Bradford City and financial reality

Commercial reality works two ways in football. The fans and the directors may look at money matters from different perspectives, but the club is still there in the middle. David Baldwin and Mark Lawn have both been telling the media in the last few days how they see that reality at Bradford City. Fans trying to come to terms with short-time working or no work at all can hardly be expected to forget about four consecutive defeats before the deadline for the cheapest tickets passes.

Bradford City are victims of their own publicity in two respects. At the start of last season the manager said that anything less than promotion would be a failure. So, by those standards, a failure it was. This season it was the board’s turn to explain on more than one occasion how they had put together a budget that they expected to produce a £600,000 loss, which would be justified by the much hoped for promotion.

In this respect City are not alone. Brentford, for example, are apparently aiming to wipe out the best part of a £10 million debt by getting themselves promoted. Just how the prospect of League One football produces anything like that amount of extra income may baffle some of us, but Brentford’s board are best placed to decide these things. And we won’t even begin to consider how Darlington’s business plan for the season depended on gates of almost double their actual attendances.

But by far the best piece of publicity City have achieved in recent years, even bringing them a trip to the House of Commons (I wonder what the second prize might have been!), was the cheap season ticket deal from two years ago. In those days when Julian Rhodes was the only chairman we had, he made it plain that the offer would only be taken up by the club if 10,000 or more supporters signed up for the deal. You do not need to be Einstein to work out the sums. Then along came Mark Lawn and his money, which allowed a little bit of juggling to extend the deadline for those 10,000 and eventually, including the free tickets for under elevens, over 12,000 were on the list.

The disappointment of a mid-table finish reduced that number by 1,000 or so for this season, but the excitement of automatic promotion prospects kept the idea very much alive for next season. The cheapest tickets (£99 in the Bradford End, but generally £150 for an adult) had to be bought by the end of December and then the £175 ticket deadline was the end of this month. The December sales went well, not least because on deadline day the team was just goal difference away from an automatic promotion spot. The later sales, we now know, have gone less well and it isn’t difficult to see why.

The problem, however, is that within two years the fans have come to regard a revolutionary idea as something perfectly normal. Those running the money side of the club are desperate to point out the huge price differences between City season’s tickets and those at virtually every other club in this league. It is, in my view, unfair to single out any individual club for comparison, such are the vast differences between the have-nots and the have-even-lesses of the fourth division. But, if you take the average price of season tickets in this league, City’s prices will be as far below as our average gates are above those of our rivals.

A few things clearly need spelling out. The first is that the prices for 2009-10 are fixed, no matter how many people take up the offers available before or after the end of March. Any scrapping of the cheap ticket scheme will not be before 2010-11.

Whatever income the club gets from its season tickets goes a very long way toward fixing the players’ budget. Match by match income is unpredictable and guesswork is no way of running a business that has, to say the least, had its recent financial problems. So every season ticket that isn’t sold is that much less to spend during the summer on players’ contracts.

Of course fans are currently very disappointed about recent form, none more so than those who have spent money, which brings no benefit to our club, in watching defeat after defeat away from home. That disappointment will only grow if promotion by one means or another is not achieved. Such are the expectations which nobody has seriously tried to dampen. Nor should anyone be anything other than positive.

But football fans generally concentrate on matters on the field of play, sometimes paying insufficient regard to matters behind the scenes. Whether it be £175 this month or £250 next, a Bradford City season ticket is great value in the fourth division, even if the product may not do exactly what it said on the tin, and excellent value in the third. For some fans, the state of their finances will have deteriorated since they bought this year’s season ticket. No football club can ignore that, but, equally, no club can lower their prices to the extent that would help those on a vastly reduced income.

The question that the rest of the fans have to face is whether they are prepared to pay £175, £250 or the instalments plan of £200 to give Bradford City the best chance of having a strong squad in 2009-10, regardless of which division they are playing in. The alternatives – a weaker squad and/or paying £20 a game and presumably not getting to as many, if any, matches – are just about all there is to consider. This is the financial reality of being a Bradford City supporter.

