Should Fans Be Making Decisions for Football Clubs?

Untold is my default and most frequented football blog. I have a tab on my browser permanently dedicated to this site. But I also like to visit TeamTalk.com because of the format of the site. It is a neutral site (in my opinion) that houses all the clubs in Britain. Perhaps the greatest draw of TT is their Your Say pages. Every team has a Your Say page and there is a general one for all teams. I don’t visit this site for new information; they never break any news. All they do is basically parrot the rumours being spread by the other media and report actual news as broken, again, by the other media.

You can, however, get a good feel of fans perspectives on stories because of the comments section. Their neutrality brings in assorted fans but sadly for Arsenal, they are mostly our negative brigade.

One of their top stories presently is on the rumoured £85 million Real Mad bid for Bale. Before those who have seen me moan against transfer speculation starts calling me a hypocrite, please this piece is not about the speculation on Bale’s future. It is based on a hypothetical question that I posted on the Tottenham Your Say page about what to do with the rumoured £85 million if the deal ever gets made. See my suggestion below:

bootoomee77 (Arsenal): Here is a silly thought: how about accepting the £85m and getting work started on your new stadium? Sorry, a deluded gooner here but I kind of care about long term welfare of clubs than instant gratification that buying new players brings. Keeping Bale guarantees nothing. You had him last season in the greatest form of his life and you still came short. Arsenal got our London Colney training ground from the Anelka deal. Selling Overmars and Petit set off the Emirates construction. You can look back at your new stadium in a few years and say: that is what Bale got us! BTW, this is not a ploy to weaken you guys; I genuinely mean what I wrote here.

Now, you might be wondering, what is Bootoomee’s business in how Tottenham spend their own money? My suggestion is actually genuine as regular readers of Untold comments section would know about me. But it was also raised to see the reaction from their fans. I have always wondered if it would be wise for clubs to be run based on the opinions and desires of fans. The reactions were indeed very interesting.

It appears that my suggestion is popular. It has 24 thumbs up and 0 thumbs down at the time of writing (Tony, any hope of having such feature on this great site? And may I suggest Disqus?). That is clearly very, very popular indeed considering that I am a Gooner on Spurs’ page!

But then the written replies say a totally different thing. I have renamed the 3 commenters: Spur1, Spur2 and Spur3 respectively. You can read the comments here with their actual usernames: http://www.teamtalk.com/yoursay/comment/5149302

[NB for clarity I’ve corrected some of the spellings and grammar -Tony]

The very first response is this:

Spur 1: Tottenham Hotspur): cant you see that the sale of all those wonderful players you once had have made you a weaker club then you were 10-15 years ago. you might have a paid for stadium, but you are not winning anything anymore. arsenal doesn’t have the same appeal to players anymore. the fact you have only finished above us with 1 point 2 seasons in a row is a statement of how far your club has fallen, and how much we have climbed. i want us to keep climbing, the stadium will be build when its build.

I give this commenter loads of credit for holding a contrary opinion respectfully. Of course he is fundamentally wrong about Arsenal becoming a weaker club due to selling our players over the last “10-15 years”.    Links such as this one and this show Arsenal not being in top 10 in 2001 to being in fourth place in 2013. (Note, that second link has now been fixed).

No club has made such progress in the 12 year period provided and none of the top teams have gone eight years without a trophy. I wonder what has been propelling us forward. Maybe because we have 20,000 more fans in every home game? Chelsea have fallen beneath us despite winning more than a trophy per season on average since we last won one including Abramovich’s Holy Grail; and they were above us in 2001. Tottenham have shuttled between 15th and 11th since 2005.

This comment has 1 thumb up and 1 down at the time of writing.

There is also:

(Spur2) (Tottenham Hotspur): I know this is well intended but what are you – a fan of construction projects? Who do you really support Skanska or Arup? Seriously mate I don’t get anything like as much satisfaction at looking at the infrastructure as I do at the team and I run infrastructure projects. Football is about players, goals, games and for some clubs (though not ours – trophies!). That is what gets the pulse racing not the stadium.

Another non-abusive poster who sees no reason for infrastructure development and how it can advance the fortunes of his/her club. If only this was the prevailing sentiment when their current stadium was built; if only!

This post currently have 3 thumbs up and 2 down.

