Another year's flown by and we'd like to say thanks again to all our members - that's you by the way. We can only exist as a legitimate, campaigning, representative organisation if new fans continue to join, so spread the word to your mates and we'll be back in 2012. Read on for a look back on the highlights (and lowlights) of a year’s worth of FSF news...
Sepp Blatter strengthened his claim to be the biggest buffoon in world football when he said he expected the Qatar 2022 World Cup would be staged in winter. This was because, erm, he’d noticed it's a bit hot in Qatar during the summer months. Yeah, good spot Sepp.
One of our most popular stories of the year next. What is the worst view in football? We asked fans to send in their pics and received some shocking ones from St Andrew’s (right), Anfield, Kenilworth Road, and the Hawthorns. We also told of a young Celtic fan who, in a pre-season friendly at Lincoln, got on the wrong side of the law after being wrongly accused of letting off a flare. He didn’t set it off and we got him off.
Another hot topic flared up (see what we did there?) at West Ham with the Olympic Stadium move causing controversy. The FSF opposed West Ham’s (or Spurs') move to the Olympic Stadium for two main reasons: 1. The club did not hold a proper vote among Hammers fans to ask their opinions, and 2. It appeared to be against Football League rules (which greatly concerned Orient fans who felt their club under threat).
Big subjects spark big debate and there were some unhappy Hammers who disagreed with the FSF’s stance on this issue. We invited Hammers reps to a meeting in London although it must be said, those fans who contacted the FSF directly were largely supportive and said they did not want to move.
On to February and the news that Premier League fans travel, on average, almost 2,000 miles per season. Wowzer. WBA fans travel the furthest apparently with Manchester City fans not too far behind. Blackburn, Wigan, and Bolton travel the shortest distances, although that’s obviously a result of the proliferation of north-west clubs in the top-flight, rather than laziness.
Speaking of high numbers we also found out that the 2011 Champions League final tickets could cost as much as £176! And that’s just a normal seat, no prawn sarnies included. Apparently the Saturday kick-off is meant to encourage families along, although we’re not quite sure how that tallies with £150 tickets and £26 booking fees. Feel the pinch.
The early weeks of March flew by with news that fans were angry at the Football League’s decision to move the final day of the Championship season. Oh, and clubs owed the taxman a piffling £22m. Now what’s that between friends?
Come late March though and the FSF’s media machine spluttered into action as two separate stories made the national news. First off our ranking of club charters was picked up by the Beeb. Some clubs didn’t like what they read and claimed they did take club charters seriously…even if they had forgotten to put it on their websites. D’oh.
On 23rd March we launched our safe standing petition which received front-page coverage on the Guardian’s sports pages, BBC breakfast news sofa time, BBC Five Live, ITV, Talksport, Sky Sports News, and various other newspapers, broadcasters, and web nonsense. Excellent.
The month started with a story that, remarkably, wasn’t actually an April Fools joke. Although it sounded like one. The ever reliable Mohamed Al Fayed unveiled a statue of legendary weirdo Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage and told fans who didn’t like it to “go to hell”. That’s hell, not Hull.
Across at the City of Manchester Stadium (for it was still called that then) we reported on 17-year-old Alex Blood who was thrown out for smoking. Even though he doesn’t smoke. To make matters worse the club wrote to him, only for his mum to open the letter and tell him off for smoking.
Lastly we reported on the unfairness of the Football League’s local promo rule and listed a gazillion reasons why it needs changing. It basically punishes the loyalest fans who travel furthest and spend the most. Great!
The summer is here (allegedly), the sun is shining (allegedly), and we show how organised we are (allegedly), by launching the all-new Football Writers Awards in association with Cult Zeros.
As well as that we investigated the split of tickets at FA Cup finals and asked that fans be given more, while a new survey suggested as many as one in seven wouldn’t be renewing season tickets. Scary stuff. Oh, and in case anyone had forgotten, we reminded everybody that Sepp Blatter and FIFA had lost all credibility. Although you might have already knew that.
Figures released by Deloitte showed that Championship clubs spend £4 for every £3 they generate in revenue. Now we’re no Warren Buffet but even we recognise that might spell trouble. In happier news both Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis and Professor Steve Frosdick, founder member of the UK Football Safety Officers' Association, backed the introduction of safe standing areas.
The inaugural Football Supporters’ Federation’s Football Writers Awards in association with Cult Zeros took place and a fun night was had by all. Who was shortlisted? Who won? Who was so drunk they managed to smash their winners’ trophy? (Clue - it was Leeds United fanzine The Square Ball.)