The Permanent Revolution

On Saturday Stuart McCall’s team will try record a third win on the bounce and continue a run of good form that started on Boxing Day and has given rise to some optimism at Valley Parade. The 14,000 odd at Valley Parade have reason to be happy with the way that the team is going and Julian Rhodes should be given an award for that.

Rhodes – along with Mark Lawn – will probably pick up the Football League award for the Perform Best Fan Marketing campaign after going down a division but doubling the attendance. They are planning on getting 20,000 into Valley Parade next season through similarly impressive decision making but even if they do one doubts it will make as much difference as dropping season ticket prices last season has.

Back in October, 2005 – Friday 7th to be exact – I wrote the article A rough sketch of a business plan for the future of Bradford City in which I said

A permanent revolution in pricing is needed. City need to set the cost of going to Valley Parade around the level of a trip to the cinema in order that is represent something approaching value. A cursory glance around VP will tell you that the £15 plus price has put off a generation of supporters with older faces outnumbering the young considerably.

After a half season of what in the history of modern football is by far the closest thing to the permanent revolution in pricing those words are starting to bring fruit.

While the atmosphere at Valley Parade has been up and down all season the weight of a support behind Stuart McCall’s side when they capture imagination is impressive. Not only impressive but it seems to be working. I have gone on record as saying I’d like to have the cacophony behind the Bantams at all times but we cannot have everything we want and until City fans get the unfettered support that really would be a permanent revolution then I’m happy that 14,000 people can chant “Barry, Barry, Barry” when the man trundles onto the field. It is the sort of support that builds atmosphere.

And atmosphere – for want of a better phrase – begets enjoyment and enjoyment brings return visits. Just like the kid-a-quid scheme of Geoffrey Richmond the work being put in now is building a generation of supporters for the future. One could only estimate how many City fans would be retained next season should prices have been returned to former levels for 2008/2009 but one can be sure that that number is greater than it would have been in the season following our relegation last term.

So Rhodes and Lawn push on with the two-for-one offer which hopes to bring 20,000 to Valley Parade for League Two football – or perhaps better fingers, toes, eyes crossed – and they deserve credit for not resting on their laurels.

More than credit though they deserve recognition that what Bradford City have done this season is special, should be copied and in a very significant way is giving football back to the supporters.

A shiny trophy is the least they deserve.

Graduation Day

I think I remember how this works. Many things happen during a Summer and this Summer was more eventful than most but on a weekend in August everything that is shaken up returns into place and – on a sun soaked afternoon as the clock ticks over to three – football in all its would be egalitarian glory returns.

For minutes everyone is equal – nice to see the Premiership kick off on the same day once more – and until the first goal is scored in the country no one is ahead and no one is behind. Except for Leeds United. My Nan Margaret Gunn used to say that one should be nice to people on the way up because one would meet them on the way down. That is pretty much all one can say about Leeds.

Within minutes some unlucky group of supporters are going to watching their custodian pulling the ball out of the back of the net. Within forty five and when the expectant 12,000 at Valley Parade are looking for probably rare pies someone will be three down and they will be beginning a bad season. With hope that will not be Bradford City.

Football is watching Bradford City this season. The £138 season ticket and return of Stuart McCall has suggested a new paradigm in football. Give them something to watch and do not stop them from coming to watch it. In a very real way a small revolution is happening at Valley Parade tomorrow and who knows where it will end? Football pricing in line with a trip to the cinema. Mr Rhodes, you deserve the best of things.

One suspects though that Mr Rhodes and his new partner Mark Lawn would settle for a win – any win – but if the footballing Gods smile then a good win. Stuart McCall’s return is invigorating and both he and Wayne Jacobs have proved something at assistant level. It is graduation day.

