There’s an interesting article in When Saturday Comes about the changing relationship the top clubs have with their fans in the light of the slew of foreign investors coming into the game. In short, billionaire investors don’t need fans because, a) they have their own money and, b) they have TV money. This means fans become detached customers with little or no engagement in the club, which, of course, makes it not a club at all.
For years my relationship with Oxford United has been pretty well defined. I am an Oxford fan exclusively. A season ticket holder for 12 years, a Manor Club member for years before that. I attend all home league games and a smattering of away games, I also attend FA and League Cup games.
I didn’t attend the LDV Vans/Sherpa Vans/Auto Windscreen/Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – a blue collar branding man’s dream. In part, this was a mild protest against the Kassam-era decline. Not an aggressive protest, I know, but then again I didn’t subscribe to the idea that he was dastardly and evil. I believe he genuinely thought he could apply his successful business philosophies to create a thriving football club. However, in fact he didn’t know what he was doing, became embittered by the backlash and under siege, simply focussed on what he knew he could do – make money from shrewd investments.
By not religiously going to every game, I preserved a degree of sanity. As a fan I don’t have the choices I have as a customer. In the 5 and a half years at the Kassam a vast majority of the games live little in the memory beyond a brisk walk up the Grenoble Road. Though there have been good games, the only two games I remember as being truly great was the Orient game and, for some reason, a ding-dong 3-2 win over Mansfield in 2001. I like being a fan and the restrictions it puts upon you, but I’m not so blinkered to see that two great games in 5 and a half years does not make a good product.
The FA Trophy is a new venture for the Us so I had to engage in some soul searching; was I customer or fan? After much debate with my inner-self I decided that although close, the Trophy appeals slightly more to my customer side and decided take a break from the all-consuming saga in the league. I’ll see you at the final.