When football clubs create problems of their own making… and then won’t ever back down.

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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10 Replies to “When football clubs create problems of their own making… and then won’t ever back down.”

  1. Tony
    You’re like a kid picking away at a scab: you know it’s not good for you and might fester into something unpleasant, but you just can’t resist the temptation to self harm.

  2. I must say I have some sympathy with the Man City officials in attempting to bar what was probably a host of Millwall fans. They were always a frightening lot as Arsenal found out during visits to the Den. 😉

  3. have we missed the forward signing?

    Takuma Asano. Young Japanese forward.

  4. With regards to FFP and Child Trafficking, it’s difficult to conclude who is right and who is wrong, when both EUFA and FIFA are so openly corrupt. Both “laws” are open to interpretation, depending on which football body is acting upon it at any one time.

    With regards to the Millwall fans, well, it’s probably just a normal daily exercise for a club with few morals, and ownership by a group that just don’t understand football in theis country.

  5. Norman
    In regards to ffp both man city and psg got heavy fines so I think it’s fair to say they were wrong.
    As for child trafficking time will tell for man city.

  6. Full details of the complaint here: http://www.theifo.co.uk/adjudications/IFO%201604.pdf

    For once, I think City have cocked up badly here and the subsequent responses to the complaint left a hell of a lot to be desired. I’m not sure it can be put down to the poster’s view that it’s down to “ownership by a group that just don’t understand football in this country.” though. It’s very unlikely that this complaint would’ve been handled by the likes of Ferran Soriano or Khaldoon Al Mubarak, and certainly not by MCFC’s owner as he isn’t involved in the day to day running of the club. In fact the IFO link I’ve posted stated that City’s director of sales and operations was consulted during the complaint. This is a guy called Danny Wilson and he’s generally considered to be a decent sort amongst our fans. However, the IFO goes on to state that the ultimate responsibility lay with the club’s safety officer – a man called Steve McGrath and believe me he’s an utter arsehole when it comes to issues like this. He banned a mate of mine for 12 months for a pretty innocuous offence (innocuous enough for the police to let him off by the way), and was completely adamant in his decision to uphold the ban when my mate tried to appeal against it. So in answer to the poster above, I actually hope the hierarchy at the club read the riot act to the Safety Officer and at the same time roll out the red carpet for the 4 Millwall fans if they decide to take up the offer of the complimentary tickets. Oddly enough, just a few days earlier the club sold hundreds of tickets in the home end to Borussia Moenchengladbach fans for our home Champions League game, many of which were situated in the liveliest part of the ground so to refuse entry to 4 Millwall fans who by all accounts were as far removed from “Harry The Dog” as you can possibly get makes it even more bizarre.

    Incidentally Tony, it’s nice to see you finally acknowledge the sterling work of the Football Supporters Federation (a group I’m affiliated to) as I seem to remember you being overly critical of them in the past when they were campaigning to bring ticket prices down. It’s good to have you onside at last.

  7. Judging a book by its cover can bite you in the bum. I still enjoy watching the Susan Boyle audition & Simon Cowell’s face. They both made a lot of money from it even though he was an utter idiot initially.

    I must, however, stand beside the Millwall fans. Not all of them are hooligans. I went to Millwall several times in the late 60s & enjoyed the football & the hospitality of the fans. I had already pinned my support to the Arsenal mast but that didn’t stop me enjoying good football at other stadia. I suppose wearing neutral clothing helps to prevent club prejudice.

  8. M18CTID,
    Thanks, that read well and was clear.
    I haven’t been to a game since the 70s, when one shoved through a turnstile for 20p but i expect that these days you get some kind of receipt referring to conditions of entry etc and within those terms and conditions is probably mention of the management’s right to refuse entry for any reason; what I find strange in the whole affair is that this McGrath clown felt it necessary to concoct the police excuse rather than just refuse entry and have done with it.
    But then, that is how bullies in authority usually behave- displaying their cowardice in what they think is covert ways but which show them up for who they really are

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