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Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 13:03 GMT
Do football fans need a champion?

Football supporters and the clubs are at loggerheads over radical plans for a fan-friendly sport.

The UK Government's Football Task Force is split over moves to introduce a powerful regulator to enforce a range of measures including cheaper tickets and fewer strip changes by clubs.

Not surprisingly the fans on the task force are signed up to the far-reaching report, but clubs and the game's governing bodies have an alternative plan relying on voluntary guidelines, customer charters and an independent "scrutiny panel".

So what do you think? Are the fans too eager to grumble or do they need a get-tough regulator to fight their corner?

Do football fans need a champion?

What a lot of football fans need is a thoroughly good shake to wake them up from the stupor of football-induced hypnosis that lets them be exploited by the clubs.
James, UK

Whenever we have the likes of the arrogant David Mellor running the task force, I'm afraid football will continue to be in the sorry state that it is today.

The time is coming when the fan will no longer be called as such, but rather "customers". The day that happens will be a sad one indeed, but in our society, which is based around consumerism, consumption and - more recently - the creation of the mass-marketable hero/s (e.g. Manchester United, with their own TV stations and so on). Is a day that, I feel, may well be upon us already. By supporting the smaller clubs as another contributor has suggested, this may well be one way to regenerate football at a worthwhile level. I'm a Celtic supporter, but in future will I be rallying the local troops with a cry of "Come on you Raith Rovers"?
George, Scotland

The best and worst thing to happen to football was the collapse of restrictions on the number of foreign players per team. We don't need a champion we need a ruling body free from corruption and with a modern approach to a fast growing phenomenon.
Neil Biggin, Canada

Nobody is forcing the fans to pay for Beckham's (et al) latest supercar. Tickets too expensive? Don't pay.
G White, UK

A realistic transfer sealing would mean that the fans don't pay the players crazy wage bill, but let us be realistic. We want to see the best players in our teams, so we have to pay for them, otherwise all our great players Owen, Beckham, Ferdinand etc will be bidding a bon voyage to Italy and Spain. How many Man Utd fans wanted Roy Keane to go; I bet every one of them would pay an extra pound a ticket to pay for him to stay. Football has just caught up with other major sports in other major countries.
Peter Lynch, Liverpool, England

The clubs will continue to exploit fans because the fans let them. Every complaining fan that shells out 25 pounds for a ticket or 50 pounds for a kit or purchases a pay-per-view match on television is complicit. Clubs will continue to gouge fans so long as supporters let them. Once supporters stop paying exorbitant prices for tickets, merchandise, etc., then clubs might start taking seriously fan complaints.
Brian Farenell, USA

I ignore professional sports here in the States, because these folks actually believe they are worth their salaries. Ignore them. Perhaps they'll go away.
Pete Swinford, USA

What a ridiculous idea! That "fans" are prepared to pay such large sums of money to watch a game and buy a shirt merely confirms to me that "there is one born every minute". If you don't like the price, don't buy; no one is forcing you to.
Chris Klein, England

I think that football fans spend a lot of money of football merchandise as well as paying for tickets. The FA should regulate the changes, eg, 1 strip change every 3 to 4 years. The fans are preached to constantly about being friendly. The clubs should practice what they preach!
Paul Cairns, USA

A comment was made about going and watching a lower division side as you may get treated better. In my experience it makes little or no difference which level of the professional game you go to the clubs all fail to understand just how important the fans paying fans are to them.
Joe, England

It sounds like you are starting to see what American Sports franchises have been doing to fans for years. Don't let it happen.
David N. VanMeter, USA

The last thing we need is government "regulation " in the workings of football clubs. Let them get a foothold in there and before long they'll be changing the rules of the game too! Just look at the recent pressure they exerted on the Wembley stadium redevelopment plans. Leave the game to develop by itself and keep government "Task forces" away from it. Please!
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

As a Watford supporter I have been glad to watch them go up division by division, being able to afford to be a supporter when they were in the lower divisions. My boyfriend has attended most Watford games since 1987. But this year since they were promoted he had to stop going as he can no longer afford the prices. It is absolutely disgusting the price football clubs charge for tickets and merchandise. I really feel that there should be regulatory body to oversee the kind of ripping off those clubs are doing these days.
Jana Clemens, UK

The contributors to this Talking Point seem to be completely unrepresentative of the true fans. As an Arsenal fan, I can remember from 15 - 20 years ago when Highbury was less than half full for most 'routine' League games. Only teams like Liverpool and Man U attracted crowds in the 40,000s and 50,000s. Now every game is a sell-out and the phone lines are jammed every time tickets go on sale. The level of ticket demand tells its own story. Most people would rather pay 20 to watch their favourite team's game than 5 shillings to watch which they do not support.
Mike, UK

We are being ripped off. Until fans fight back and the only way this can happen for us to stop paying the prices charged for tickets and replica shirts etc. Otherwise the clubs will keep charging high prices. It's a bit like the on/off switch on your TV. If you don't like or agree with something switch it off.
Richard Crouch, England

Football used to be the game of the common man. Now with ticket prices at around 25 each it is the game of the common man with an uncommon amount of money.
Colin Onger, UK

My son is a Manchester United supporter and announced he would like two club shirts for Christmas as "they have different ones for the Premiership and the Champions League". They cost 40 each for goodness sake! I seem to remember when I was a child they had one kit and it was the same year after year. Why are things like this allowed to happen?
Fiona Lounder, UK

