Comparing the wing-backs / wide players, again, Alonso is probably the strongest, but neither Moses or Gronkjaer are particularly amazing, though Moses is probably marginally better in a 3-5-2.

Midfield is interesting – Lampard only scored 8 goals that season, but him and Petit were very accomplished. Kante and Fabregas are probably stronger, given Petit was on the wane, but again, it is by no means clear cut. The front three creates a real dilemma – Zola, Eidur and Jimmy is one of my all-time strike forces. They didn’t play together that often, with Eidur coming off the bench, but they were a wonderful mix of skill, power and craft. Given how average Morata has been this year, you’re left looking at Willian and Hazard from the current team and while probably both better players individually than Hasslebaink and Eidur, there is not much in it comparing both front 3’s.

What is the point of all this? Well, in 02/03 season, Chelsea snuck in to the top four by beating Liverpool on the last day of the season and had a couple of decent cup runs. After 15 years of Abramovich it is interesting to be in a position where, even with the huge amount of investment we’ve had, the club are still in the same place – struggling to get into the top 4, having a decent effort in the cup competitions and likely not to go that far in Europe (albeit in the Champ League this time).

So, Chelsea, like many clubs, go in cycles. This season, we’re in a similar positon to where we were 15 years ago and I am sure with some more investment and building with a committed manager next year, we’ll improve and have a go at the league title, but it is interesting how many similarities there are individually and as a team between the pre Abramovic team and the current one.

It’s the same as before, but different.

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