Everything that is wrong with football – in a magazine
Gone are the terraces, full 3pm programmes and seeing the blindingly pure green grass of a football pitch for a season without taking out a small loan.
As we are thrown deeper into a third decade of Sky TV dominance, the gulf between our sense of what football is now and what it once was is widening.
To remind us of what we are supposedly missing, a group of three traditional enthusiasts have combined to provide a platform for writers to reminisce, debate and rally others to ‘bring football back to the people’.
‘Stand Against Modern Football’, at this very early stage, is a printed fanzine filled with articles discussing the injustices of the game today. Co-creators Daniel Sandison, Seb White and Mark Smith decided it was time to organise people’s nationwide dismay into a free-for-all, independent magazine.
Sound like a bunch of ageing supporters using cyberspace to scratch their pessimistic itch? Wrong. Sandison was two-years-old when Gazza wept in Turin, and strongly believes that the traditional values of football are deliberately being abandoned for monetary advantages, making the modern club A and the ardent fan Z.
Yes, we’ve heard this before – whether in the pub, in the stands or from your nostalgic great uncle who routinely tells you he worked in the same factory as that First Division footballer.
But these views are rarely broadcasted further than drivel after a few too many pints, something the Stand AMF fanzine seeks to correct.
“There’s an element of looking back to see how other generations enjoyed watching football, and comparing it to how kids enjoy it today, it’s a completely different experience,” said Sandison.
“As football becomes more widely available in terms of both foreign influence and ownership, it becomes watered down and shipped away from original fans.”
So is it mere nostalgia, or do these campaigners really hold a relevant point? Both would be the answer. One of their main qualms is the ticket pricing, sprinting far ahead of the rate of inflation for the past two decades.
“Our ethos stems from money a lot of the time; people don’t get a chance to watch their team because of the prices or the way tickets are distributed.”
Sandison, a Liverpool supporter, believes that fans are being left behind as clubs opt for commercial benefits over ‘priority’ sales to their most fervent support.
Liverpool are certainly not the only club to favour their business partners over their fans in this way, with most British clubs competing in Europe offering the package deal with companies such as Thomas Cook as a more expensive but ‘easy way out’ for supporters without priority.
Tickets are one thing, while the examples of supporter ownership and decision making at AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester holding great importance for their campaign.
And a flick through the first fanzine, released in August, tells you more. The less important aspects of football; half and half scarfs and the Sky Sport News transfer window touch-screen are viewed as unwanted by-products of the modern game.
But discussions on the real issues are submerged. The support for Cardiff to remain blue, the hostility towards nondescript, corporate stadia and giving a volume to the loud yet un-heard Blackburn Rovers supporters’ opposition to the Venky’s are all prime examples of where they believe football is betraying it’s disciples.
This week, as non-league Kettering Town and Truro City look dangerously close to joining the growing list of British clubs resting in peace, fan power and awareness of how clubs are run seems to be at an all-time low.
But when searching for solutions, results bring up very little. Even supporters clubs are found themselves muted, desperate to be heard on a larger scale.
“There are vast swathes of people who are happy with modern football exactly as it is, but we want to highlight the plight of certain clubs, raise concerns and provide a basis for the minority,” added Sandison.
He makes a worthy point – there are plenty who praise the modernity of football, from the vastness of media coverage right down to the perfection of modern playing surfaces.
“It’s not about getting teary eyed over traditional football; we’re all for promoting a medium where you bring together the best things about football from then and now.
“But giving fans a voice is the number one priority.”
The examples of Rangers and Portsmouth supporters feeling inept at the hands of destructive businessmen provide a timely reminder of the need for this voice. Respect warrants respect.
Nigel Tressiden, Portsmouth Supporter’s Club central branch chairman, believes giving fans a voice, whether if effects proceedings behind the scenes or not, scratches the itch.
“All fans want to get a their views out, we did not have the opportunity to voice our opinions in the right direction because people did not publicly unveil problems.
“All of a sudden we went into big trouble and we didn’t know until we turned on Sky Sports News.
“Even if we couldn’t change anything, we could have looked at the situation in detail, and seen if we could dive in to help or even prepare ourselves for the fall. It shocked us all.”
And it’s not just the upper realms of the English football system that want more vocal clout, with non-league clubs benefiting from this democratic recipe.
Jon Ward, vice chairman at fan-owned AFC Rushden and Diamonds, saw the speedy demise of his club through the satisfaction of vented anger, something he holds in high regard.
“It’s always good to vent some frustration, whether it really gets through to the owners or not. But having a voice could have had more of an effect on what happened [at Rushden and Diamonds FC],” he said.
“Fanzines like this offer that on a national scale rather than the bubble of your local club, where you and only you know what is happening at your club.”
The message here is clear. Give fans a platform, a voice, whatever it may be, and they will at least take more satisfaction from being in the know.
But solving the problem is far off – Stand AMF is currently 24-page magazine available for £2. The English football system is a multi-billion pound industry.
But the little man is at least making some noise, and has the potential to gain enough momentum to make at least some change to the way clubs deal with fans.football, Portsmouth, Rangers, Sky Sports
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