Is there no end to the stupidity of club owners?

By Tony Attwood

The way football club owners operate never ceases to amaze me.  I had my rant about the lack of support for the Arsenal Fanshare scheme from the two largest shareholders, over the weekend (still no formal communication from them unfortunately), and going back to the end of last season I ventured to make a point about how Arsenal had so far failed to deal with the Merseyside habit of letting off flares and smoke bombs, and the blocking the access of stewards into the crowd, when they do so.  Also I noted in passing the behaviour of Tottenham fans in throwing objects at ambulance men during the derby last season.

But of course this is just the stuff that gets me worked up at Arsenal.  Go elsewhere and you get the same sort of thing.

Here’s one that came up today.

Port Vale fans who forked out large sums of money so that they could go to every home game for free for the rest of their lives, have been told by the new club owners that the deal will not be honoured.

The number of fans who bought life time season tickets was small – 14 is the number I have seen reported.  They paid between £1500 and £8000 for the privilege of watching their team – a team that was formed ten years before Arsenal, and joined the football league one year ahead of Arsenal.

They have won the third division north twice, and the fourth division once.  They have once appeared in the FA Cup semi-final.

So they are the sort of team that people give their hearts, souls and lives to – not because they are going to see championships, European games and cup finals, but because it is their team.

Thus 14 people get free entry to Port Vale games.  And because the club has gone into administration and a new club is formed, the new owners think it is clever to say to these people – tough, you have to pay now.  True, they have kept the scheme running for two years, but now that is it.  Half price for this season, then no more.

(Personally I think the fans ought to turn around and say to the directors, “no – first off you pay to come into the games – then we’ll pay”

Of course Port Vale need every penny they can get – but even so – the sheer stupidity of alienating a tiny group of your most dedicated fans seems beyond belief.  Or it would be if it were not football.  Yes these people have had the season tickets since 2005, so have had some benefit from them.  But that is not the point.  It is the ill-will and bad publicity that can be generated by such events that worries me.

This is not the way to run a club.  Not at the level of Port Vale, nor at the level of any club. started its own campaign with its Editor Rob Fielding saying, “I am usually keen to back rather than bash Port Vale, but on such an emotive and controversial issue, I felt I had to take a stand. Port Vale FC tells us that we should be proud of our history.

“These 14 individuals, who put their hands in their pockets at our hour of need, should be honoured and celebrated, not treated in such a manner.   Charging these individuals will generate less than 1% of Vale’s overall season ticket revenue, but by doing so, the club stands a really good chance of upsetting a fair proportion of the other 99 per cent at the same time!”

I am not sure if something odd happens to otherwise sane men when they take over a football club, or whether you have to be mad in the first place to want to take over a club, but either way, craziness seems to be the result.

Of course us mere supporters can’t do much.  Drew and I will be off on our grand tour of small football grounds again this season, taking in local delights when there is no Arsenal game for us to go to.  And I just wish we might encourage others to do the same.  Just because it is not Arsenal doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable.

One can only hope that the behaviour of the owner at Arsenal and the owner at Port Vale shows other owners that really, taking notice of the fans, is not such a bad thing to do from time to time.

The books

14 Replies to “Is there no end to the stupidity of club owners?”

  1. Football is never going to be the people’s game ever again. Greed and mercenaries have taken over the game at all levels.

    The PL have destroyed the game as a sporting event with there insistence that everything has to be about money at the top of the game.

    We have a rich PL at the cost of the National team and national game even the grass roots is having funding cut left,right & center and facilities are terrible for most youngsters playing the game.

    Most of the players and people involved in the game these days are cheats and detestable people and unfortunately even our own club are party to this.

  2. If I were those people, I would immediately file legal action.

    At the same time, it would be a good idea to start a campaign against the new owner.

  3. The whole situation poses a interesting dilemma

    Once the company went into administration then I would have thought that all season ticket holders, including those that purchased lifetime season tickets, became un secured creditors as opposed to maintaining season ticketholder status and, as such, I think it could be argued that that these creditors were being treated preferentially something that is probably contrary to insolvency law and practise.