McCall’s first team for his first game in the big chair at home to Macclesfield Town will feature the heart of the defence of last season. Donovan Ricketts behind David Wetherall and Mark Bower could be the best three in the league. Paul Heckingbottom makes his second debut at left back and Darren Williams plays on the right. A defence that picks itself week in week out is the basis of the best teams.

Paul Evans – still without contract – is expected to be signed up in time to take the number four shirt and the McCall position breaking up play and moving the ball on. Joe Colbeck and Omar Daley scrap over the right wing – what the former lacks in class the latter lacks in effort – and Alex Rhodes is expected to make a debut on the left not long after signing from Brentford as McCall opts for a 442. A host of players would partner Evans in the middle but expect Eddie Johnson to get the nod.

Barry Colon takes one slot up front but Peter Thorne’s injury prevents McCall from giving a first outing to his pairing. Gillingham’s Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu – signed on loan yesterday – is expected to add pace and power to the forward line.

Three o’clock. Turn up, cheer, see a win. I’m not sure is how it has been working for a good few years now but this is graduation day and things can change.

A New Season And Reason To Be Optimistic

Well, it’s that time of year again when all supporters up and down the country start to talk about their team’s chances for the forthcoming season (except in Scotland where the season has already started). It has certainly been an interesting close season this summer with football authorities shirking their responsibilities with both the on-going Tevez affair and the recent announcement of the 15 point deduction for Leeds United. (At this point, I must add the City supporters should have some sympathy for Leeds United supporters after ourselves going through two separate administration periods. We, the City supporter, should understand how it feels when your club is in serious financial difficulties. City supporters laughing at Leeds’ current position have short memories and deep down would you really want to see our rivals disappear from the footballing map?)

Following our third relegation since the 2000/2001 season in May of this year, you would have thought that going into this new season, City supporters would be full of pessimism. Far from it if you gage supporters views on messageboards, in newspapers and from general discussion. The main reason for this new found optimism is the return of a true hero, Stuart McCall, as our new manager. Julian Rhodes should take alot of credit for securing McCall’s employment as he stuck to his task of obtaining the legend after the sacking of Colin Todd back in February. Indeed, when Neil Warnock was relieved of his duties at Bramell Lane, many people thought that we had no chance of obtaining Stuart as our new manager.

Stuart now has the enormous challenge of getting us promoted during his first season in charge. Well, this is what most supporters are demanding before a football has even been kicked. Stuart has made some interesting signings since he took over at the helm and along with the players who remain from last season, I believe that Stuart will have done well to have secured a play-off position come May 2008. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Penford, Bentham, Colbeck and Ainge perform this season. Much has been written about home grown players in the past and supporters all have their own views on the four players that I’ve just mentioned. For me, City looked like a more balanced side when Bentham was playing in central midfield last season and it will be interesting to see how Eddie Johnson performs in his new midfield role this season. Penford was down the pecking order when Bridge-Wilkinson and Schumacher were at the club. They have now both departed but McCall has signed Scott Phelan (another midfielder from Everton) and he looked useful against Farsley in pre-season. Ainge could have a promising future as he looked composed on the ball when he was given his chance in the first team last season. Of the home grown players, Colbeck played the most first team games last season and much has been written about him. Supporters need to give this young lad time to progress. At Farsley, supporters were barracking him if a pass went astray but then he played a neat pass to trialist Simon Johnson who set up Peter Thorne’s goal. All of a sudden, Colbeck’s not such a bad player. Talk about supporters blowing hot and cold with their opinions.

