Issue The End of Twenty-five Years – Now For Something Really Smart

As told by Michael Wood

The twenty-five year season tickets are on the way out to be replaced with an extended discount system which – aside from giving the 900 of us who parted with the thick chunk of cash when asked to six years ago the distant promise of free Premiership football once more – works out as decent value.

They promise to give me percentage discount – nicely returning to them the ability to lower as well as raise prices on a season by season basis – and I promise to join the season ticket queue again. They promise to spend my money on buying players improving the team and I think that would be like giving Pete Doherty money to go out and buy a guitar from the shop next to his dealer’s house.

I’m going to put my weight – such as it is – behind the Gang of Five and Julian Rhodes’s attempts to remade these millstones into smaller millstones and I welcome the innovative thinking. I notice the offer includes another trip into the Banqueting Suite for the BfB staff and short of pressing Rhodes, Ham or Longbottom for a pint I want nothing more from them for the £2,250 I spent than is offered.

However as I face the prospect of once again having to explain why supporting a football club requires me to ignore the financial sense part of my brain I’m keen that the same sort of smart thinking which went into this deal gets a deeper hold at the club.

For example the idea of spending the money raised – any money raised – on improving the playing squad is sheer folly when so much of the club’s structure lays at least fifty years out of date.

Bobby Petta is the latest in a long line of skilful players to arrive at Valley Parade and never (so far) come near the boil. Sure we blame the performances and personalities of the likes of Dan Petrescu and Lee Sharpe and we say that they can not hack life in proper football or that they think they are too good for us but for God’s sake I hope City spend the season ticket money I’m going to start paying on proper training facilities.

While thinking outside the box is in fashion at Valley Parade we might want to look at the supporter involvement again. I seem to remember £250,000 of (directly and indirectly) our money finding it’s way to Valley Parade in the summer of 2004 for the vague promise of supporter involvement but how has this involvement manifested itself?

BCISC and BCST have meetings with some of the Gang Of Five – indeed I once heard that someone from BfB was to be invited to that although that never occurred – and that is a form of involvement but listening to customers in this way is not a privilege but rather a requirement for the club.

I’ve said before that supporter involvement should come when the club stops trying to be the father of all things and starts being the facilitator.

If you get a chance to read the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster you will see sections devoted to the need for football club’s to readdress their links with communities and supporters and to bring in more supporter involvement. The all-seater stadia and subsequent price hikes are dogmatically stuck to by every single club in football but those sections are largely ignored.

And speaking of pricing now the need to create a sense of value for the twenty-five year season ticket holders is gone the club needs to look for innovation in the pricing policy at Valley Parade.

Much joy at the idea of under elevens getting in free and some suggest that in allowing this City are getting in the next generation of fans but in truth the generation lost to football is not at first school but rather doing GCSEs and A-Levels.

Think about the kids who used to sit around you at games but spurted up and stopped coming. Football prices out a generation of people on a yearly basis. Middle class families are always going to bring their kids and letting them in for nothing saves a few quid. A permanent commitment to pricing a day at the football alongside the cost of going to the cinema will stop the leak away which happens when kids get to certain age.

Hey – I do not care for gangs of teenagers any more than the next 32 year old but unless we do something as a club (and as a game) the next 32 year old will not have been going to football for the majority of his life.

So I’m putting the financial side of my brain on hold once more sending my 25 year season ticket form back with a big yes on it and I’m crossing my fingers that this success may beget others.

Football and Bradford City needs a permanent revolution. It needs to start thinking smarter. It needs this kind of thinking times a thousand.

A good start.