Issue #101 The opposition to #one four nine and how where it comes from

As told by Michael Wood

#onefournine is a success at Bradford City because it makes sense.

It makes economic sense mostly. West Yorkshire is a big place, City are the only club enjoying the sort of success which peaks between Manchester City and Arsenal on Match of the Day, and the stadium is big enough that supply can outstrip demand.

This has been obvious to Julian Rhodes for some time and carried on being obvious after Mark Lawn arrived. It was obvious to David Baldwin and is obvious to James Mason who aligns the policy more with a social movement than an economic one.

Mason buys into the idea that #onefournine is about making football affordable and while the club before him had cast doubt over that with threats to remove the policy if it were not well subscribed – hardly the talk of social reform – it is often the case the social policy has a better chance of succeeding if it coincides with economic interest.

And that should be it. Mason delivers affordable football to an area which is justified in feeling that the club they are asked to support actually care about their support. I’d like to see the club go further but I’m pleased with where they are.

And I’m pleased with where we are: the supporters. The support at Bradford City is vibrant and interesting. There are amusing songs about pies and the sort of mood that makes going to a game about more than the result of a game. As Roberto Martinez said to Phil Parkinson in 2012 as City beat Wigan pointing at the away support “Are they ever not noisy?”

City seem to be – for whatever motivation – at the heart of a reform in football support taking back something which was lost in the commercialisation of the game over the last twenty years.

You have to wonder sometimes if other chairmen might try take Rhodes and Lawn to one side. “You’re making us look bad…”

They never seem to.

But there are dissenting voices and – most curiously – those voices always seem to be from other team’s supporters.

The tone of them is obvious and sneering. The only reason – they suggest – that Bradford City will be playing in front of 18,000 season ticket holders next season is because the price is low and that were the price to go up then the number of season ticket holders would go down.

So far, so Economics 101. If you put the price of a Mars Bar up then you sell fewer Mars Bars. If you bring down the price of a Rolls Royce then you sell more Rolls Royces.

But this is not solely a question of economics. Football at the level of Bradford City – give or take a division in either direction – has to accept that it has a problem. Teams are battling with the Match of the Day sides for supporters on a daily basis.

Sky Sports, BT Sports, every newspaper and a good deal of the football coverage online are dedicated to trying to get you supporters more interested in following Manchester City (or Chelsea, or Real Madrid) from afar than getting down to Bradford City (or Leyton Orient, or Real Vallecano)

The entire game under the elite level of under a fairly constant bombardment.

It is not a huge leap of comradeship to suggest that considering football is played between two clubs that what is good for a peer is good for you too. If more people start watching football at Bradford City’s level then everyone at Bradford City’s level benefits.

And of course you can put it down to a tribalism and a point of jealousy if you want but whatever the motivation for the criticism and the implicit attempts to thwart or discourage similar schemes at other clubs the results are the same.

Walk around Bradford and see the Liverpool shirts, the Chelsea shirts (try not to smile that much) and the Barcelona shirts and contemplate how difficult it is to get people interested in one club over another when one has the masses of media on their side. As fans of clubs outside the elite we should turn cartwheels whenever someone makes headway in attracting more people to get off sofas and go to stadiums.

Moreover though what does it say about the game if supporters of it – from any club – might suggest that there is a virtue in the idea that people should be not able to go to a game because they cannot afford it?

This is, in embryo, what the criticism of City’s pricing policy is. A statement that it is better if poorer people are not able to afford to go to football matches. To suggest that demand should be artificially suppressed with prices specifically so that people less able to afford to go to football should not be able to go to football is basic financial apartheid.

It is as contemptible a statement as made and the people who make it for that reason are worthy of contempt.

We can only hope that Bradford City start to be an example to the rest of the game and that those voices are minimised.