Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Will Manchester United fans vote with their wallets?

The Times suggests that almost two-thirds of fans who hold Manchester United season tickets are considering not renewing next season. This is perhaps the biggest quantifiable indication yet of the disillusionment at the Glazer's ownership and mishandling of the club, and a warning sign that fan power could have a significant impact on the future of this grand old club. The question is though, when it comes to the crunch, will the fans have the balls to act?

This survey makes for intriguing reading, and mirrors the noises coming from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) who are spearheading the campaign to oust the Glazers. The green and gold movement has already shown in highly visible terms that the numbers of fans advocating the removal of the Glazers is growing by the day, and there must be concern in the power base of the club that this will start to hit home in real terms (namely financial ones) soon.

MUST today played down suggestions of a ten-minute boycott at the start of tonight's Champions League game against AC Milan, where it had been suggested that fans would be encouraged to miss the first ten minutes of the game in protest at the Glazers, but even if those fans did stage such a visual protest, they have still bought tickets for the match.

The only way that the Glazers will take the protests seriously is if revenues are hit substantially. This may prove the hardest step of all for United fans - they will have to make a very hard decision - continue to attend games and support the team they love, or boycott in order to save the club. In my humble view, the future of the club is the overarching issue, and while support for the team shouldn't be neglected, drastic axction needs to be taken.

I'll be surprised however, if attendances fall or if season ticket sales dwindle. Whatever happens, peope will always want to watch Manchester United play, and die-hard fans might find it just a little too hard to give up watching their beloved team week-in, week-out. It will be interesting to see how this saga develops, starting tonight, at the famous old stadium, against famous old European rivals, and welcoming a famous son back to his spiritual home. Will the fans have the nerve to stage their boycott? Once they smell the grass and they catch a glimpse of those two teams walking out to the Champions League music, I can be fairly sure there'll be bums on seats en masse. Perhaps the boycott can wait for another week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blatter and his Fifa colleagues are not fit to run football

This article will be short and unfortunately not so sweet as I only have one point to make, and I plan to make it as abruptly as possible.

Sepp Blatter and his cronies at the top of football's international heirarchy are no longer fit to represent the game and are damaging the credibility, integrity and long-term future of world football. For too long they have stood in the way of the reasonable evolution of the game and by dismissing the possiblity of any form of technology being used to assist referees in the future, they have once again shown us they are not fit to govern.

As Patrick Barclay points out in his ever-eloquent column in The Times, the level of debate on the matter appears to have been "staggeringly low". So low in fact, that there can be little doubt they were ever seriously considering the options.

The argument of football purists about the ebb and flow of the game, and the potential problems an appeals system could introduce could be overcome by limiting the use of any technology to an assistant with a monitor. With no influence from either team, and a simple responsiblity to inform the referee discreetly and promptly of any mis-directed officiating, the introduction of video refereeing could be an almost invisible addition and enhancement to the game. No fanfare required, no major overhaul of the way we play the game, just one guy with a montior and a radio-linkup to the man in the middle.

Personally I lost faith with the world governing body and it's suitability to run the game a long time ago - just about the time Sepp Blatter came to power in fact. Nothing has happened since to make me change my mind, and in fact my opinion of Fifa has only deteriorated over time. If there is someone within the ranks who can make a difference, they need to start making a stand now, before it really is too late. I genuinely fear for the future of this most beloved of sports while it is in the hands of Blatter and co., and I only hope that they aren't allowed to sabotage our game for much longer.