I've considered writing about my own football complaints for some time, but then my 'glass half-full' attitude has always talked me out of it. Well not any more. There's no point in ignoring what is wrong, we should moan about it, otherwise how is anything ever supposed to improve? I expect that this article will contain many of your own issues with football, so let's take the opportunity to vent in a cathartic manner, and then maybe we can help to save football from itself!
Fans that miss the 2nd half kick-off or leave before the final whistle
Okay, let me clarify for those doubters. Unless you, someone nearby, or a loved one are suffering from a medical emergency, your obligation is to support your team. Forgive me for the sweeping generalisation that I'm about to make; but fans being slow to re-emerge from half-time or too eager to leave before full-time, tend to be a more of a problem at top flight teams. It's therefore quite easy to make the connection between extortionate ticket prices and fair weather fans. With the suspicion that there are a significant minority of 'supporters' turning up at certain clubs for the experience, rather than as someone genuinely invested in the football.
Fair enough, we can't be naive about it, football is big business and we've seen how the biggest clubs have been tapping into the markets of the Far East in recent years. I'm not saying that we should discourage people who want to watch a one-off game, but we should encourage them to embrace the whole experience. For example, maybe clubs could shut their food and drink stalls 2 minutes before the end of half-time, it would help to emphasise that the game is of most importance, rather than maximising profits and greed.
That being said, the bigger issue contributing to this is...
Monopoly of corporate tickets
Ever since the new Wembley Stadium opened, football fans have resigned themselves to watching their team on the TV whilst witnessing the absence of the middle tier. It has become a site that you can rely upon, whether it's the FA Cup, League Cup or England, when the 2nd half begins there will be hundreds of empty seats in the 'Club Wembley' sections. Meanwhile, ticket allocations in an FA cup final for proper fans rose last season to 28,780 per club, a welcome increase on the previous 25,500 but still not enough.
The pattern is similar with the Champions League. The San Siro hosted Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid in the most recent final back in May, but out of a capacity of 71,500 the Spanish clubs received just 20,000 each for their fans. Uefa should be embarrassed but clearly they aren't. I'm not foolish, of course there will always be tickets tied up with corporate sponsorship, one of the little perks that help to facilitate income from advertising etc. However, football is the monolith of global sport because of the fans, and without them the whole thing collapses. So surely these are the people that should be most represented at the showpiece events?
Cost of general tickets and refreshments
A common complaint of the modern football-watching experience, is the inflated cost of tickets, followed by that of food and drinks. I'm all too aware of this when it comes to watching my team Arsenal. Whilst I'd love to go to all of their games, money does dictate your decision-making and it's difficult to justify spending £90 to see them playing Liverpool for example. By the time you throw in travel expenses, getting a programme and the aforementioned sustenance, the overall cost is pretty criminal.
The next home league game at Asburton Grove is versus Middlesbrough. As it stands I can get a ticket for £30.50, which is far, far more reasonable. Yes there are tiers of tickets, and that is pretty much the cheapest, whilst the £90 for Liverpool was in a more desirable part of the stadium. But my point is that there should be a cap on ticket prices for home fans, as well as the one introduced for away fans this season. Premier League clubs are making a monumental fortune from their TV deals with Sky, BT and overseas providers, and the real fans that make the effort to watch their team in person are left with little reward for their support.
As for refreshments, needless to say that the price of a beer and a pie is an extra insult on top of that of getting into the game. And it doesn't have to be this way. Take Borussia Dortmund, if you want to watch them take on 1. FC Union Berlin in the Bundesliga on October 26th, it's possible to get a standing ticket for €16.70 (roughly £15!). Fancy sitting instead? Well there are tickets available for €31.20 (roughly £28).
Half and half merchandise
We've all seen them over the last few years, you make your way to a game and there's someone selling a scarf that's split between your team and their opponents that day. It usually includes the date and acts as a commemorative memento of a random fixture, except it doesn't. Instead it is the most cynical, consumerist, one-off piece of merchandise that you can buy. Why on earth do you want a scarf, or worse still a shirt that contains the colours and represents a team that you have no affiliation with?
These have been widely condemned and so they should be, but clearly there are some fans buying them, because they are still being produced. We could mostly blame their purchasing on tourists who are there just to enjoy the game, with no vested interest in either team, but whoever's encouraging this they need to stop! FFS buy a programme, that's a proper keepsake for the game you're at.
Corruption & disastrous owners
There isn't enough time and space for this post to discuss the various money scandals within FIFA and UEFA, but I'm sure it's a topic that 90minutesonline will be forced to address again in future. Likewise when it comes to 'bungs', an issue that in light of recent allegations from The Telegraph, is still a problem in English football and probably rampant in other leagues with less stringent codes of conduct. In short, the sport has to get past the belief that it is whiter than white. We may want to believe that George Graham was the last manager to receive an 'unsolicited gift' as part of a transfer, but the truth is that football has marginalised rather than eradicated such practices.
When it comes to ownership, the 'fit and proper' persons test is clearly not as thorough as it should be. Take Massimo Cellino at Leeds United, Karl Oyston at Blackpool or Sisu at Coventry City. The football league is riddled with fans protesting against their clubs being expertly managed to oblivion, and yet the FA appear powerless to intervene or do anything constructive.
Fan ownership should be encouraged, as long as it can stand up to scrutiny, and any individual, company and consortium should have to adhere to some basic principles when opting to purchase a football club. These institutions are not like any old business, they form an integral part of communities and their psyche, so it cannot be right for ill-qualified owners to drive them into receivership and liquidation.
This isn't a comprehensive list of football flaws, but then we've covered others in the past, such as diving and hooliganism. But if you agree or disagree with this list, or can think of some others to add, then get it off your chest and let us know via our Facebook and twitter pages. To paraphrase the late, great Bob Hoskins, it's good to talk, even if we're moaning about the game that we love!