2014: A year in the life of the FSF

sergio aguero with FSF player of the year award4

(FSF Player of the Year 2014, Sergio Agüero)

JANUARY

The year began with a bang as, with the FSF’s full support, Newcastle United and Sunderland fans joined forces in a unique coalition to oppose “bubble” match travel restrictions. To both clubs’ credit they listened to support concerns and, for the first time that we know of, a bubble match was overturned.

We worked hard to encourage our members to engage with their clubs during the Football League’s Safe Standing Consultation. FSF affiliates Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust took the fight to legalised touts with their “Stop StubHub” campaign (get in touch if you’d like to do similar at your club).

  • The month in numbers: 469 – Goals scored by the legendary Eusebio who died aged 71. RIP.

FEBRUARY

We submitted evidence to FA chairman Greg Dyke’s England Commission (more on that later) and covered Brentford fans’ fight for a new community stadium. Sky Blues fan and ‘Keep Cov in Cov’ campaigner David Johnson wrote about the sorry state of Coventry City for the FSF blog.

bristol city rail seatIt wasn’t all doom and gloom though – there was great news from the FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign as Football League clubs agreed to lobby the Government for safe standing areas, following January’s consultation. GET IN. Bristol City became the first club in the UK to install safe standing 'rail seats' in their ground (left).

We ended the month by writing to the FA demanding they stand up for away ticket allocations in the FA Cup.

  • The month in numbers: 70% of clubs in the Football League backed safe standing.

MARCH

We dished out a whopping 60,000 copies of our Away Fans Matter fanzine via supporters' groups. The fanzine updated on FSF campaigns and looked at the increased use of pyro in football stadiums.

Away Fans Matter FSF2

FSF Roadshow events took place in Manchester and London – keep an eye out for more of those around the country in 2015. Pompey CEO Mark Catlin also explained his club’s decision to refund fans’ travel costs after a game was moved for TV.

Lawyer Alison Gurden has seen many young fans who were caught with pyro in football stadiums. No pyro, no party? Please read her blog. In other legal news we were sorry to hear that Leeds United fans had to drop their case against GMP, in relation more Section 27 shenanigans.

Remember the Hull Tigers fiasco? We do. No To Hull Tigers/City Till We Die work was top of the agenda in March as City fans worried over the club’s “loaded” ballot. We spoke to a public meeting and polled HCAFC fans on it (90% opposed changing their club’s name). Thankfully the FA saw sense and rejected the name change too.

Elsewhere Cardiff City fans marched for “heritage and tradition” while Norwich City fans conducted a poll at their club which showed 89% backed safe standing (if you’d like to conduct a survey at your club email safestanding@fsf.org.uk).

  • The month in numbers: 89.8% of Hull City fans said “no” to Hull Tigers in FSF survey.

APRIL


Flowers on the kop215th April marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster. Liverpool fan and Football Supporters’ Association founding member Rogan Taylor was there that day and wrote a moving blog, with contributions from fans of Forest, Everton, and more (flowers on the Kop, right).

Sheffield United fan Chris Brook outlined his frustration at late fixture changes while Hull City apologised to a fan who’d been kicked out for standing. It just goes to show, while fans rightly took issue over the naming fiasco, Hull City do have a good tradition in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with fans on things like safe standing and bubble matches.

MAY

The World Cup was coming up fast with some supporters talking up England’s chances (uh oh). We published the free England Fans’ Guide To Brazil which helped 10,000+ England fans and held a Twitter Q&A with the Foreign Office to help allay fears and answer queries.

Speaking of England, Greg Dyke’s England Commission reported its findings. In amongst some fair comment about coaching and so on, there was the baffling idea to introduce League 3 (feeder clubs and all). Our polling showed nine out of 10 fans rejected the idea and we teamed up with the Against League 3 campaign to deliver that message to the authorities.

The FA Cup final also saw the annual complaint that not enough tickets go directly into the hands of fans. You’ll not be surprised to find that we whole-heartedly agree. Out of the 90,000, only 25,000 go to each club, although many of the remaining 40,000 end up on the black market…

  • The month in numbers: 10,000 copies of the FSF’s England Fans’ Guide To Brazil sent to fans.

JUNE

tickets have risen 716 percent since 2Speaking of tickets we also told clubs it was time to kick categorisation into Row Z. "This business of categorising matches is blatantly unfair. Just because Manchester City have a lot of money doesn't mean their supporters have, and the same is true of the other teams who get charged the highest prices every time they play," FSF chair Malcolm Clarke told The Independent.

FSF Cymru came to the fore in June as they encouraged fans to Wear Red For Wales. We also paid a visit to the Welsh Assembly, lobbying members to back safe standing.

FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks also told the horror story of a Grimsby Town fan caught up in the justice system. Thankfully, with help from the FSF, Melanie Cooke, and Alison Gurden (legal reps and friends of the FSF) his case was kicked out. But what about those who don’t have such support?

The results of our Away Fans Survey 2013-14 were released. More than 5,000 football supporters completed the survey, leaving feedback on hundreds of fixtures across all divisions, and rating their away day experience out of 10. How did your club compare? Away Fans Survey results here…

  • The month in numbers: 5,000 – number of fans who completed our 2013-14 Away Fans Survey. Make sure to complete the 2014-15 version after every away game!

JULY

One of our busiest months to date, as last month’s visit to the Welsh Assembly to promote safe standing paid dividends with members voting 26-1 in favour of the motion. That’s a rout. They followed that up with a cross-party letter to sport minister Helen Grant, calling for a pilot in Wales.

In ticketing news the Independent Football Ombudsman ruled that family tickets should be offered to away fans while Port Vale fans who’d forked out for a “lifer” season ticket saw the club renege on the deal, fans lost between £1,500-£8,000. Not much in football shocks us. That did.

keep coventry in coventry tshirtWe visited Sky Sports HQ to talk football and TV fixtures. Not a popular subject among match-going fans, looked at football in Guernsey, covered Coventry City (again) as FSF affiliates Sky Blues Trust arranged a demo and wrote an open letter to all parties involved in the Ricoh Arena debacle (right).

Newcastle United fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney lost their lives on Flight MH17, fans from across the country gave their condolences, and a fundraising appeal started by Sunderland fans raised a whopping £33,000.

July is also fan conference season, we were represented at the European Football Fans Congress organised by Football Supporters Europe (FSE), of whom the FSF is a founder member.

The Supporters Summit, held jointly with Supporters Direct, also went ahead. It got national attention as Greg Dyke’s take on the FA (“overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white in a world that isn't overwhelmingly male and white”) secured the headlines.

  • The month in numbers: 26-1 – Welsh Assembly vote in favour of safe standing.

AUGUST

You’ve heard of The Secret Footballer, right? Well, we heard from The Secret Steward. Some of you may have long suspected that football fans are treated differently from other sports fans and concert goers; with the help of someone from the inside, we revealed the extent to which that’s the case at the home of football.

Speaking of football fans being treated differently, there’s never a clearer example of that than standing at football. It’s OK at rugby, racing, and even pop concerts. But heaven forbid you want to stand in the Premier League or Championship. Thankfully, not everyone thinks like that, and the Lib Dems committed to putting safe standing in their 2015 manifesto.

Our Affordable Football For All march on the Premier League and Football League brought the issue of ticket prices back onto the media's agenda. Fans from dozens of clubs were involved and a delegation met with Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and representatives from the Football League. One of those fans was Newcastle United Supporters Trust board member and True Faith editor Michael Martin, read his take here.

  • The month in numbers: 1-1. The Football League kicks-off with a draw at Ewood Park.

SEPTEMBER

Wrexham fans were up in arms about the police’s decision to impose a “bubble” match on their trip to Chester - they even received support from their rivals via Chester fanzine Blue & White. Our Watching Football Is Not A Crime! campaign continues to challenge such outrageous impositions on freedom of movement, if a bubble match is enforced at your club, get in touch.

Ironically all this happened in a month when the Home Office’s arrest stats were released, showing the lowest arrest figures on record. We bet you saw the good news reported all over that football arrests during 2013/14 had dropped by 7% and represented the lowest total on record, right? Of course you didn’t – because it was largely ignored! But if they go up, you won’t hear the end of it.

Back to Coventry and there was plenty to celebrate as Keep Cov in Cov campaigner Michael Orton told us about his club’s homecoming. As part of our Fans for Diversity work with Kick It Out we visited Ryman Premier Division side Lewes for Non-League Day, giving disabled fans the opportunity to play on the Dripping Pan pitch.

A joint delegation from the FSF and Supporters Direct also met with representatives of the Football Association Chairman’s England Commission to discuss its first report. The FA took fans’ views seriously, and we outlined the strength of feeling against ‘League Three’ and Strategic Loan Partnerships (aka ‘feeder clubs by the back door’).

Not exactly core FSF work but September also saw the Marvellous life story of Neil “Nello” Baldwin win all sorts of plaudits after airing on the Beeb. What’s that got to do with the FSF? He’s a lifelong pal of FSF chair Malcolm Clarke who appeared in the feature length biopic. It’s a genuinely great piece of TV, catch the repeat on Christmas Day (BBC2, 11pm).