Then of course, there is the rabid poster, naturally:

(Spur3) (Tottenham Hotspur): deluded arsenal Muppet What makes you think that anyone cares what your opinion is about our club. Your on the wrong page although I admit there is sweet fa to talk about with regard to arsenal

He currently has 27 thumbs down and zero thumb up. And this is on a Spurs page!

My first conclusion from the above is that the fans who believe in long term advancement of their club (or just good manners) are less vocal on the Internet even though they are in the majority. I have to say that I find this positively surprising. Currently, 24 readers agree with my suggestion but none of them wrote a reply. Three people have written contrary opinions with 30 and 4 silent people disagreeing and 4 agreeing with them respectively!

I have joked in my Untold comments about footy fans having a new disease that I christened buy-player tourettes. The solution that most Internet fans have for any issue affecting their club is always the same most of the time: buy players! And guess what is the most overwhelmingly common suggestion on how to spend the £85 million anticipated windfall? You guess right: “splash the cash on 3 to 4 world class players”! It’s like the comments were being written by a robot! But as the reactions to my suggestion show, these are the vocal fans. The silent majority seem to think differently.

Should fans be making decisions for football clubs? My answer is a definite NO. It is not in my nature to sit on the fence! Here is my rationalization of my answer:

  1. Most fans, especially the noisy ones, are ignorant in most aspect of running a football club or any business for that matter: The trophy junkies’ clique of Arsenal fans are forever whining about the club’s refusal to spend the money that they have in reserve. Dear me, I wonder how we got the reserve in the first place? We wouldn’t have the reserve if the board had been following their idea of splashing the cash. The club spending the money as the ‘buy-buy-buy’ brigade are suggesting now will be akin to depriving yourself of luxuries to save up for a secure future and then blowing the savings on luxuries because your future looks secured. I cannot think of a more stupid path for the club to take at this point. The club’s current path is the right one.
  1. All fans want their teams to win trophies but unfortunately, there are limited numbers of trophies that can be won: Man City ended last season empty handed while Wigan won a trophy! Real Madrid have now gone for 11 years without a champions’ league trophy. You may think this is not a big deal but they won it thrice in 4 years (between 1998 and 2002) and Lius Figo had to leave Barcelona then as captain for Madrid to win the trophy. While there is no denying that splashing the cash helps to acquire trophies, there is no guarantee that it does as the highest spenders don’t always win.
  1. Fans will bankrupt their clubs to win trophies: Portsmouth won the FA cup in 2008 and now they are in league 2 (that is division 4 BTW!). I wonder how their fans are feeling right now, five years after that euphoric day at Wembley!
  1. Fans’ record of player assessment and suggestion is not great: When Arsene Wenger refused to pay Bordeaux for Chamackh’s 6 month contract, online Gooners were up in arms. Chamackh became the biggest thing because he scored some goals for Bordeaux in the ECL. Although he did well at the beginning of his Arsenal career, I think AW/board’s prudence seems wise now that his form has gone through the floor. It is ironic that it is the same online fans that are now calling him ‘deadwood’ and demanding his ejection from the club. Alex Song was derided as AW developed him into a solid midfielder but upon his departure, it was the same detractors that cried the most. Actually, a complete article could be written on how wrong fans have been when it comes to players’ assessment.
  1. Trophies or Infrastructure Development & Long Term Financial security: You can see the quote of Spur2 above again. If the footy fans of the past had a similar attitude and the clubs’ management then listened to them, we would still be watching matches in poorly maintained open fields and football will not be the great game that it is today!

Football fans are just that: fans and nothing more. Football administrators may be great or mediocre but the running of football teams should be left to them as they usually have some training, experience and pedigree in the field.

There are times when I feel like I have better ideas than George Osborne on how to manage the British economy (and maybe I do) but I have neither the training, nor the experience or pedigree in macro-economics that is required to do his job.

Fans need to calm down and support their clubs because that is all they can really do. Bitching and moaning about the players that should be signed, which is the favourite pastime of most online fans, is ridiculous because all it does is cause aggravations to the proponents when their wishes fail to materialise; usually because those in charge have different ideas to begin with.

I am extremely grateful that Arsenal fans are not making decisions for my darling club or we might still be stuck at Highbury while still not winning a trophy for 8 years, even with different managers after sacking AW along the way. I know that this last bit never crossed the mind of the trophy junkies but it is a very, very possible scenario.

Isn’t it?

Finally, let’s all keep the faith, continue to fully support our team and hope for the best in the 2013/14 season.

Cross posted at Untold Arsenal

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