It’s fascinating how football can adjust mass psychology, almost instantaneously. Franck’s goal seemed to cause such a rush of positivity amongst City fans this weekend. It clearly doesn’t fix the issues many of us are facing, but for a few hours (or well into Sunday evening at least), there was something else to focus on. Let’s face it, if he’d not slammed it home emotions would have been quite different. That’s football, but it’s also a sign of the terrific job the team is doing in masking the upset the stadium argument is causing. It’s the sort of incident and sort of goal which leaves you bursting for the next game to come along.
Only for us, the next game is Arsenal away on Friday. Yes, unfortunately we’re back to being annoyed again.
I want you for a minute to forget the fact that it’s been moved to Friday. I want you to forget that it’s being shown on BT Sport. I want you to even forget the complexity and contradictions surrounding the Not One Penny More campaign at the moment. At its core, for many, many Coventry City fans this game was another MK Dons occasion. This game presented another opportunity to join together as a group and display solidarity in huge numbers.
We know what we’re like when the big games come along. We go mental over them; lapping up the idea of demonstrating the strength and volume of support we can generate when the situation calls for it.
But it seems the full weight of that opportunity this Friday has been diluted in a baffling sequence of decision-making from those in charge. For simplicity’s sake I’ll identify them as Sisu, mainly because that name has long since become synonymous with those people running the club. They’re also the individuals in charge of relocating us to Northampton – and they appear to have made another dreadful call this week.
In short, they have rejected the full allocation of tickets for the Arsenal game, leaving a huge chunk of fans unable to attend.
In the interests of fairness, first let’s address some of the difficulties the club will have faced. Yes – it would appear they were backed into this call by a deadline imposed by Arsenal, and yes, taking the tickets would have placed them at a financial risk if they’d not sold them all. But even taking those issues in consideration it’s hard to accept the logic they have used to explain this decision.
The club’s defence for rejecting the extra allocation was:
Given that currently just over 1,000 tickets have been sold from the club’s initial allocation of 5,100, the fact that the game is being broadcast live on TV on a Friday night, and the immediate demand for tickets from home fans the decision has been made not to take up the additional 3,500 tickets.
Don’t get me wrong, 5,100 is a decent figure for almost any away day following. But didn’t we we take 9k to the Emirates last season, on a Tuesday night, even though we were playing atrociously? Didn’t we take 10k to Old Trafford on another Tuesday night league cup tie? Didn’t we fill Spurs like a bunch of lunatics, even though it was clear we were going to get a tonking? And didn’t we take 7k to MK Dons this season even though we’re in the midst of the biggest supporter crisis this club has ever known?
We filled the allocation for all of these games – there’s a strong likelihood we would have sold it this time too. I’ve had this discussion with many of you already and I know some have made the point that the club were asked to make an unreasonable call by Arsenal, but the crux of the annoyance stems from them actually making this decision based on the sales from such a small proportion of fans. Current season ticket holders.
Being generous, there can’t be many more than 1500 at the current moment in time. Surely that’s no sample to make this decision on?
Can we really expect that deadline to have been thrust upon them at short notice? Surely they would have known it was coming, and if that was the case, why couldn’t they have opened up general ticket sales sooner than they did, if only to allow them to make an educated assessment on the demand from their entire fan base? This would have ensured all fans would have been given the opportunity to stake they intentions.
You simply cannot make a fair assessment of requirement based on selling 1000 tickets to the sample of 1000-1500 fans at Sixfields. That is outrageous in the current climate. The true demand could have only been gauged once making them open to all fans – which the club failed to do before that deadline, and as a result they have failed the fans once again.
There’s a tendency at the moment to align any comment or opinion we make as being pro-Sisu, or pro-ACL – but in this case, this isn’t about picking and choosing between the sides. This is the club once again proving they’ve lost sight of the current situation, and have lost sight of who the fans are. We acknowledge there is a horrible sense of division amongst us at the moment, meaning this season is very different to others. Each individual has made a call as to their stance, but the purchase of season ticket cannot be used as a distinction in “loyalty” here. Some of the most loyal fans we have are not season ticket holders this year. That’s not a fair criteria.
Looking at this as objectively as I can, on the one hand you’ve got what feels like a poorly-judged, albeit tough business decision, but at its worst this could be interpreted as a cheap swipe at those who have decided to protest against Northampton with their feet. Much like the opening stadium forum, fans who can’t/won’t attend Sixfields were also the ones who were being treated differently by the club as they assigned a hierarchy of priority.
I could really drift off on a tangent, but the crucial point here is that there were 8600 tickets available for the game this Friday, and these tickets should have been made available to all fans before making any decision, not just season ticket holders. Whether you believe the club has made a bad call or Arsenal put them under unnecessary pressure, many fans who wanted to go to this match are now unable to go. This was further proved by the full 5k-ish allocation selling out almost immediately once they were placed on general sale at 9.30 on Saturday morning.
People wonder why fans are angry at Sisu/the club and find the negative in everything they do, but even if you can accept the current situation with the stadium as being hugely difficult for them to navigate, our time with these owners is littered with incidents like this. Decisions made with little foresight, and little acknowledgement and understanding towards the feelings of fans. This time, if they’d just taken on board the predicament not playing at the Ricoh has caused, they could have managed this differently, and I’m certain more successfully.
But they haven’t. They’ve made a call which impacts on many of the fans more that it does them. Hard call or not, I struggle to accept that they were in a position to make the decision they did, and with the financial windfall they’re about to make from this match and the information they should have gathered by now about the type of supporters we have at this club, I feel strongly that they have made the wrong one.
This match was for Coventry City fans to come together again like we did the other month against MK Dons, but that opportunity has been taken away from 3,500 of us, before we’d even had a chance to prove our desire to go.
Dispute the difficulty, and dispute the risk, but as far as the fairness goes – that’s not up for debate. Those seats were ours.