Last week’s open letter was addressed to three groups of people. The Club, our Supporters’ Liaison Officers and the supporters’ club. Of the three, I suppose, I least expected a response from the club. Although Jonathan Jackson’s response fell short of what anyone’s who has chosen not to travel to Leeds on Boxing Day would like, it was a full and proper response which recognised the issue and offered sympathy for those who have decided to do something about it.
I’ve also had a response from one of the SLOs. Perhaps understandably, as effectively a club employee, he didn’t feel he could make an official comment, but stated his support for the 20’sPlenty campaign. All welcome and positive stuff.
As yet, I haven’t received a formal response to my letter from the third set of addressees. Naively, I thought the supporters’ cloud would be the first to reply and, given that they’re the only constituted fan organisation at Wigan Athletic, the most likely to get behind those fans who have chosen not to attend the game. Admittedly, they’ve now recognised your efforts on their website, but it’s not clear whether this article is a response to my letter. In the absence of anything else, I suppose it will have to do.
Before I go on to the main issues, I think there’s a couple of points I should make.
Firstly, I’m not OUTRAGED. if I was going to sum my feelings about the cost of football up in one emotion, I’d probably say I was depressed. In reality, things are a bit more complicated but the one thing I’ve been frantically trying to avoid since last Wednesday is getting pigeonholed as Mr ’Outraged of Orrell’, a lone crank banging on about something like a middle-class NIMBY in Points of View.
This isn’t about me. I didn’t start this. I’m not the only person encouraging people not to attend. I’m just the only one with ready access to a website that’s got an open enough content policy and nothing to lose by upsetting people. All I was doing with that initial article and the subsequent open letter was corralling a view that was spreading amongst Latics fans and trying to give those fans a voice outside of their Twitter stream, Facebook page or front room. I’m not petitioning anyone just trying to show people that there’s a way other than blindly coughing up, quietly mumbling something about not being able to spare the cash or hiding behind the ’picking and choosing’ excuse.
It’s clear from the Supporters Club article that they do not support those fans choosing not to go to Leeds. They say they respect people’s choice whether to attend or not but is that enough for an organisation that presumably purports to act in the interests of all Latics fans? What about a statement that it is wrong to charge these sorts of prices for a football match, what about an offer to contact Leeds United fans groups on your behalf to explain your issues and why you have chosen not to attend.
They tell us that there is evidence boycotts don’t ever succeed, and given they could do offer those two elements of support without disrespecting anyone who is choosing to attend the game, this must be there main reason for not offering to act and speak on your behalf. I happen to believe that affirmative, collective action can bring success, but of course that answer is debatable.
At some point, the conversation about this game will turn to numbers. How many of those 500 tickets were sold or how many were sold on top. That conversation will try to avoid the less black and white issue of how many people might have gone if the game had been more affordable, or for that matter, if football was generally more affordable. I don’t particularly like the word boycott, mainly because it masks the truth that many people chose not to attend ridiculously priced football matches every week, but if it takes calling those choices a boycott to get it noticed then so be it. What’s in a name, eh?
But what are we trying to achieve here? Does anyone who is choosing not to go to Leeds expect clubs will suddenly revise their ticketing policies? I don’t, and I’m fairly sure no one else does. But we want to make a point, we want people to take notice and think about it. It’s hard to say that we aren’t achieving that. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that what’s happened over the last few days doesn’t constitute success then you’re a hard face bugger. Try these for starters;
- Generated significant debate amongst Latics fans about the issue of spiralling ticket prices
- Escalated that debate to both regional and national media
- Gathered support from all across football and beyond
- Obtained a statement of support for the notion of affordable football from our club
- Demonstrated, yet again, that Latics fans are capable of uniting in collective action behind an issue when it matters
- Raised over £750 (and rising) for a charity supporting people who couldn’t even consider the question of what’s an affordable price to watch a football match
But we shouldn’t sit back on our laurels. There are nearly two weeks to go until the game and we need to make sure that the issue doesn’t fall away from view. Keep talking about it, keep making the point that even with the players’ subsidy, Leeds are still getting around 100% more from each attendee at that game than they did ten years ago and that is just not acceptable. And above all #justsayno
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