July was also a big month for the Barnsley fan who, thanks to the FSF, received almost £4,000 compensation after being bitten by a police dog and Section 27’d on his way to Sheffield. He had done nothing wrong.
While everyone else was off enjoying their summer holidays the happy little elves at FSF HQ were busy with the season about to start. Post-Fans’ Parliament 2011 (the FSF’s annual conference) we argued that football’s governing bodies should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
We also told how Wrexham FC fans raised £127,000 in one day to save their club from potential oblivion and reported on desperate times at Argyle. Hillsborough was back in the news too as an online petition received 150,000+ signatures, thus triggering a Parliamentary debate.
September began with the tragic death of Wales fan Mikey Dye at Wembley. The FSF put on record our condemnation of the manner in which this story was reported by certain elements in the media, which was nothing short of disgraceful.
September was also a month of real supporter solidarity. There was ticket trouble at the Bridge and Bramall Lane and Fans Reunited at Argyle which was a superb show of togetherness.
Non-League Day 2011 showed there’s more to life than pro football as fans were encouraged to check out their local non-league side during the international break. Oh, and Fergie said he had no sympathy for the devil of TV. But what’s puzzling him is the nature of the game. Choo choo.
The dark nights closed in and the Premier League felt a chill in the air as the European Court of Justice seemingly ruled against them in a dispute with a Portsmouth landlady over TV rights. However, the case still has legs and media experts seem split on the fall out. Watch this space. Just make sure you’re watching via a legitimately paid for service, obviously.
The Department for Culture, Media, and Sport also published its response into the select committee’s report on football governance. FSF chair Malcolm Clarke: “We’re pleased that the government has accepted most of the reports recommendations. We believe these can build upon a lot of the very good work the FA is doing while simultaneously addressing the major concerns that still remain at many professional clubs.”
On 2nd November the FSF reported that almost 100 Cardiff City fans had walked out of Elland Road in protest at their treatment. Only the previous month they’d held a sit in at Hull City to secure a supporters release who they said had been wrongly arrested.
A group of Wolves fans also started the Take Back The Game campaign. It’s one of many such campaigns which have sprung up independently of one another lately and a reminder that football should remember it’s not good business to alienate your most loyal and committed “customers”.
Football stadiums were back in the news too. The chorus of voices backing safe standing continued to grow as Wembley architect John Barrow stated it can be done “without any problems at all”. He works for Populous who designed Soccer City in Johannesburg which hosted the 2010 World Cup final. Basically, he knows what he’s talking about. Listen up government, police, and football authorities.
And the other football ground news? Mike Ashley was at it again with his ridiculous plans – against supporters’ wishes - to rename St James’ Park the ‘Sports Direct Arena’. Mark Jensen of the Mag fanzine: “It’s a very strange way to run a big business which happens to be a football club. I think there are much better ways of maximising the potential revenue than turning their fan-base against them.”
November saw a new FIFA furore as world football’s governing body refused to permit England players to wear the poppy, before relenting after a storm of negative publicity.
November saw a new FIFA furore as…hang on, have we not just said that? Yes we have but Blatter was at it AGAIN when he explained that racism should be settled with a handshake. A view so outdated that even FIFA’s own rules set heavy punishments for racism…that their president doesn’t seem to understand.
An otherwise quiet Sunday was interrupted with the shocking news that Gary Speed had taken his own life. It prompted a very genuine outpouring of grief, emotion, and sympathy from players and fans alike. Awful news and a great loss to the football world.
Anyone still reading? Anyway, news of FC United’s fans’ remarkable fundraising efforts for a new stadium caught our eye while South Coast bubble trouble left fans unhappy. Fulham’s local council also implemented a host of new pre-match safety measures that would not have occurred without the FSF and fans’ input.
December also saw the death of former Brazilian capain Socrates. He appeared in two World Cups, won 60 caps for his country, and played in one of the greatest games of all time - Brazil's 3-2 defeat to Italy in the 1982 finals. Off-the-field he was a qualified doctor and committed democrat at a time when his country was living under a military government. A remarkable character.
And finally, we finish the year on a high note with the news that the Scottish Premier League will consider requests for pilot safe standing schemes. If the pilot proves a success it could have a major impact south of the border too. After all, if it's fine for Scotland, why not the rest of the UK?
Thanks for reading.
While you might have found these stories by parts entertaining, informative, maddening, baffling, or boring, one thing is for sure - without the tip-offs, inside knowledge, and goodwill of FSF members (join here free if you're not a member!) we couldn’t have reported these stories or fought the fans’ corner.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and we'll be back in 2012.