Another reason for renewed optimism is the fact that the club has told over 12,000 season tickets. Again, credit to Mr Rhodes for sticking to his guns when others thought that his superb idea of reasonably priced football was set to fail. If Stuart hadn’t taken up the managerial reins, the number of season tickets that would have been sold is debatable. However, we don’t have to worry about that and we should have the biggest home attendances in Division 4 this coming season. We will be the big fish in a small pond. Other teams will come to Valley Parade and will feel inspired to play well in front of a large crowd and a fantastic stadium. As we know from the past, this could have a detrimental effect on our performances. Hopefully, our new look team will feel the need to perform well in front of their own supporters. We shouldn’t however have this big club mentality and should keep our feet firmly on the ground. As I mentioned earlier, many supporters are demanding promotion this season and I’ve even heard people say that if we don’t gain automatic promotion they will be disappointed. After seeing us in freefall for the past few seasons, it would be nice if we can have a good season but we must remember that we don’t have a divine right to promotion just because of out stadium and the size of our attendances.

However, we have a good platform from which we can build a club that we can be proud of again; a legend as manager, a great club servant as assistant manager, a Chairman who supports the club (I use the word support in relation to passion and not in terms of financial support), a solid supporter base in terms of number of season tickets sold and no large debts hanging around the club’s neck thanks to our new Co-Chairman.

If, and it’s a big if, we are promoted at the end of the season I would be absolutely delighted for two people more than any others; firstly Julian Rhodes for supporting the club in times of crisis and for David Wetherall who has stuck with us despite 3 relegations.

Bring on the new season!

The price is right

Mark Lawn should be more careful about his publicity stunts. As City’s new joint-owner cooked up a tasty fare of barbecue food to people queuing up for season tickets on Sunday, he might be finding his special talents are needed again in a fortnight. Given the impressive uptake of City’s bargain bucket season tickets, far beyond expectations, you wonder if City will be able to cope with the higher than expected crowds this season. Hey Mark the half time queues for food are huge, your cookery skills are needed on the Kop concourse…

The season ticket offer ends on Tuesday and, six months after the idea was originally announced, Lawn’s new sidekick should be feeling especially pleased with himself. When Julian Rhodes launched the scheme last February, he was greeted with a degree of indifference and an apparent reality of how much the district of Bradford was bothered about having a football team.

City are leading the way with making football affordable to everyone and, if our biggest crowds for years are celebrating promotion come May, it will surely become an initiative copied elsewhere.

People were asked to ‘pledge’ to buy a ticket and the numbers who did so were not enough. Given City failed to win a single home match and their feeble attempt to avoid relegation during this period, it’s perhaps to be expected the T&A post bag wasn’t exactly bulging. Nevertheless, the lack of response to the cheapest season tickets in English professional football felt both demoralising and embarrassing.

So what’s changed? Why are we now about to kick off the new season with just under 12,000 season ticket holders? A third relegation in six years occurred, yet the optimism among supporters for the season ahead is probably the highest it has been since promotion to the Premiership. It appears that the summer arrivals account for the late surge of interest in watching City’s first bottom division campaign in two decades.

Yet Mark Lawn’s investment in the club, while crucial and welcomed by every City supporter, would surely not be of enough significance to suddenly make lapsed supporters return. It’s the arrival of one of City’s sporting icons who must surely take credit for that.

It’s worth noting just how powerful the Stuart McCall factor is. Cheap season tickets or not, it appears several thousands are returning to watch Bradford City on the strength of his appointment. This shows the depth of feeling people have for our ginger hero. Stuart has been at the forefront of some of City’s more recent prominent moments, both happy and tragic. He has proved himself to be the ultimate hero and one that, crucially, is easy for everyone to identify with. He is loved by so many, including those who gave up watching City years ago.

After the previously poor response to the season ticket offer, few would have blamed Rhodes if he had abandoned the initiative last spring. He kept going, partly helped by behind the scenes support from Lawn. His long term aim was to get Stuart in, although this also looked unlikely for a time. With the offer not going well, Stuart remaining tight-lipped about his future and City heading for relegation; many supporters decided to vocally criticise our owner and the ‘get rid of’ brigade began calling for him to step down. Rhodes even briefly contemplated giving those people what they wanted, but thankfully decided to stay on.

