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Financial Appeal

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We want our football back

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I’ve not been to many United games and my Dad’s stories of how he and my Granddad used to go to have season tickets seems plainly absurd, with the cheapest United season ticket setting you back £532. Like me, my Dad and Granddad must have been to less than a game a season since the inception of the Premier League, and the perpetual gargantuan leaps in ticket prices that have come with it. On Thursday, around one hundred and fifty football fans, some traveling from as far as Newcastle, gathered at Marble Arch for the ‘Affordable Football for All March’ to the Premier League Headquarters to protest the seemingly never ending rise in ticket prices that threaten to lock working class people out of the game they hold so dear.

As the rain fell hard, the mood was buoyant. Putting club allegiances aside, it was the Liverpool fans (closely followed by the Geordies) who provided the largest turnout, something which stands as a testament to how they, in spite of their various owners’ mismanagement of the club, have retained some semblance of a much eulogised ‘club community’. The march was overwhelmingly male, white, and middle aged, and as far as I could tell, I was the youngest person there who wasn’t with their parents. While all speeches paid testament to the increasing diversification of football supporters, this just didn’t manifest itself on the march, something the supporter’s clubs really need to work on.

On the march I encountered the same ‘Football Against Apartheid’ banners I’d seen on previous Gaza demonstrations. I spoke to John, an Arsenal fan and the founder of the initiative, and asked him why it was that he felt there needed to be a pro-Palestinian group that’s linked specifically to football. ‘Apartheid racism is the worst form of racism, and we get all this talk about silencing racism from fans, while at the same time the people implementing this are actively promoting the normalisation of an apartheid state.’ Football Against Apartheid is looking for people to help them on match days and in any other ways, they can be found here.

As many of the speakers pointed out, there is something unique about supporting football that makes its increasing inaccessibility unique. As football clubs become increasingly commercialised there is no such thing as a ‘competitor product’. Our clubs are part of our identities, with a football club owner inheriting a virtual monopoly on purchasing the club. One fan told of how increasing season ticket prices at Anfield meant he had to remortgage his house. These are the lengths working class people will go to to preserve one of the few aspects of their identity that remain after decades of neoliberal onslaught. The Premier League and its constituents’ indifference to the needs of their fans shows no sign of swaying and it falls to football supporters and their allies to stand up and be counted.

The march was organised by the Football Supporters’ Federation who can be found at http://www.fsf.org.uk

 

Sam Doherty blogs at Red All Over where this report first appeared.