Big business investment makes English football exciting to watch. In Switzerland there is not a lot of big money in the game and it is very boring.
Peter Laice, Swiss living in UK

Football fans are being ripped off by high prices just to see overpaid foreign players performs their party pieces in front of their club directors. The government needs to take control of the game before it becomes another arm of big business.
Colin Hubb, UK

The effect of big business on football can be traced back to the clean up of the image of the game. In the 1970's it was seen as a sleazy little sport frequented by thugs and violence. As soon as it cleaned up its image it became attractive to investors, hence the situation we are in now.
Trevor Rout, UK

Supporters are a club major source of income so it is us that are charged over the odds for everything that has your teams name on it. The directors of clubs know this and are only too happy to exploit the supporter's loyalty. Only a proper legal body can back up the supporters and this is what the government should provide with proper powers with proper penalties for clubs who break the rules.
Craig Peirson, England

"Freedom of choice" and "the law of supply and demand" are the only regulators necessary.
Andrew Bailey, Canada

From a distance, recent developments in football smack of the NFL, NBA and NHL, where player salaries and escalating prices are killing sport to the extent that the 'working man' can no longer attend games. Were these sports not meant for 'the working man'? Don't let the same thing happen to the best spectator sport in the world!
Howard McGiffin, Canada

Thirty years ago I used to, with my father, to nearly every West Ham home game. I can't remember what the prices were, but they cannot have been high, as he was a docker. I cannot afford to do that with my son though as it would cost the best part of 100 to do so. This is just not possible.
Gordon Oldfish, UK

Each individual has there own financial limit beyond which they will simply say NO to being ripped off by football clubs. These people will soon be in the majority. Hopefully hastening the bursting of the football bubble. JUST SAY NO !
Pete McNicholls, UK

Football is going the way of all professional sports. In Canada, we have watched our national game go from a six-team league to one in excess of forty teams. Once we supplied up to 80% of the players and now only 40%. Our teams are now moving to the U.S. and we will have no national sport. The primary motive is Money. Somewhere, a rationalisation must take place about value and culture (don't forget it is culture!) But things will have to get worse before they get better. Inevitably the system would have to crash before any phoenix type resurrection can take place.
Michael J Sullivan, Canada

Football has become a product in the entertainment industry. The romantic, dated view of the people's game is sadly out of place in today's big money environment. It bemuses me why football fans who are exasperated with the present state of affairs do not use their buying power and vote with their pockets and not pay the prices asked of them. As with all marketplaces the buyer has power-the power of his/her wallet. Rather than more nanny legislation surely a fans boycott of the more rapacious football businesses would achieve more.
Dave , UK

Football clubs are basically monopolies and should be treated as such. Regulation is an important stick with which to keep monopolies in line. However it is important to take a balanced view on this to achieve mutual benefit for both parties.
Graham Watson, England

Traditionally the board at a football club handled business as a club. Now they handle business as a business with shareholders and 'customers'. Market forces are exploited by these men and women for financial gain and not for the love of the sport. These people have lost the pride associated with a club that does well, and instead consider the financial benefits that come with success as their prime motivation. This is sad fact of modern life. Without regulation this exploitation will continue.
John Bidwell, UK

I think that all supporters should boycott all live matches, don't watch matches either on Sky or normal television. The football clubs need to be reminder of who really pays the bills and brought down a peg or two.
Carole Heesom, London, UK

Football clubs only care about fans as long as they have their money. Until there is some legal protection for fans they will be cheated and exploited by unscrupulous clubs.
Philip Ross, England

The big clubs will always have us over a barrel until we stop giving them our unconditional loyalty. Go and support your local youth teams until the big clubs wake up and realise they live off us.
Roy W UK

I sincerely believe any eventual champion of football will make no role model. Every single football fan and player I have known has the intelligence of an old brick wall.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

It seems to me from across the sea, you need crowd control rather than icons. Even the Greeks and the Romans controlled their fans.
Joe Sterling, USA

Football clubs have become just another business and as such they will object to any measure preventing them from freely fleecing their "customers". Personally, I would like to see all genuine football fans voice their displeasure by refusing to buy any club merchandise, attend any games or subscribe to Sky Sport for one season. That would soon bring these money mad organisations around to our way of thinking.
Jack H, London, England

Professional football is a bubble fit to burst. Standards are falling, prices continue to escalate and the big clubs become ever remote.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland
Call me a cynic but it seems to me that any deal agreed to by the major clubs is likely to be a fudge under which the average fan is not going to gain. Why not play along with the capitalist game - if your club is taking advantage of you and charging ridiculous prices for tickets and strips just say no. There is no law saying you can't go to a match in last season's strip. Even more radical, why not forsake the weekly rip-off at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge and go watch a lower division team- they're the ones who need supporters and will probably treat you with a good deal more consideration and respect.
Richard, United Kingdom

Professional football is a bubble fit to burst. Standards are falling, prices continue to escalate and the big clubs become ever remote. The fans know they are being ripped off. The club owners know they are ripping the fans off. The top players are ripping everybody off. It has all become very distasteful. Anybody got a pin?
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

Football clubs, like most footballers, behave exactly how they want - with cockiness and boorishness, forgetting that the fans are THE reason that can live their ridiculous exploitative extravagant lives. They should give something back.
Wendy S, UK

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22 Dec 99 |  UK
Fans and clubs at loggerheads

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