Marvellous toby jones2

Back to core FSF work and Twenty’s Plenty for Away Tickets. A key idea behind the Twenty’s Plenty is that clubs should offer away fans cheaper deals on a reciprocal basis, preferably for £20 or less. We tallied up all the deals inspired by Twenty’s Plenty during 2013-14 and it turns out it saved 31,807 fans a total of £342,260. We’re pretty pleased with that, although there’s still loads to do, and we think that total will be comfortably topped during 2014-15.

The Premier League’s Away Fans Initiative also helps away fans. Clubs agreed to set aside £12m spread over three seasons “to make the matchday experience better for travelling fans”. This equates to £200,000 per club, per season. We keep a tally of what deals are on offer, let us know if your club does a deal that isn’t included in our Away Fans Initiative list.

  • The month in numbers: £342,260 – amount Twenty's Plenty saved fans in 2013-14.

OCTOBER

Into October and we had a few different events, giving fans a chance to Meet The Met and challenge discrimination (part of #fansfordiversity). Speaking of which, FSF member and football fan Bernie Conway, People Administrator at Mencap, shared her experience of being a fan with a mild learning disability. We also helped promote Football Supporters Europe’s All Colours Are Beautiful.

Coventry City let down signsFSF National Council member Tim Hillyer was at the launch of DCMS’s Supporter Ownership and Engagement Expert Group; the long-term aim being to find ways in which fans can have more influence in running their clubs to stop the shenanigans we've seen at Cardiff City, Coventry City, Hull City, Hereford United and so on.

The Premier League once again looked into the possibility of holding competitive matches overseas. The FSF is against any such idea and it appears to have been killed off (until next time?). The BBC’s annual Price of Football survey was also released, showing that prices have risen 4.4% on average, more than treble the rate of inflation.

There was very sad news as we heard that FSF Fans' Embassy stalwart Graham Bleanch had passed away. RIP mate. Free Lions 137 carried Bleanchy's obituary.

  • The month in numbers: £97 - most expensive match-day ticket in the Premier League.

NOVEMBER

Ofcom announced it was to investigate how the Premier League sold its media rights (following a complaint from Virgin Media) and asked the FSF to submit evidence.

Manchester City fans also took a stand against Uefa and turned their backs on the Champions League anthem, while Playfair Qatar’s anger was directed at Fifa and their reluctance to acknowledge Qatar’s human rights issues. We share their concerns.

Rival fan groups from Punjabi Rams and Punjabi Wolves Supporters joined forces to promote their teams to the Asian community, as part of Fans for Diversity. We also teamed up with Kick It Out, the Gay Football Supporters’ Network and LGBT fans to host #Prideinfootball.

  • The month in numbers: 4,000 – the number of Qatari workers who Playfair Qatar say will die before a ball is kicked, get involved in their campaign here.

DECEMBER

Sergio Agüero won the fans’ vote for Player of the Year - one of the 11 gongs up for grabs - at the FSF Awards in association with William Hill on Monday 1st December. Other winners included Gary Neville (Pundit) and The Square Ball (Fanzine) – full roll call here.

Last month Ofcom announced it was opening an investigation into how the Premier League sells broadcast rights for its matches and asked the FSF for a submission. You can read our reply here, which was submitted after consulting our members, and outlined our support for collective rights sales and the 3pm “blackout”, but opposition to any increase in the number of live TV games.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport were also in touch, asking our views on supporter ownership and engagement. Speaking of which Hitchin Town were in the news as supporters and club joined forces to stop the rug being pulled from under them (thanks to a deal with property developers by the club's trustees).

Prices were back on the agenda (are they ever off, come to that?) as Wigan Athletic fans planned to boycott Elland Road thanks to £36 tickets. Or £41, if you wanted to pay on the day. Liverpool fans also made their voices heard thanks to Spirit of Shankly pointing out that prices had risen on the Kop from £4 in 1990 to £43 by 2010. What price by 2020? Fans need to speak up on this and if you’d like to arrange something at your club, we’d love to hear from you.

It was a busy month for events, as well as the FSF Awards, Fans for Diversity work continued with A Woman’s Place Is At The Match. Fittingly though, the year ended in much the same way it had started, with Sunderland and Newcastle United fans once again joining forces.

derby to be proud of logo2

This time, rather than challenging a “bubble” match, they were calling for a derby full of “passion not poison” at the FSF-hosted A Derby To Be Proud Of. Yes, supporters want an intimidating, hostile atmosphere at derby games, but that can happen without violence.

  • The month in numbers: 18 European ground guides produced to help supporters following their sides in Uefa competitions. 

And that’s as near to peace and love as you’re gonna get – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Thanks to Action Images for the images used in this article.