For years, almost every club in this county has filled its coffers with money from our supporters. We are charged outrageously to visit their stadiums. We are herded like sheep into dilapidated stands and pay fortunes for over-priced snacks and drinks.
And all the while, the fans of those clubs have sneered at us for it, us and the fans across the city who suffer the same fate. I have written on this site before that there is no fundamental difference between our fans and those of St Mirren or St Johnstone; our fans also struggle with bills and try to make ends meet. And we are ripped off everywhere.
We have never been thanked for the contribution that our club has made to keeping the lights on at some of these sides. We don’t ask for any either, only the opportunity to watch our own team. That’s all any football fan really wants.
But over the last few years there has been a trend at these clubs towards locking us out. Scottish football doesn’t have enough money as it is, but because there are militant elements within the fan-bases at some of these sides who don’t want “Old Firm fans” – that lazy appellation, impossible to take seriously – taking two or even sometimes three stands on our visits.
And it’s because of these siren voices that our allocations are now being reduced across the boards. It is an act of selfishness, and self-harm from these clubs but you know something? I welcome it. Because I’m sick and tired of our fans propping these clubs up and being treated with contempt at the same time. If they’d rather lose money and even on the biggest match-days have a stadium that’s only a quarter full, than let our supporters in then so be it.
I guarantee this much; if their directors talk straight and tell their fans that if they want to retain their good players, or if they want to sign replacements for the ones that they lose, that our money is necessary, let’s see how long they can live without it.
This experiment could be very short-lived.
The latest club to cry the blues is St Mirren, whose chairman has described this as a “toxic issue” amongst their supporters. Which is a hell of a way to talk about a full house at your own stadium and some much needed cash through the door.
St Mirren generally only gets those a few times a year, when we visit or the club from Ibrox does. If it’s a “toxic issue” that our fans are willing to fill the seats that theirs are not, then I guess it’s perfectly valid to tell us to stay away.
But the hit will be severe, and they should know it.
Are these clubs suddenly flush with cash? Of course they aren’t. We know it and they know it, and when the St Mirren commercial department talks about looking at ways that they can make up the losses from those two stands sitting empty, I wonder if their fans have twigged what that means? IF they can’t overcharge thousands of our fans whose pockets do you think that cash is going to inevitably come out of? No prizes for guessing.
And that’s great, and I genuinely think so. Price rises across the boards. Let them feel the weight of an average match ticket costing £25. Not that it will ever get that far.
But I broadly welcome clubs wanting to stand on their own two feet. I welcome them finally releasing the chokehold on our fans. Treat us with contempt as you will, as you’ve always done, but you can no longer rake in the big bucks from us at the same time … the trade-off for me seems fair and reasonable, especially as of next season when almost all the away matches will, once again, be back on Sky. It’s not like our fans will miss out on seeing their team.
It’s insulting to be told that another club’s supporters believe the presence of your own is a “toxic issue.” So many clubs have done this to opposing fans this season, and it always seems more to me about an act of spite than an act of rationality because it’s not as if this league is drowning in Sky Sports gold or European football income.
Most of these sides struggle manfully to break even, not prospering or growing but merely surviving. This is cutting your nose off to spite somebody else’s face … it is crazy, and because it is crazy our club should accept it because the madness won’t last.
Whether we decide to take on a full allocation for the first couple of years after it is restored to us is another issue again of course. We should make them sweat that.