Day in, day out the FSF looks out for the interest of football fans. But we know you’re all busy people, and won’t have caught every story from 2017, so we thought it’d be worth rounding up some of the more interesting news from Planet FSF during the past year. Read on.
The year started with some TV hell – no, the New Year schedules weren’t that bad, although we could live without seeing another James Bond repeat - we’re talking about broadcasters wrecking things for match-going fans. The guilty party on this occasion was the BBC who moved the Cardiff City-Fulham cup tie to 11.30am on a Sunday. TV fixture issues would be a bit of a theme this year…
Onto more existential matters and the FSF National Council unanimously agreed to back a campaign by Millwall fans to save land at the New Den. This story is still rumbling on but we’re fully behind fans of Millwall who are fighting to save their club’s heritage.
We know the vast majority of fans back the choice to sit or stand, but there are understandable emotions on Merseyside in relation to the issue, so it was heartening to see 92% of Everton fans back the campaign.
MPs pushed for a motion of no confidence in the FA’s ability to reform itself and backed FSF recommendations to increase supporter representation on football’s governing body. Speaking of inadequate governance Leyton Orient fans were forced to dig deep to try and save their club from the wreckage created by then owner Francesco Becchetti.
Rail seating was officially licensed for League One and League Two. EFL CEO Shaun Harvey said: "The symbolic value of this decision should not be overlooked as I believe it demonstrates an encouraging direction of travel that will hopefully lead to further progress on our other aims in the period ahead.” The façade of an outdated and illogical ban is slowly crumbling…
Speaking of which we also had a look at football’s alcohol ban as Matt Hall, associate lecturer in law at UWE, argued that the law needs an urgent review. It also highlighted the absurd example of a hotel overlooking Norwich City’s Carrow Road which has to ban guests from drinking alcohol in their own room, as it’s in view of the pitch. Ludicrous.
Some big news as our Twenty’s Plenty for Away Tickets campaign delivered some real world benefits for fans as Virgin Media capped thousands of away tickets at £20. Brigitte Trafford of Virgin Media said: “Away fans are at the heart of the game and their tickets need to be affordable. Without them, the atmosphere in grounds is reduced and their teams don’t feel supported.”
League One and League Two clubs overwhelmingly supported controversial proposals to allow the continued involvement of Premier League "B teams" in the Checkatrade Trophy. FSF chief executive Kevin Miles said: "A substantial majority of our members at League One and League Two clubs last year registered their opposition to development teams from Premier League clubs participating in the Checkatrade Trophy, and that dissatisfaction was clearly reflected in the attendance figures at games where supporters voted with their feet.”
The founder of Brentford’s LGBeeT group Gemma Teale told us about #CallitOut - an event held in Manchester celebrating the growth of the LGBT fan movement. “There was also an international flavour to the event, with a workshop on how LGBT+ fans can safely travel to watch the World Cup in Russia,” reported Gemma.
Kat Law became the second fan representative on the FA Council. Kat is co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust and a member of Supporters Direct's England and Wales Football Council. She’s also led the charge on the FSF’s work in lobbying broadcasters for a better deal for fans and is a formidable force when it comes to arguing the fans’ corner.
July proved to have a bit of a safe standing theme as Leicester City and Middlesbrough fans both came out to support safe standing in surveys carried out by atmosphere group Union FS and the Middlesbrough Supporters Forum. Union FS surveyed more than 1,200 Foxes and found that 87% wanted to see safe standing introduced at the King Power Stadium while 94% of 3,300 Boro fans backed the cause.
Significantly an overwhelming majority of Liverpool supporters also backed safe standing in one of the largest surveys ever conducted on the subject. Almost 18,000 Liverpool fans took part in the survey as part of a consultation held by Spirit of Shankly - with 88% of respondents voting to support rail seating.
The week long vote was the culmination of an extensive consultation carried out by Spirit of Shankly over nine months, which included discussions and debates with match-going Liverpool fans, the Football Supporters' Federation, government safety experts as well as Hillsborough families and survivors.
Chair of Spirit of Shankly Jay McKenna said: "It’s an incredible turnout, we aren’t aware of such numbers voting before. It demonstrates to us that we were right to have this discussion and that supporters, families and survivors want to have their say."
Safe standing continued to be at the forefront of our minds as Shrewsbury Town launched a crowdfunder to become the first club in England to have a fully functioning rail seat area. FSF National Council member Ally Simcock attended the launch and said the initiative would have an impact way beyond Shropshire. The crowdfunder raised an incredible £65,690.
We also encouraged our fan groups at EFL level to get behind Twenty’s Plenty and encourage their club to reciprocate Ipswich Town’s decision to embrace the concept. That included a step-by-step guide to setting up some local campaign activities.
The FSF’s first national supporters survey in five years also threw up some interesting factoids. Two-thirds of fans think top-flight clubs are focusing too much on their global brand, only one-third feels their club cares about them and their views, and nine out of 10 want supporter representation on their club’s board. And there’s plenty more of where that came from – stats ahoy here.
Labour embraced an FSF idea and said they wanted to see the introduction of a national flexible ticketing scheme for away fans who have to change trains if a match is moved at the behest of football’s major broadcasters. Shadow sports minister Tom Watson said the party are concerned about the number of re-arranged fixtures that leave fans with no public transport options home.
