Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Why I Choose Oxford Over the Premier League

The Premier League has lost the plot!  Every season and every transfer window the money thrown around is staggering. In one transfer alone Tottenham would receive £105m for Gareth Bale if he decided to leave for La Liga top boys Real Madrid. In another potential transfer Barcelona would receive £35m from Manchester United for midfielder Cesc Fabregas and in the last that sticks out is the Suarez debacle where Liverpool could be set to receive a minimum of £40m and £1 if the transfer goes ahead. Thats £180m for three human beings who, let's face it, kick a ball around for a minimum of 90 minutes - albeit with a lot of skill! It's also more than the market value combined of the goods produced by the UN's 10 poorest countries in a year!

The point I'm trying to get at is that the Premier League has not only become obsessed by money and making the biggest signings possible, but it has also lost touch with in my mind the most important thing in the game: the fans. I have been to quite a few Premier League grounds in my time; St James' Park, the Stadium of Light, the Riverside Stadium, Old Trafford,  White Hart Lane to name a few. The thing that strikes me the most when you are at these grounds is the fact that you don't feel like a fan but more of a customer.

I don't get that feeling when I go to the Kassam Stadium. Yes, we don't own it and yes we resent spending money on a beer or a cup of tea or coffee because it lines the pocket of our once self-centred chairman, but to me whenever I go I still feel like part of the club and that I am appreciated by the club and the players for taking the time to be there. We are quite fortunate to have a dedicated area of the club which deals with working with the community and we have a good supporters trust in OxVox.

After doing an admittedly quick bit of research on the internet I could find just a handful of Premier League clubs that have a supporters trust (Manchester United, Swansea, Tottenham and Arsenal ). I'm sure a more detailed search would find that most have one and so they should! With the average ticket price for a Premier League game last season being nearly £30, fans of these Premier League clubs need these supporters trusts like our own to fight their cases when it comes to such matters as this. Only recently in May a number of members from their respective club supporters trusts met to discuss the ongoing issues of Premier League clubs distance from the fans. This culminated in a letter written to the Premier League expressing their dissatisfaction at the price of tickets within the league. 

The situation lower down the leagues provides a total contrast. For example, Brentford FC were one of a number of lower league clubs last year who offered fans a pay-what-you-like initiative for one their League One matches. This says to me the club cares about the fans. They were giving them a chance to come to a game even if they only had 10p to their name. I couldn't ever imagine Arsenal doing that at the Emirates! 

Closer to home at Oxford United there has always been a sense of togetherness. There are often hash tags such as #OUFCfamily flying around on Twitter and I've always felt the  fans are important to the club. In recent seasons initiatives such as Ultimate Support Saturday and Ultimate Support away days have been introduced hoping to attract more fans to come along and create the best atmosphere possible. We have the 12th Man scheme which is a fan-run project to help the  club raise much needed funds to help sign players on a permanent and loan basis. The club has supported this by retiring the number 12 shirt from the squad and giving any help it can. Other recent ways of involving the fans have come in the form of the club's recent "United We Stand" season ticket campaign providing fans the chance to renew season tickets at reduced prices and offering other fan incentives such as savings on the club's Yellow Player media service and the chance to attend an open first team training session to see what goes on. 

But perhaps most important is the formation of the Yellow Army which is the coming together of OxVox, The 12th Man group, the team behind the Ultimate Support days and the Ultras to enhance the matchday experience and the overall atmosphere around the club. These schemes are without doubt a good way to help improve the day-to-day fan feel part of the club and help us feel needed by the people we sometimes might not. Right now, the sense of togetherness around the place is palpable.

The fans will always pay money to go and see their football team play no matter how much it is, but that doesn't mean the clubs should charge what they want, with the price of some Premier League tickets being as much as £126 those teams run a real risk of losing the most important people at the club, the fans!

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Great article mate, fully agree.

The Premier League is a mess and the FA have let it happen because everything is too focused around money now. Fans not customers!

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