By Tony Attwood
Football clubs as a basic starting point should surely set out to behave in the same way as any good and well run business. By which I mean that they should at one level treat those who attend the games as “customers” – worthy of the same level of service and good manners that customers would expect in any shop that wanted their trade.
Of course they also need to support those who follow the club as fans – but that should be an extra level on top of good customer service which should be the basic starting point.
And they should obey the laws of the land (which most don’t – certainly in regard to, for example, the conditions introduced by the Licensing Act 2003 Mandatory Licensing Conditions Order 2010. I’ve never been to a club that does abide by that regulation.)
But above all these should be the very basics. On top of that the clubs ought to abide by the regulations of football, including the Uefa FFP regulations and the Fifa anti-child trafficking regulations. Some clubs however act in a way that an outsider might think suggests that these clubs feel these rules don’t apply to them.
I’ve mentioned before Manchester C. in regards to both of these issues – and noted the levels of abuse received on this site because I dared to suggest that they might have been wrong in terms of their way of interpreting the FFP regs, and might have been running a bit close to the mark with the way they handled a recent transfer of an under age young man from Africa.
In both cases I not only got the sort of comments that gives toxic rhetoric a bad name, but also the propogation of the argument that because (it was alleged) Arsenal had done it I was wrong in some regard to call out Manchester C. I am not sure I follow that argument.
Anyway they appear to have been at it again.
This case relates to Millwall supporters who had gone to the north west last year to see Millwall play Oldham. The game was postponed due to bad weather. So the Millwall fans went to the Etihad, where Manchester C were playing Swansea, and where unlike Arsenal tickets are often to be had through official channels, by turning up on the day.
However when buying tickets it appeared that the official ticket seller realised they were Millwall fans and they were then refused entry on the grounds that they were Millwall fans. Then, when the fans complained the Manchester C staff claimed that they were only acting under police advice.
This, it later turned out was a complete lie although it took the Millwall fans quite a while to establish the fact with Manchester C officials becoming adamant that it was indeed the police who had stopped the fans entering the ground.
Ultimately they had to get a Freedom of Information request that revealed no such police advice was given. Now of course no club can ever ensure that its sales people and gate keepers are honourable decent chaps who don’t make mistakes, but the fact that the “it was the police” story continued after the event suggests that either there is something wrong with the chain of command inside the club, or else that a willingness to lie that goes all the way through the club to the upper administrative levels.
By which I mean that if it had been my company to which a complaint had been made, and had I been told “it was the police what told us not to do it” I would have asked for details and checked with the police that I had a clear and complete defence, when questions started being raised. For no one in the club to do this all the way through, so that the truth only emerged via the Freedom of Information request, suggests a culture which is not quite what one would wish for in any company.
Here is what the Freedom of Information office in the person of Professor Derek Fraser said…
“…the Club’s handling of the complaint could have been much better. A simple ‘sorry’ for what happened might well have concluded this whole saga at an early stage. However, the Club’s letter of 19 February left a lot to be desired.
“Not only was it wrong in attributing the refusal of entry to police advice, a position which was maintained until the police’s reply to the Freedom of information request, it was curt in its peremptory dismissal of the complaint, which led to its escalation to the Premier League.”
Thus the case continued all the way through with the club standing by its basic lie that the police done it. As a result the case became one of the longest complaints of this type ever dealt with.
The heroes of the hour were not just the Millwall fans who would not let go, but also the Football Fans Federation who took up their case against Manchester C. I wonder how many more scrapes with legal and regulatory arrangements Manchester C are going to have before they start to realise that maybe going by the rule book is the better option.
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- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
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