Another value-for-money idea which could help fans was taken on by Crystal Palace who created a ticket exchange for fans allowing supporters to swap tickets at face value for games they can no longer attend - something the FSF has advocated for many years.
Good news for top-flight away fans as Virgin Media announced they will once again subsidise away tickets at St Mary’s to £20 during 2017/18. This goes above and beyond the Premier League wide £30 cap on away tickets and FSF wants to see more clubs and sponsors take up the practice of subsidising away fans.
The Premier League found against Hull City's controversial ticketing scheme in what is a “damning verdict” against the club say Hull City Supporters’ Trust. In 2016 Hull City introduced its deeply unpopular membership scheme which saw the removal of traditional season tickets and concessionary prices for young and old.
The Premier League began investigations into the club's pricing after lobbying from Hull City Supporters’ Trust and the FSF, believing the scheme to be in breach of league rules on concessionary prices and ruled against the club. Should Hull City be promoted back to the division they will be required to offer 10% of its home match tickets to seniors and juniors at concessionary rates.
The Independent Football Ombudsman also investigated alleged mis-selling of the same membership scheme but said last week he was unable to reach a fair conclusion due to the club’s lack of co-operation with his investigation. "It is unacceptable, and unprecedented, that a Club should choose not to cooperate so that IFO can fulfil his given role," the IFO said in his report.
Non-League Day co-ordinator Mike Bayly looked at some of the most unique grounds in the country as he prepared for NLD 2017. “Aside from the largely unrestricted freedom to stand and sit where you like, there is a wealth of history and scenery to enjoy. From castles and cricket pavilions to spectacular seascapes, the breadth of diversity is a snapshot of Britain, past and present,” said Mike.
There were more campaign days as supporters, MPs and community leaders gathered at St James’ Park on Friday to look at the burgeoning relationship between football fans and foodbanks. Convened by the FSF, the Fans Supporting Foodbanks event heard about the relationship between Newcastle United fans and the country’s largest foodbank, Newcastle West End Foodbank, as well as work going on at Celtic and on Merseyside.
The announcement also arrived that no Premier League games would be moved to Christmas Eve for TV broadcast this year - a move welcomed by match-going supporters across the country. Earlier in the month rumours surfaced that broadcasters were seeking to show a live Premier League game on Christmas Eve. Fan organisations across the country, led by the FSF, lobbied against the idea.
Huge changes are coming to the women's game after the FA announced plans for the WSL top tier to become professional only – and Tony Farmer from FA WSL Fans United outlined his concerns about the move. “The FA are always supposedly promoting equality yet they impose conditions and criteria on the women’s game that they would never attempt in men’s football,” argued Tony.
FSF associated Bangla Bantams had a good year, bringing the local Asian community together in Bradford and engaging them with their club. The group were filmed by YouTube channel 90min Football as part of their Fan Diaries series. The short documentary looked in more detail at the work they do, featuring interviews with Humayun and the FSF's Anwar Uddin.
Anwar said of Bradford and the effect the Bangla Bantams have had: "It always amazed me, the drive in towards the stadium... you could see a predominantly Asian area, a predominantly Asian community; stepping into the stadium, warming up... there wasn't any Asian representation in the terraces.” That’s now changing and it’s down to the work of people like Humayun.
Football arrest rates fell once more and remain at historically low levels, according to the Government’s own stats. There were 1,638 football-related arrests in 2016-17, a 14% decrease of 257 on the previous season – equivalent to just four arrests per 100,000 match-going supporters. The Home Office figures are the latest to show a long term drop in the number of football-related arrests. Almost halving over the last seven seasons: from 3,089 to 1,638 (a 47% drop).
FSF Awards season and Harry Kane picked up our Men’s Player of the Year Award. Kane topped the fans’ vote, holding off competition from runner up Kevin de Bruyne. Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, Hugo Lloris and Romelu Lukaku completed the shortlist. There were 15 categories in total and you can see all of the winners here.
Some research with Virgin Media showed just how much time and money fans put into following their teams through the festive period. Plymouth Argyle fans faced the highest cost and most arduous journeys to watch their team over the festive period. The Pilgrims - how apt - will travel more than 1,000 miles to get behind their team at MK Dons on Boxing Day and Blackpool on December 30th.
The analysis includes ticket, travel and food costs, plus journey times, incurred by supporters of all 92 clubs across the Premier League and English Football League for festive fixtures played between Boxing Day and January 4 2018.
TV fixture hell started the year, and TV fixture hell rounded it off too. A dozen top-flight supporter groups called on the PL and broadcasters to stick to their own deadlines for TV picks in a new petition. They previously committed to giving fans at least six weeks’ notice of TV selections but have now missed their own deadline for three consecutive rounds of fixtures.
February’s Premier League TV selections were supposed to be announced by Tuesday 12th December but the silence was deafening. TV picks for the December and January matches were seven and 23 days late respectively. Sign the petition demanding the PL and broadcasters buck up their ideas!
On that cheery note we’d like to sign off by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
- Do one of your final good deeds of the year and join the FSF for free if you aren't already a member – strength comes in numbers and we couldn’t do it without your support.