Why the Football Supporters Federation deserve more of a say in how the game is run

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Before Manchester City’s visit to Arsenal in January, the champions returned 912 tickets after travelling fans complained about the £62 the north London club was charging to attend the game.

Those who did journey down south ended up paying out around £130 each once they had purchased tickets, paid for coach travel down and bought a programme, drink and food at the notoriously expensive Emirates stadium.

Many fans find it difficult to understand the booming cost of tickets when they see the revenue those in the league are making increasing as foreign spectators pump their currencies into the gold pot that is the Premier League; a pot that will burst with £5 billion in the 2013/2014 season.

The conundrum becomes a lot clearer when you look at the power brokers in English football who represent clubs, players and fans and the chasm that exists between their power and wealth.

Firstly, consider the PFA who look after the interests of players by working “tirelessly on behalf of the union to negotiate the best possible agreement with the Premier League, Football League and Football Association” for their members.

The body makes sure that footballers don’t go without in relation to their contract, offering to negotiate deals for individuals and provide financial assistance and compensation for any earnings lost, including a free legal service for employment disputes.

They turnover around £72 million pounds a year and have the league at their mercy as they have the ability to stage strikes and take on legal disputes.

Secondly, the mammoth organization that has shaped the face of English football over the last two decades, the Premier League. It describes itself as a private company which is owned by the twenty Premier League clubs and endeavors to promote the league into a “global phenomenon” while utilizing all broadcasting revenue streams.

Finally, the third powerbroker in the game is the Football Supporters Federation (FSF). They are made up of 200,000 volunteers who work tirelessly to promote clubs causes and raise funds for community projects, while producing a fanzine offering advice and safety tips to fans that travel abroad to attend games.

Its chairman Malcolm Clarke has a seat on the FA Council and presides over a budget that stretched to just £416.382.47 over three years.

Quite clearly fans are not on a level playing field when they deal with the players and clubs, and this is reflected in the rough deal that spectators receive throughout the season.

They pay hugely inflated prices in a time of economic austerity, see their clubs crumble due to the negligence of irresponsible owners and are vilified by players who do not care for their opinions.

The PFA and Premier League are part of a symbiotic relationship which is mutually beneficial for the both of them; the Premier League brings in the millions of pounds for clubs and the PFA negotiates deals in order to get their members a healthy chunk of the wealth on offer.

Neither could exist without the other and both realise the money to be made from their co-operation.

Fans, however, don’t seem to hold the same allure. As such they rarely benefit from any new deals and ideas such as the 39th game are explored without much thought given to those who wouldn’t be able to travel to North America or Asia to watch Wigan or Stoke, and certainly wouldn’t want to.

It is time for the FA to take hold of the league which it let run away long ago and begin to bring more fans voices to the table, along with the FSF chairman.

They need to be put on a level footing and have votes and opinions heard by the decision makers or even become decision makers themselves.

There are 121 seats available at the FA Council and it would be nice to see the 13,148,465 tickets bought by fans in the Premier League last season be translated into more than just one solitary seat; the same number that Oxford and Cambridge University enjoy.

image: © kyaboo

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