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Power To The People: Football Fans Vote With Their Feet at Premiership Matches

By John NicholsonWe don’t know always realise what power we have as consumers. Collectively we could bring massive institutions down with a few days. It just takes concerted action. For example, Google makes a fortune from its AdWords programme. You know how it works; Google gets money every time you click on an adword. And boy do they get a giant shed load of money.Now, here’s a radical idea. If you don’t click on the Adword link, and instead cut and paste the URL shown into your browser, you’ll go to the site anyway – but the advertiser won’t be charged by Google for the click.If everyone did this, within a couple of weeks, AdWords and by extension Google would crumble. Of course, it almost certainly won’t happen because not enough people will choose to do it all at the same time – but even someone as massive as Google can be brought down by collective action very quickly and easily, especially in this wear of instant communication.In football this is even truer and here’s the great thing. Fans collective action – although not premeditated or concerted, is nonetheless working to bring down the cost of going to the match.This week Blackburn Rovers announced that they would use their new TV windfall money next season to reduce ticket prices. Now, as I’ve been pointing out for the longest time, clubs like Blackburn are in the middle of a crisis of support – often being barely half full for a game, so it needed urgently addressing at Ewood Park.But they are not alone. With more seats empty than occupied for the last round of the FA Cup, the majority of clubs need to realise that they are not offering enough value for money, and fans will not return until they do. A combination of lower ticket prices for all games and more exciting football, especially for mid-table clubs for whom the season is all but over, in order to get fans into the grounds, is necessary and overdue.While the TV money will ensure a minimum of 30 million GBP next year to every EPL club, they shouldn’t be complacent. TV stations will not be prepared to pay so much in the future for games with no atmosphere and acres of empty seats. It hasn’t happened yet, but it sure enough will if this trend continues.And when it does, it’s not hard to imagine the top clubs making their own private TV deals in the future while the Blackburn’s of the league fight it out for the scraps of cash left over. In fact, it’s quite possible that such clubs will rarely be televised because it’s such a poor spectacle and there is only a small audience for it.While outside of the UK, the Premiership is increasingly popular, within the UK, we’re ahead of the game – being more exposed for longer to it, and despite all the extra money being paid to televise it, it has peaked in popularity. There is little growth left in the football market on TV and much discontent about the quality of the football on offer much of the time and disgruntlement with the quality of the programmes on BBC and Sky that bring it to us. The culture of employing inarticulate and frankly boring ex-players as pundits is back-firing spectacularly and devaluing the whole brand that the broadcasters pay so handsomely to show. Real, dedicated fans are tired of the nepotism and back-scratching that seems to be behind the employment of ex-players. Clearly, they are not employed for their vision and insight or their good grammar.So no one should be in any doubt, that as consumers of football we have the future of the game in our hands and we always have had, even though the TV companies would like us all to believe that they’re the important ones.Our TV money and our turnstile money are always up for being withdrawn and this season, we’ve seen that start to happen. The question now is how many clubs will realise who is really important in the game and how quickly? Time to wake up and smell the Bovril!John Nicholson writes each week for Football 365 and EPL Talk. You can listen to John’s wonderful stories on episode 30 and 45 of the EPL Talk Podcast, as well as purchase his excellent Footy Rocks book and order one of his unique rock’n roll T-shirts.

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  1. JC

    January 25, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    This is a great article. Thanks!

  2. James Dudek

    January 25, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I agree, and I think that it’s makes for better TV viewing to have a rocking crowd at the games.

    In the long term if the Prem clubs want better TV deals, they should work their butts off to keep the grounds full if only to make sure the TV product is good.

  3. Pete

    January 24, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Great article. I’m one of the US fans who just started watching the EPL in the last few years and it has always baffled me why there were so many empty seats.

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