It’s not a glamorous task by any stretch of the imagination, but then again, it was never promoted as being that way either. Considering the facilities back then, the old “Spion Kop” (now redeveloped as the North Stand) was essentially an old “muck stack” that was conveniently covered by concrete terracing, with no roof. But nobody complained; that was just how it was.
You see, it offered a unique advantage to all in an era when you could essentially swap sides with the away supporters (fans would cross paths at half time to get behind the goal that their team was shooting at). Behind the good old “Spion Kop”, if the match wasn’t going too well, from around March/April you could literally turn around at the top and watch the cricket match instead.
And then there was the January steam. The smog that rose from the West Stand, mixed heavily with pipe and cigar smoke – from the outer wall (with a drain) which the club signposted as the Gents toilet. Conveniently situated within spitting distance of the Hot Dog and Bovril stall. Trust me, you could forget the food hygiene and health risks, we were bloody lucky to be taken there in the first place.
For fear of sounding like the famous Monty Python sketch about “Four Yorkshiremen”, where does this bring me?
Well, “B” is also for Broke, culturally broke. The situation we all fans find ourselves in, where at today’s prices, clubs cannot keep up with their spiraling outgoings and debts. The ordinary fans, the groups and families that would be at every single game are slowly being wiped out – being unable to meet the demanding prices laid down by Football Club owners up and down the land.
Turn off the Hovis theme tune, there was nothing magical about the past, but what once thrived was the spirit of the community within a Football Club, not just ours. The teams seemed to genuinely represent their towns and the aspirations of the people who lived there.
Clubs attempt to mirror the might and the facilities of the famous, leaving the average Bill or Bob in the process.
Football Governors! “B” ought to stand for benevolence.
Surely they can ill afford to ignore the fact that Football, like many sectors of business, is becoming a homogenized brand. As they have designed it, consumed by the masses, whilst providing minimal choice.
TV has now become the convenient diner where your average body can devour the piping hot Premier League Pie and the Worldwide Premium Fare.
In any other culture, there would be uproar if theatres no longer provided facilities to the general public, with new productions screened exclusively in amphitheaters to the über-rich or confined to a subscription package on satellite TV, force fed on dictated content.
The spectacle is "theatre" itself. Designed to be seen live, in order that the actor and audience could communicate a real sense of the story that was being depicted.
And surely this is where Football belongs. A live event subsidised further by any reserves that the Football Governors build. It should be that the privilege of playing in the top echelons of our pyramid was also a service to represent and feed a culture right down to the grass roots and schools throughout the country too. For all the noises they make, does this happen?
Football does not stand for local choice and opportunity any more. Its hypermarket is well stocked on major brands, strangling the local producer further.
Unless the game can resolve its finances, that those receiving an income from the sport can accept that whichever way the revenue is generated, it largely comes directly or indirectly from the public pocket.
“B” is for the blood that the public donor is being entirely drained of. It’s not just about admission prices, but the sponsorship revenue, derived from consumers too. Take 'The FA Cup with Budweiser', ‘The Npower Championship’ and ‘The Carling Cup’. All corporate interest sponsorship deals, funded by the consumer, to encourage the consumer to purchase exclusively from them or in greater volume.
Which takes me right back to my point. Unlike the “Spion Kop”, during a dull game, there was always an alternative direction you could face to fill the void.
My fear is that this will not be the choice in the future. I feel for any club that has faced administration and ruin. “B’ could mean bankruptcy to many more this season and beyond. I sincerely hope that Football turns a corner.
Barnsley FC Blog | On the Ponty End