Issue Halifax picking the wrong target when complaining about City’s season ticket offer

As told by Michael Wood

Mark Lawn is a no nonsense sort of guy.

When he talked about a plan to give Halifax people cheaper season tickets to go to Valley Parade as being a way to get them to follow a second club he did so in honesty. You can tell this because if he had nefarious intent his plain speaking style would have had him say “We are going to steal your fans.” Say that he did not.

Lawn is still finding his feet in this football game in the long term the offer could be a public relations hiccup but little more. If Bradford City were to drive to the Shay and – at gun point – force every Halifax Town supporter to buy a season ticket, a replica shirt, match days programmes and 23 pies a year then the story might get a column inch mention deep in the sport section buried under the news that Christiano Ronaldo had got out of bed on a different side this morning.

Stealing fans – as City stand accused of – is a reality in modern football. Back in the late 1990s Peter Risdale talked about Leeds United having a catchment area that included all of West Yorkshire disregarding the three other league club but Leeds themselves were under threat from bigger fish.

A wander through any town centre in those days would have shown you Manchester United, Liverpool and the odd Arsenal shirt. These days you can add Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid to that list. Bradford City and Halifax Town are hardly getting a look in.

Whole industries are based on pushing the Premiership product and small clubs are getting swamped. Newspapers see clubs go to the wall but never break from the coverage of the top flight. 24 Sports News coverage does not flinch when administration but ranks the story under someone’s contract negotiation from someone at Old Trafford.

The likes of Halifax Town and Bradford City ring supporters to ask them why they have not renewed season tickets but the football fan on the other end of the line is assaulted on a daily basis by competitive messages. If football below the Premiership level got smart it would band together to make a more attractive proposition for all.

Halifax Town supporters are probably be right to be angry at Mark Lawn who like all other chairmen is looking after his club first and while I doubt he had any malice in what he did and like 99.9% of people who have seen a game in the lower two leagues last year he will be horrified by what is happening at The Shay there is still a persistent problem with self-interest in the game.

Recent articles on BfB about Leeds United and Huddersfield Town have produced a 2:1 ratio of abuse to sense in the comments the site receives and much of that abuse centred on the idea that it would be “funny” if Bradford City went out of business.

Football fans are programmed to want each other’s destruction when in truth the better our rivals do the better we tend to do. When we were in the Premiership Leeds were in Europe, Huddersfield the second flight and Halifax in the league. Is it really a coincidence that now we all struggle? Often – to steal a phrase – what is good for the tea and biscuit company is good for me.

Huddersfield Town vs Bradford City over the last few years has seen both clubs enjoy large attendances, added interest and the spoils of rivalry that make supporting a club so enjoyable but one comment on BfB last week said (paraphrasing) “I hope you don’t sell the 7000 tickets you need to stay in business.” as if there is a benefit for Town in not having a Bradford City.

City kicked off something special in football and some – including I note Huddersfield – benefited and is now offering cheaper tickets and getting full stadiums with great atmosphere. What was good for the one was good for all. Perhaps the same sort of innovation should be continued in a way that admitted that clubs at this – and to be honest every – level are yoked together.

I would suggest one chairman contacts all 24 clubs in League Two and proposes an away season ticket that did the same for travelling fans as City did for home fans and offered cheaper prices. Imagine paying £240 in the summer for away entry to every City game. Sure Rotherham would lose out on the £17 they scalp you for on the turnstile when you have driven down the M1 but they would get that money back from those Exeter supporters who took advantage of the offer for cheaper, nearer games.

All of which is to illustrate what could be done if clubs worked together. As it is the culture in football is very much every man for himself and while Halifax Town’s supporters trust rails against Lawn they do so because City have emerged as a clear target when they are up against a faceless system which robs them of support on a far greater scale than the Bantams ever could (or would) and exist in a community which has yet to recognise that when one is damaged all are.