His plan might not have looked successful for a time and his determination to wait for Stuart clearly cost City their League One status last term, but luck changed and the snowball effect of good news stories continues at a fast pace. Now Rhodes can hopefully sit back as the season kicks off with his efforts paying off. It won’t happen but, after Stuart gets his great reception from fans as he walks to the dugout against Macclesfield, it would be wonderful if a chant of ‘there’s only one Julian Rhodes’ rang out from all three home stands.

The season ticket offer is wonderful. I’ve written a few bfb articles calling for reduced ticket prices in the past. As someone who hasn’t been financially well off for a couple of years, I was acutely aware how expensive it was to watch City and I’ve had to miss some matches before finally been able to afford a season ticket again last season. I think it’s wonderful that, as ticket prices continue to rise nationally and the Premiership becomes more and more removed from reality, my club has taken this fantastic lead in making the game more affordable for ordinary folk.

Bradford City have been criticised in the past for not doing enough in the community, but this move is a significant step towards integrating the club as an important part of local people’s lives. Now around 11,500 of us will be visiting Valley Parade every fortnight and the new season promises to be exciting, carrying with it the promise of a promotion push.

It won’t be easy, Stuart doesn’t have a huge transfer budget and undoubtedly not all of his summer signings will prove successful. The loan system is being heavily utilised and some fans are already needlessly panicking because City have lost a couple of friendlies. The new investment from Lawn gives City a chance to push forward, but it doesn’t mean City have bucket loads of cash to spend. The problems of recent years are probably best illustrated by the return of Paul Heckingbottom on loan. It’s three years since he departed; yet he still remains the last left back City signed on a permanent basis.

Promotion this season would make for a wonderfully happy story; not just to a club that has forgotten what success is like, but for football fans everywhere. City are leading the way with making football affordable to everyone and, if our biggest crowds for years are celebrating promotion come May, it will surely become an initiative copied elsewhere.

If the fairytale ending of promotion does occur, Rhodes can be even prouder than he must feel right now. As fans criticised him last spring, many seemingly dismissed the fact he and his family had twice saved the club as a minor irrelevance. While this is ludicrous and sadly typical of some of our fans, Rhodes’ vision could be about to create a legacy no one could shrug off. It’s unfortunate that history will so far record Rhodes tenure as a time linked with failure and financial strife. With his wonderful offer, new investment on board and a City legend as manager; Rhodes’ plan is coming together and it’s to be hoped all of this hardwork will pay off.

If anyone deserves to succeed with City, it is surely Rhodes. Hopefully this season he can sit back and enjoy some success. It’s sure to taste even better than a Mark Lawn burger.

New Investor Mark Lawn Arrives At Bradford City To Take Joint Chairmanship

46 year old Mark Lawn has invested a chunk of his wealth in a half share of Bradford City and joins Julian Rhodes as joint chairman of the resurgent Bradford City.

Lawn made his money with Driver Hire – a driver recruitment agency in Bingley – and spent it wiping out his club’s debts. Julian Rhodes – as with the gusto of Lieutenant Colonel Travis – took a deserved delight in this day saying

We’ve got rid of all the debts apart from a small overdraft facility.

Laws investment is financial stability rather than team building funds but will allow City to concentrate revenue on the football side of the business rather than servicing the debts. Lawn will also take over as the public face of the club. The new Geoffrey Richmond in the nicest possible way.

Richmond’s dawn at City was brilliant but in the scheme of things all to brief. The new man at Bradford City could dip into the Geoffrey manual for tub-thumping but will do well to bang a less hollow drum than Richmond’s pushing energy and resource into building of more permanent structures at the club. The youth program begins to brings fruit and always needs augmenting, the scheme that is selling City season tickets for less than twenty quid more than Bradford Park Avenue ones is peerless in football in terms of an investment in the future of our club and the financial boost can be to this generation what kid-for-a-quid was to others.

