Say what you like about Liverpool Football Club and their fans, but one thing that most definitely works in their favour is having a united group of supporters. The collective mentality and decisive nature of their fans was instrumental in organising and executing a mass walkout of fans in protest at high ticket prices at the home game against Sunderland in February. As a consequence, the club reduced ticket prices just a number of days later in response to the protest. It was a great moment for Liverpool fans but it was also a seminal moment for football fans of all clubs in England. It showed that fan action does have power. It gave hope where there was no hope before.
In recent weeks and months, there has been growing discontent amongst some, but not all, Manchester City supporters at high ticket prices. The pricing for City’s home game against PSG in the Champions League was of particular concern to fans given that some tickets cost up to £60. There has been much talk about that issue which I do not intend to relay but it is clear there is a division amongst the supporters about what action to take, if any. Whilst some are adamant that a walkout, replicating Liverpool, is an absolute must there are seemingly more who are content with the current upward trajectory of ticket prices.
The 1894 Manchester City’s supporters group have in recent weeks engaged with the fans trying to ascertain what action to take. That in itself is positive as it is promoting dialogue about the issue and it would be naïve to suggest that it has achieved nothing. However, throughout their endeavours it became apparent that the majority of City fans were against any kind of walkout protest and from the outset the 1894 group stated that they were keen to represent the majority view, which is fair enough. As such, any mooted walkout was abandoned and the closest we came to a protest was a few banners held up by fans in the South Stand in the home game against West Brom. Whilst that wasn’t my personal preference the group did what they said they would do and represent the majority view.
What really jars though is seeing the same supporter group today publish a petition to keep Radio Manchester’s Ian Cheeseman on European commentary duty for City without seemingly any consultation with the fans like they did about ticket prices. To be absolutely clear, Cheeseman isn’t actually losing his job, he is just being taken off European commentary duty and will still be covering City’s domestic games. Your opinion on Cheeseman is irrelevant in these circumstances. Personally, I have never listened to him but I would never petition to keep him in a job or petition to get him out of job, let alone petition to keep an element of his job, like the 1894 group. Setting up a petition is a nice gesture but is it really a pressing issue for a Manchester City supporter today? I don’t think so.
For all of the supporters who were keen to take decisive action against ticket prices who were not represented by the 1894 group what must they be thinking? In effect, they were ignored but now all of sudden they are being asked to support Cheeseman’s all expenses paid trips around Europe to watch City without any prior consultation. The hypocrisy of going to great lengths to emphasise that they are keen to represent the majority view and then pull out a petition out of nowhere for a relatively trivial issue is farcical. The whole thing stinks and is representative of the dithering and misguided nature of some of the City support. If they want to represent that we, as a set of supporters, are shamefully inept they have achieved that but I doubt that is what they want.
For what it’s worth, I don’t have any ill feeling towards Cheeseman. He must be delighted a supporter’s group are sticking up for him. What I hope for has nothing to do with Ian Cheeseman, though. What I hope for is that I can, my friends can, my family can and people I don’t even know can actually afford to go and watch the team we all support because football is simply too expensive. Until the fan base can actually unite in the manner that Liverpool fans did there is seemingly no hope of addressing the ticket price issue. But don’t worry, we’ll make sure our local radio commentator can go and watch the team in Europe for free whilst the rest of us are priced out of the game.
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Written by Rob Toole