Go to football club and you will find people who complain. They complain about the price of beer, the quality of the food, the action of the stewards inside the ground, the attitude of the police, the incompetence of the box office…
Over the years I have found football clubs to be among the most awful of business organisations, relying on my desire to give them money rather than any notion that they were providing a service.
If you want to know about the contempt with which clubs can regard the paying customer, just go back to the Bradford fire, caused by masses of rubbish that was packed under the seats of the main stand being ignited. It is not so much that no one ever bothered to think, “oh this might be a problem”, it is more that a review of football grounds that many of us footballing nerds tend to buy, pointed out the danger years before. It was public knowledge. Nothing was done, the fans’ safety was not considered, and disaster struck.
Last season I was moved to make a complaint to a local authority health and safety department regarding a football match. It was the pre-season friendly at Barnet, where the arrangements for fans to leave the main stand were insane, and could easily have led to disaster. The officials at the Authority listened and took notes. Whether they have done anything about it will be revealed at this season’s friendly.
Quite often the issues are on a much smaller scale – trivial in comparison with the issues of safety at football grounds. Things like getting answers to questions, getting hold of tickets and so on.
Last season the issuing of membership was an utter disaster at Arsenal. There was delay upon delay at getting memberships out to fans and at the first league game of the season there were fans queuing half way round the ground to pick up membership cards for which they had paid a thousand pounds or more for, months before.
My own memberships were no problem, but the Junior Gunner memberships I took out for my twin grandsons (watch out for them as future mascots, they look amazing together in their kit) failed to arrive. I phoned the club four times and sent three emails. There was no reply to any email, and each time I got through on the phone I was given a different story. They were out this week. They would be out in a month. They were sent last week – give it another week. In the end the membership packs (complete with Gunnersaurus) turned up three months late. It was atrocious, given that I was setting up what I hope will be a lifetime’s support for the boys. I was marketing Arsenal, paying to do it, and being treated with contempt.
But, this year, I think they have sorted things out. I might be tempting fate, but it looks that way.
I want to renew my two season tickets (obviously) but I also want to change the seats and move elsewhere in the stadium. A special system has been set up to do just that, complete with one’s chances of getting the change one wants. It’s neat and straightforward.
I had a particular query, so sent back and email, and got a reply that day.
In went the forms, but then I got a notice, as everyone got, telling me that the renewal deadline was only a few days away. I emailed back saying, “does this mean you didn’t get my renewal notice?”
Within a few hours, a reply which politely pointed out that I was a total drongo because I had not told them my membership numbers so they couldn’t check my situation. (Actually they were very polite). I told them, and next morning there was the notice saying they had got my forms, and would try and reseat me, once all the renewals were in.
OK its not 100% but compared with last year its a bloody miracle. Well done to Arsenal Independent Supporters Association who took up complaints about admin with the club a while back, and well done to Arsenal FC for getting it right. Yes, they should have got it right before, yes it should be perfect now, but nevertheless this is a welcome improvement.
Compare and contrast with Man U, and the way they are handling the green and pink (or whatever the colours are) affair of rebelling supporters. Life long steward removed from his job for handing a banner back to a supporter at the end of the game… not very good PR.
But best of all, compare and contrast Arsenal with Walsall. OK not a major club, but I keep an eye on them ever since Paul Merson was there.
The Chief executive Roy Whalley announced that he was banning all banner-waving protesters. He’s annoyed that the chairman Jeff Bonser has critics and he wants them shut up.
Whalley accused fans of “trying to destroy the club”, through their protest. And so he invoked what he claims are Football League ground regulations to ban these fans from the ground. He said, “The people who were involved will not be coming in to the match on Saturday. They will be banned until further notice. It’s against ground regulations and we’re not prepared to sit back and allow it to happen. We have pictures of those who were involved.
“They want to stop and think about what they are trying to do. They are damaging the club and putting off good supporters.
“When you have people who do not want to listen it’s as if they have a hidden agenda. If we let them do what they want they will destroy the club and drive people away. They will not be allowed in! That type of behaviour is inciteful and is against ground regulations!”
That will teach them to beat us in the FA Cup in 1933.
Editor’s note: I am going away for a few days, and Walter has very kindly agreed to take over the operation of the site during my time away – for which I am extremely grateful. If you have an article to submit for the next week please email email@example.com (and not as I stupidly put last time. I really must try and get this stuff right. I think its an age thing).
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