Lawn begins with a club as low as it has been for many a decade and tired of the much heard mantra that the only way was up – down seems to have been the more commonly taken route – but his arrival coincides (not by accident) with Stuart McCall’s third coming and an increased sense of the positive around the club.

All of which is very much a new day and one which needs to be ceased with both hands because to return to the metaphor – this new dawn breaks over the last chance saloon.

The Third Coming – Stuart McCall Is The New Bradford City Manager

Bradford City have confirmed that Stuart McCall will be returning to the club as the new manager. The former Bantams skipper shook hands with Julian Rhodes on the deal and is expected to be presented to City fans on the 1st of June following a two week family holiday.

McCall returns City after five years away at Sheffield United having previously rejoined in June 1998 when he skippered the Bantams to Premiership promotion. Previously McCall played for City from 1981 to 1988 with distinction taking the club to the brink of the top flight. He played and scored in the World Cup for Scotland in 1990. He was part of the Rangers team that knocked Leeds out of the European Cup. His nobility as a young profession following the fire of 1985 is marked with unspoken appreciation. He is – without doubt – the definitive legend of Bradford City and he is back.

His return today – a return which comes in preference the job at Sheffield United despite the word coming out of South Yorkshire – shows the meaning of that legend status. McCall returns at Bradford City to find a club on its knees and in doing so shows a massive faith in the club and the supporters.

It is up to the supporters – to us – to repay that faith. It is up to Bradford City supporters to put an end to the negativity and bad atmosphere that has blighted the club since the fall from the Premiership if not before. It is up to us – to all of us – to match McCall’s faith with some of our own.

McCall’s faith will be matched at Valley Parade soon with investment and aid for Julian Rhodes – Rhodes’s work in keeping City alive to this day is matched by McCall’s joining and has made it possible – arriving within the next two weeks that will mean that McCall’s first job at Valley Parade will not be to sell because we have been relegated but rather to start building a team for promotion. McCall may choose to sell Mark Bower or Dean Windass but – as BfB understands it – he will not be forced to.

McCall has shown the faith and it is up to all supporters to keep it. This can be the catalyst for this club turning round. If we owe Stuart McCall anything it is to take up an attitude of positive, positive, positive in matching the faith he has shown.

In being positive McCall returns to Bradford City to find not a club in its knees but an endless potential for the future. How many times did we see promoted teams from League Two flying by us in League One? McCall, Rhodes, the new investor can take heart from that. Should the innovation of Julian Rhodes’s season ticket policy be rewarded with a significant supporter boost then we could be on the brink of a push that could put the Bantams back into The Championship and then set us to push on from that.

McCall has shown faith and we must reward him for that by putting every resource we can as supporters into turning this club around into a place fit for McCall’s level of passion. Make no mistake about no matter what comes out of Sheffield United McCall has selected City over The Blades.

I’m sorry to say, dear reader, that we must have some secrets and I have been withholding from you the fact that Stuart McCall agreed to become City manager on Wednesday morning. When Terry Robinson talks about not offering Stuart the chance to manage The Blades because “(They) didn’t feel Stuart met the criteria necessary to get the club back into the Premiership” he speaks with forked tongue because while The Blades were lining Stuart up Stuart was confirming to City that he would be joining us.

Stuart has knocked back a good job at Sheffield United to show faith in us. We owe him everything we can do to ensure his and our success with him at the helm.

We owe Stuart McCall a repayment on the faith he has shown us. This club was going to Hell in a handcart despite the best efforts of many but this is the moment that everything turns around. This is year zero. This is Bradford City Resurrectus. Scratch that, even Jesus only came back once.

He is the resurrection and for this club he is the life.

Welcome, one and all, to the Third Coming.

Last Time On BfB…

Since we last talked, dear reader, things have not gone well at Valley Parade.

