Ants Weekly with Stephen Russell

Hello again Ants, I hope you’ve had a great week, Allow me to take this chance to thank you all for the warm welcome to the club you’ve given me since last Saturday.

This week in Ants Weekly, I’d like to discuss the importance of football fans in an increasingly commercialised game. The fact that you’re reading this means that you’re probably an Ants supporter and you’re one of the few that really understand how special these communities and experiences can be. My question is simply as follows – are we losing our sport to the rich?

“Football is nothing without fans” Jock Stein’s iconic words ring true now more than ever. While 4% of Bournemouth’s revenue is from match day, compared to the 43% that comprises that of Celtic, you can see the difference. The same leagues that are flooded with exorbitant, astronomical broadcasting deals are the same leagues flooded with ‘tourist fans’ who only show up sporadically to take photos..

With the recent stat release by the BBC Price of Football claiming that half of the English Premier League sides would turn a profit without even opening their ground to fans at the weekend, it could be that it’s time to go back to basics; what made us all fall in love with football to begin with?

I personally remember going to watch my local football team with my dad. He’d buy my brother and I a pie each and we’d have a fantastic day out, singing and shouting to ward off the crisp and cutting chill of winter. It wasn’t about a £100m player and his flash haircut, it was about getting out to the game and having a good time with like-minded people.

In my experiences, it seems that fewer and fewer people are actually going to games in general, let alone watching their local non-league sides. This week, when Man Utd took the field against Young Boys, Old Trafford was nearly half empty. The Manchester side were even reportedly considering handing out song sheets back in March to drum up an atmosphere! Of course, it’s easy to blame fans for not turning up and supporting their side but should club’s be let off so easy when the cheapest tickets for the aforementioned game cost the best part of £50?

Maybe the problem is even higher up than that. I recently spoke with Tranmere Rovers fan, Adam Higgins, who couldn’t stress enough how ludicrous it was that clubs like his, who are lower down the food chain, struggle to compete – or even survive – while the likes of Richard Scudamore get a £5m farewell gift.

“It affects us all massively”, said Adam. “Realistically, we’re never going to compete at the top. Our town has a population of around 80,000 and yet most of them just support Liverpool or Everton.” He highlights an excellent point. There’s a growing gap between the elite clubs and the rest of us and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Should governing bodies do more to ensure an even spread of wealth or is this just the way things are now? Are the working class being priced out of the sport we love?

For any queries or comments – or even just to share your own stories and views – feel welcome to reach out to me at sjrussell23@outlook.com.

MON THE ANTS!!

*The views in this are the columnist’s own and may not reflect the opinion of Saint Anthony’s FC

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