Pity the put-upon fans who rank far below global brands and partners

“Pity the put-upon fans who rank far below global brands and partners”的图片搜索结果

he results of a recent survey were published a couple of days ago that showed a worrying disconnect between the world’s richer football clubs and their fans. You may have missed them in a week when they were inevitably overshadowed by all the hoopla and Qatari-suffused razzmatazz surrounding Paris Saint-Germain’s £198m “never‑about-the-money” capture of Neymar, but please don’t let the irony pass you by.

Focusing on comparatively thrifty English outfits such as the Manchester behemoths, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, among other less well-heeled English clubs, the survey was conducted by those tireless campaigners for fan welfare at the Football Supporters’ Federation, which subsequently released its findings into the wild for public consumption. Tragically, budgetary restraints ensured they were accompanied by considerably fewer of the extravagant bells and whistles that are employed these days as attention‑grabbing methods of communication between top-flight English clubs and those fans from whom, in another irony, they are increasingly far removed.

In the escalating war for hearts and minds, the pea-shooter that is the humble press release and polite follow-up phone call stands little or no chance against the increasingly advanced techno-artillery used by those clubs supported by the increasingly put-upon punters the FSF works so hard to represent. After all, an extravagant all-singing, all-dancing MGM show‑closer that ends with a bevy of chorus girls performing jazz-hands in front of a new £50m signing will invariably divert attention from the revelation that those who might actually go to watch him play every week are increasingly sick of such nonsensical guff.

The FSF revealed that almost two‑thirds of the 8,495 supporters who completed the National Fans’ Survey believe teams focus too much on their global brand to the detriment of local fan base, a state of affairs that is unlikely to come as a shock to anyone who saw the degrading hoops through which various Arsenal players were forced to jump in order to promote their recent trip to China. Not content with a promotional video in which Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi visibly die inside as they vigorously paddle their cartoon slow-boat down a cartoon river past various cartoon siheyuan houses, fans were treated to the sight of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain performing kung-fu moves in a kimono for a pantomime production that, for all its toe-curling and cringe-inducing slapstick, definitely wasn’t staged for the benefit of the folks back home.

As if we didn’t know already, the FSF has confirmed the majority of English football fans feel clubs are prioritising the needs of the many who will never attend their games over those of the comparative few that regularly do. It is an unsurprising state of affairs considering the role of match-going supporters as highly charged extras is so integral to the spectacle that makes their teams so popular overseas. It is a worrying revelation that may well have bypassed certain club officials as they counted their share of the gate receipts, merchandising and partnership deals earned from assorted summer jaunts to such far-flung football frontiers as the USA, China, Australia and even Tanzania.

“Fans understand that many clubs are now global brands,” said Malcolm Clarke, the chair of the FSF. “However, these results show the majority of supporters think this can be to the detriment of local support.”

It is a fair point and one well made, even if cynics might argue it’s simply the quaint, old-fashioned view of a man perhaps pining for an official global partnership such as the completely random but no doubt lucrative one enjoyed by Manchester United and the Indian tyre manufacturers Apollo.

Unsurprisingly, the Premier League couldn’t disagree more with the FSF and a spokesman was quick to insinuate its findings were drawn “from a small sample of its own members” and might therefore be biased and misleading. He was quickly shot down by the FSF, who insisted 75% of the fans who completed their questionnaire have no affiliation whatsoever to their organisation.

The Premier League were equally sniffy when it came to citing their own regular and apparently superior surveys “conducted by a reputable opinion research company [Populus] to high professional standards” and insisted “the views expressed by FSF campaigners are not representative of all attending fans”.

Curiously, a judicious trawl of the internet in general and their own website in particular revealed no sign of the results of these highfalutin’ and more plausible surveys conducted by Populus, so we have little choice but to take them at their word. The Premier League did, however, see fit to divulge that fans report a mysteriously vague “high level of satisfaction”, although they provided no numbers to back this spurious and almost totally meaningless claim.

So we are left with little choice but to return to the FSF and its numbers, which reveal that more than 70% of the largely disgruntled fans it surveyed support their local team, while more than 50% live within 15 miles of their club’s ground. That’s mighty near, even if the majority have never felt further away.

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