You may recall this website being dubbed “pro-Todd” and in the months of our absence he was fired from the club one Monday morning for suggesting to the chairman that he may leave in the Summer. Todd’s replacement – skipper David Wetherall – has struggled to get results and if one were to formulate the opinion that Todd’s management abilities were shown by the fact that he could get the club mid-table not shown up by that then some would not argue.

Nevertheless to suggest that Todd was some kind of miracle worker is off the mark too. It would perhaps be a miracle to get the team we have out of the division the right way and it was certainly something that the former Derby man very rarely like achieving. That Todd’s steady hand on the tiller would is missed should not be mistaken for an idea that he was over-achieving. “Thanks Colin,” we would say, “But we are going to move it on.”

Moving it on to David Wetherall has not reaped results thus far but the skipper turned gaffer is switched onto the sort of ideas that Todd may have needed to listen to. So many of the issues around managers seem to resolve about Craig Bentham or whomever is assigned to play that holding midfield role that has been a problem since Stuart McCall went south. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Steven Schumacher need a muscle to win the ball but Bentham – as with Crooks, Kearney and other players given the number four role – never seems to be glued into position in the side and always is the first to go in the name of pressing for attacking play.

As this is the new opinion bursting full BfB then unequivocally I’ll say that there is nothing attacking about not possession and too often without Bentham or similar in the side we left with creative players chasing attackers rather than using the ball. Should Stuart McCall end up in the Bradford City job in the summer then one can only hope he knows his own position well enough to cement a ball winner in the middle of the midfield and build out from there.

McCall may or may not return in the summer when season ticket prices may or may not go down depending on the willingness of 10,000 supporters to commit to the club. The old BfB’s pressing for a price revolution is doubly underlined by this new site and Julian Rhodes should be congratulated – and hopefully rewarded – for this innovation.

To be damned are those who drove Dean Windass out of Valley Parade. Death threats to a player who got sent off is appalling, death threats to a player is appalling, death threats to a person is appalling but most appalling is the lack of condemnation for the people who drove away a player who is increasingly looking like the reason we were half way up the league.

For sure Windass may have only received two or three letters but the brickbats and booing that came before those letters set the tone. From a humanistic point of view Windass was pushed towards the door by an ill feeling towards him that was far more common – and totally unjustified – than two or three letters.

Opinions about the man and the way he plays football are valid but the abuse of Windass from a significant section of Bradford City supporters far beyond the two or three letters are tantamount to vandalism of the club and the results are manifest now Windass has gone on loan to Hull.

Of the newer signings – all loan players – Billy Paynter looks impressive and Kelly Youga is starting to be very useful. Loan football – which seems to be on the increase – is not desirable and for every Paynter or Nathan Doyle who comes to the club City end up with a decent young lad playing within his limits. Ben Parker is probably a nice guy and is a decent footballer but that we expect the same level of commitment from him as we do from our own players and I see no reason why he should be able to give it. I would much rather see our young lads given the chance to play week in week out than I would blood someone else’s youth talent. Parker will be back at Valley Parade next season no doubt but probably as a member of the team that replaces the team that they call the worst Leeds side ever so why we expect players who’s futures are so obviously separate from the club to put in the same level of commitment is beyond me.

The young lads need a chance. They need more than the odd sprinkling of games too. They need to be given runs in the side just as Joe Colbeck is being given now. Then they need the understanding that being a young player means being inconsistent and being inconsistent means sometimes having bad games and – and this is the important bit – being a fan of a particular club means supporting your players through bad games.

I’ve not got much of a problem with people booing slackers and shirkers – I doubt it really does any good because and think that booing Lee Sharpe or Nicky Summerbee for not playing hard enough just justified their appalling attitudes – but I have a big problem with people booing players who are trying hard and having a bad game and I have a big problem with people booing the kids that come through the ranks and are trying to make it work in professional football for Bradford City.

At present City face a seven game struggle to start in League One and after that God only knows. That is where we are. Let’s see what happens…

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

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.