Roger Moore scores: the fans they are a changing

Last updated : 24 January 2006 By Chris C
Last week, Brentford fans followed Luton and others into football club ownership. And on Saturday their team repaid them with a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town.

At the same time, a club run as a business for profit, my club, was folding tamely by the same score-line in a game notable only for a spontaneous and heartfelt plea from fans; fans hurting not simply from relegation and the loss of their much anticipated prodigy, but hurting most deeply from a simple lack of understanding.

I’ve only ever stood before to support the team or cheer a goal, but like a vast majority of Saturday’s St Mary’s crowd, I stood to remove Rupert Lowe from my club. Not because we sold a valuable commodity for a good price, but because like half of our current team, I am lost and looking for some answers, some meaning that can restore my faith.

Knocking on the Chairman’s door

However profitable they may be, football clubs are fundamentally not about business. To treat fans as customers of a product is a gross over-simplification of the extraordinary relationship between fan and club. You don’t consume the product by choice. You can’t swap your allegiance and buy a different brand. And worst of all for many, the price is rarely a determinant in consumption levels.

You go because you feel you ‘have to’, perhaps because you want to, and for the really desperate because you ‘need to’. The process can be uplifting, draining, entertaining and cathartic. And for brilliant matches (regardless of score-line) it can be a mixture of all the above, and a dozen more adjectives besides.

If a football club is anything it is a non-denominational church where worshippers of every faith can sing together, pray together, celebrate together and commiserate together. And I don’t re-use that word ‘together’ because I rejected Roger’s other choices.

A football club is a family. A group of people joined by a common bond – where else does the word ‘united’ feel so at home?

But has anyone told this to Rupert Lowe? On Saturday he might have heard what we want - trouble is, he needs to know why.

Chairman is just a four letter word

When a Chairman of a football club uses the word ‘judiciously’ to describe how the money from the sale of Theo Walcott will be spent, you know we’re in trouble. Worse, he chooses the sale to criticize ‘a small minority of fans’ who will blame him for the sale of our prize asset.

In other words Rupert’s is contemptuous of those ‘customers’ he feels do not understand the machinations of professional football, while conveniently ignoring his board’s part in the circumstances which make Arsenal a far more palatable employer than a club drawn into a Championship relegation scrap!

What the vast majority of Southampton fans actually want to hear is not platitudes or contempt from their Chairman. They want to hear ambition, vision and ideas. Better still they don’t want to hear from the Chairman at all, but from their manager – freed of the shackles of operating within some mythical business model.

How about George just coming out and laying on the line that he has £5million to spend and he’ll spend it however he darned well likes to build a team capable of marauding this desert of a football league?

You see, that’s the language of the fans, not the language of Threadneedle Street where Rupert still seems to imagine himself working.

The answer my friend is blowing over the Solent

Regardless of whether his aims are admirable, the fact is Rupert joined a club – a football club – and its membership rules were clearly emblazoned on the tin. He’s been fairly compensated for his Chairmanship, which is more than can be said for many of his members, who in ten years he has still yet to embrace and is still light-years away from understanding.

Contrast this with the newly elected Brentford Chairman, Greg Dyke: “This is an exciting new start for Brentford. It is very clear to me that the club's long term future is best served by the majority shareholding being held by the people who care most about the club - its fans. Chairmen, board members, managers and players come and go in a football club but most of the fans are there for life.”

The sooner our Trust can take control of this ‘family club’ and restore it to its family the better.

And in the interim, if we are to be customers, can I remind Rupert of a certain H Gordon Selfridge’s words: 'The customer is always right'. Perhaps, Rupert, you were listening to the 20,000 customers on Saturday and will do the decent thing for all our sakes.