  4. I never cease to be amazed over the naivety of folk who express surprise at the sharp practice and chicanery displayed in the governance of professional football clubs, in this day and age.
    From the days of commercial terrestrial and then global satellite TV (remember the “licence to print money”) the clubs joined the ranks of big business, with all the associated con-artistry used in order to make money.
    While ticket prices, shirt issues and captive catering are, of necessity, legitimate sources of income in order to progress the life of a club, the ugly side of big business has escalated these costs far above a reasonable level.
    The most loyal of supporters of clubs in the lower divisions, often from generations ago, are being milked in every way possible in order to generate income.
    What makes it sadly worse is that many of the Big Clubs have waiting lists of many thousands for season tickets, resulting in no real incentive to lower ticket prices.
    And the issue of newly designed club shirts EVERY season is IMO, an absolute con.
    I am convinced that with transfer fees (and wages) increasing at a quite obscene level every Window, the eventual solution will have to be some form of capping on these two costs, otherwise the bubble of this most followed of sports will burst in the most calamitous of circumstances.

  5. Zoon

    I never have felt any more or any less a part of my Club than I do now.

    Nothing I said of felt back in the day made any difference to how my Club was run. In fact, with all the social media and lines of communications now available I would contest there is in fact far more chance of influencing the club, and how certain things are done, than there ever was.

    I certainly don’t think that standing in my own piss and getting socking wet on a regular basis, as I often did, got me any closer to the Club than I am now.

    Yes, some of the things influenced by the money are distasteful, but many things have improved immeasurably.

  6. Mike T – correct. The buying of lifetime tickets are only for the life of the owning company. However, the new company uses all the historical information and retains trophies etc. This should ‘morally’ include any ‘football’ liabilities such as the lifetime season tickets. If the new company does not have rights to historical glory data then it is fair for not honouring life season tickets.

    This is a case for the court of arbitration for sport.

  7. Speaking as a native of the area, I’m not surprised that Flamini comes closer to sounding like a New Yorker or a New Jerseyan than the rest. After all, his passport may say he’s French, but his name says he’s Italian.

    But the new Port Vale owners should be giving the established fans all the respect they can deliver, not screwing them over like this.

  8. I think the current football affairs is not spoiled by money. It’s the people actually who lack intelligence and moral values. Look at Arsenal. Money, intelligence and moral values combined and built the club to where it is right now. Wenger himself said when you give money and success to stupid people, they become more stupid sometimes. I guess that’s why Mourinho gonna hate him forever. Deservingly though. There is no respect for money at all. The type of money earned from hard sweat, spilled blood and endless humiliation. Not easy, tainted and corrupt money. Now we all are witnessing a whole new level of evil in people when the going gets tough. A huge ‘salute’ to the media for lying and corrupting the mind of future generations. Hope it comes back and bites them in the arse.

  9. @Menace

    Your comment opens up a whole new debate.

    For me football shouldn’t operate in a bubble it should adhere to the same process that every other business in the land has to comply with
    A failing club shouldn’t be able to schedule football debts in preference to the priority other companies suffering an insolvency event have to.
    For instance why should any sum still payable in respect of a transfer fee be paid in preference to say a bill to one man band that supplied bread to the club or even worse, as was the case at Portsmouth, St Johns Ambulance.
    I used to read a blog written by an academic called John Beech who, ironically was a Pompey supporter, he had strong views about points deduction following an insolvency event but for me if any football governing body is serious about FFP the punishment for entering such an event (liquidation, Administration, CVA etc) shouldn’t be restricted to a 10 point deduction the penalty should be expulsion from the league they are in and an automatic relegation of at least another 4 levels.
    Draconian ? Very much a 10 point deduction really isn’t of a penalty for shafting non football creditors

    I guess we are where we are but this sort of issue isn’t within the remit of CAS its a civil matter and in truth I doubt that any of the disadvantaged season ticket holders stand any chance of winning if they were to take the matter to law as their commercial contract was with as you say, failed entity

  10. hmm.. interesting how this entire post and its comments don’t mention blackpool who don’t seem to have a first team yet let alone subs and reserves.

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