Thursday, 18 October 2012

Football for a fiver

Saturday sees 'Football for a Fiver' day at The Valley and the figures are already looking very encouraging, no doubt helped by the efforts of Rick Everitt and his team of elves before his departure. Incidentally, I always thought that part of the Rickster's role was to act as an informal intermediary between the management of the club and its fans, but then, of course, I am not privy to the details of his contract and the proceedings that have taken place. When the matter enters the public domain, perhaps we shall learn more.

Anyway, Rick has encouraged us to support the club and get behind Chris Powell and the 'boys' (copyright, Big Dave Lockwood). Rick is the first person to recognise that it is the club that ultimately matters.

Hopefully, the occasion will bring back many 'lapsed' Addicks and also encourage some 'first timers' to come to The Valley. I was myself a 'born again' Addick as Rick once described me in Voice of the Valley which looks as if it might return soon. When my children were growing up, plus the fact of living in the Midlands and my sadness at the club playing at Selhurst Park, I simply 'followed' Charlton from afar. I first returned to The Valley in the away end with a friend who was a Burnley fan, but once the East Stand opened, I was back. As they say, you can take the man out of Charlton, but you can never take Charlton out of the man.

This brings me on to the subject of attendances which never ceases to be a source of fascination to football fans. At my non-league club, there is an online competition to guess the crowd before the game. It is then possible to get a fairly accurate estimate of the crowd by looking round the ground, making sure not to count the dogs. If the figure is out of line with what people think it should be, complaints break out that someone has skimmed off some of the money or that the attendance has been inflated to boost the chairman's ego.

Even at league level, the figures are never accurate. In the days of 75,000+ attendances at The Valley it is clear that were many more people in the ground who had got in without paying.

There was also a suspicion in sepia-toned times that at some clubs the full attendance was not declared to avoid paying 'entertainment' tax which is perhaps why the results published the receipts as well as the attendance. There were also cases of gatemen trousering some of the money.

These days season ticket holders are included in the attendance figures whether they are there or not. This is because the levy on attendance that is paid to the Football League has take into account all season tickets which are seats paid for in advance. Even before Rick's team of elves was disbanded, it would have not been a good use of time and effort to count all the tickets torn off to get an accurate figure.

It's all worth noting that there are quite a lot of comps. For example, the referee gets a number of tickets, either for his mum or for mates who like to follow their favourite man in black.

This brings to mind another non-league story. I was very surprised to see a female acquaintance at our ground. As far as I knew she had no interest in football, lived some forty miles away and, anyway, the away team was from another part of the country altogether. But she was following the game intently, walking up and down as the play shifted.

So I asked her why she was there and it turned out that the lino on our side was her boy friend. She was simply there to admire his deft use of the flag or to shout her support for a particularly good offside call.

Of course, there were some people you will never get inside a football ground. As it so happens, we are having a reunion for my wife's family on Sunday and among those attending will be my brother-in-law Nigel. He has resolutely refused to attend when we have celebrated milestone birthdays with a sponsorship at The Valley.

One might say this was understandable given that he grew up in Thornton Heath and his father was Palace through and through. At one time the family lived in the road that was later the home of the double glazer involved in the Cantona incident. Indeed, my wife asked her father if she could go to Selhurst with him, but he said fooball was not for girls. Fortunately, she started work in Woolwich when she was fifteen and the rest, as they say, is history.

In fact Nigel detests football which is a perfectly understandable reaction to growing up in a Palace household. Instead he follows the boys and girls in lycra and professes not to know that there is a football league club in Crawley where he now lives.

David Mellor was once outed for switching his support from Fulham to Chelsea. In fact, as the work of Stefan Szymanski has shown, there is far more 'churn' in football support than is generally acknowledged.

For example, my father grew up in North Woolwich and he started life as a West Ham supporter. Once the family moved to the Progress Estate in Eltham, his cousin encouraged his Addicktion. When we moved to Essex, he started to go to Southend because it was an easy journey and one of his mates at work went there, although he still followed Charlton. When he retired to Cornwall, he became a Falmouth Town supporter and one of the last matches we watched together was Falmouth beating Mousehole 10-1.

There was an Addick I used to have a drink with before the game. He lived nearby, had a season ticket, went to some away games and sponsored a player. Some time after we left the Premiership, he gave up his season ticket and the last time I saw him at a match was the play off against Swindon.

Will he be back on Saturday? Somehow I doubt it. As the New York Addick has pointed out, we seem to have lost some of our fans for good. This can be for a whole variety of reasons: work, family, health, relocation and sometimes boredom or disillusionment. Come On You Reds!

The BBC has just released a lot of data on the comparative cost of attending football matches at different clubs. I haven't fully digested this, and apparently Huddersfield offers the best 'value' in our division, but we seem to compare well on the cheapest season ticket: Value For Money

This blog posting is also relevant to the debate: Cost of football

No comments: