As bored as many are with the moaning, unfortunately I can’t reconstitute my feelings after just two games. This blog is an outlet for these continued thoughts. If my being upset about Coventry not being in Coventry offends, you should probably brace yourself.
I note with great intrigue the latest effort to persuade City fans to turn up at Sixfields – suggesting we flip the current boycott to an extreme and turn up en masse, with the intention of making Sisu “think” and ultimately altering their position.
I don’t want to get into this all over again, but typically I’m going to.
Having a rant about the situation is becoming more and more frowned upon from certain sections. There’s a lot of “we just need to get on with it” talk doing the rounds, which after just two games in Northampton strikes me as hugely defeatist. Switching off the emotions isn’t a particular easy thing to do.
I sense some people are already so bored with taking a stand against our predicament, which contributed in part to the increased home attendance at the weekend. But for such a fundamental point in this argument, there’s an aspect of this whole saga which seems to be getting lost amongst the hoopla.
To re-iterate – for many, many fans, their attendance at Northampton doesn’t hinge on a moral decision they’ve had to make. For a lot of people, they simply don’t have that choice.
Vast numbers support their local team because it’s convenient and fits with how they wish to support a football team. Home games are great because you can rock up with 10 minutes to go, meet your mates in familiar surroundings, and crucially; it takes no time at all to get there. For the most part a short bus ride or stroll is all you should really need.
Even the Ricoh (as controversial as its location has sometimes been) was able to provide that level of comfort to the people of Coventry. It doesn’t have the same raw Coventry scent as Highfield Road, but it was a nice new home for the fans, with a fresh new smell, and while there were adjustments to routines with that move, these were certainly manageable.
Northampton is different. Northampton constitutes an away day for many fans in Coventry.
I’m not in the game of telling people exactly what to do, because let’s face it, we all care about this to varying degrees. But I do think we could do with understanding what impact our decisions have on the situation, and Keeping CCFC in Coventry, which I presume is just about the only sentiment we can all agree on.
Some of you may be able to make it to Sixfields with little effort and are doing so simply to watch some football, but what about those people who can’t make it to the games any more? How is their view being represented or supported in all of this?
We’re supposed to be a community of supporters, with a single allegiance, but we’ve fallen into distinct groups; those who can and will go to Sixfields; those who can but won’t; those who can’t go but would if they could; and finally those who can’t go, so they never will.
And it’s those who can’t go to watch their team anymore which I feel most frustration for. The elderly fans, the younger kids whose parents can no longer make it, the guys who used to be able to walk up and meet friends but can’t – they’re all missing out through uncontrollable means.
When I’ve raised this point in discussion with others, the reflex from them has been to jump in with the “I wouldn’t go anyway” argument, because of course, there’s a principle to be upheld. But we shouldn’t forget that a key facet of that principle is something along the lines of “Coventry City should be in Coventry, because our local team should be local enough for us to easily travel to”.
We can devise “logical” arguments and reasoning about why people should join the crew in Northampton, but I’d rather more importance be placed on this issue and how deeply unfair it is – this isn’t just about fans making a choice, that choice has been made for them.
It’s a far larger effort to be a supporter now. Some people can manage this effort and are keen to do so, but we have to remember amongst all this talk of scabs and deserters – the current decision has been enforced upon a huge number of our fans, and that’s what really stinks.
And by extension, because of this unnecessarily drastic change in circumstance unfairly forcing my hand, I won’t ever go to Northampton due to the lack of consideration towards how this move isolates a large proportion of us. Fans have explained the impact this move has on them, but the response from those enforcing it has been emphatically dismissive.
When discussing this with friends, I find myself forgetting about the contributing factors that led up to this summer – once Northampton became a viability, it was full steam ahead from the owners, and that drew my attention. You shouldn’t use that statement to misconstrue my position in all of this either – I was (and still am) outraged at ACL for the timing of their legal action last season. It was ill-judged, poorly planned and contrary to what they claimed at the time, not done with best interest of Coventry City fans at heart. That was a convenience angle.
But over the course of the summer the rhetoric from Sisu has been one of defiance and hostility towards everyone, with very little signs of willingness to compromise any further. They’ve had their pressures, but as they bat away every proposed gesture of resolution – be it genuine or not – it’s hard to dismiss their attitude. They seem unwilling to relinquish any gains in power they acquire during this political and legal war of attrition with ACL.
Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.
That’s one of my favourite quotes, and with the suggestion that we should overwhelm Sixfields with our presence, I keep asking myself the same questions. What is the problem and what are our intentions? I mean, we just want to be back playing in Coventry (preferably at the Ricoh) as soon as possible, right? That’s the end game we’re hoping to achieve.
So which of the following suggested plans is more likely to force Sisu – a company whose feelings towards our club orbit a financial nucleus – to amend their stance and facilitate that return?
a) Nobody turns up to Sixfields. To my mind, this results in Sisu receiving minimal revenue from the move, thus losing control over the situation and their current sense of financial viability. They would then be forced (if they have any business sanity) to address this decline in order to recover the income and support they’ve lost. You’d hope, and expect this to mean finding a way to bring the club home.
b) Loads turn up to Sixfields. Obviously this means they receive a boost to their anticipated income, but it also risks being construed as validation of the move away – whether that’s the intended symbolism behind the gesture or not. They’ve moved the club; the fans have joined them. They could quite feasibly read it that way and use this to justify further drastic decisions about our future.
Let’s face it – each scenario is an extreme event, and we’re all guessing about how Sisu would perceive them. But the reality is we can guess about how they will react to either until we’re blue in the face, but can we really afford to take any more risks with our football club?
I’m no businessman, but surely the economics of the situation tell us that Sisu are more likely to be forced into bringing this club back home if staying in Northampton is proved to be completely untenable? They claim to be prepared to finance this exile, but they will have a budget and projections like every other business – do they seriously have the resolve to see this out for 3-5 years with only a negligible income stream?
To suggest that by subverting their expectations and bombarding the stadium with fans this will actually encourage them back to the City… well, I can’t help but feel sceptical about the realism behind this approach.
Of course we can’t definitively force Sisu’s hand – they’ve shown how headstrong they are when it comes to making unpopular decisions – but it feels important we adopt an approach that is more likely to actually influence them (in a language we know they speak), rather than one which places the decision at their own discretion.
They are both risky tactics because we know we’re dealing with an entity that has taken very little notice of our actions before. But of these two options, I think I will always place my backing behind the one which gives us the best chance of wrestling back some semblance of control over our football club.
I agree that having too many fans at Sixfields will cause Sisu a headache – but let’s be honest, it’s still a good headache. Like Tesco when they open up all their tills and people are still queuing down the aisles. It could be a lot worse. Sisu would have to deal with it in some form, but the crucial thing is that they’d remain in full control of how they deal with the situation. It might provide a little inconvenience and make them wonder what things could be like back at the Ricoh, but they’d always prefer having to turn people away than having to beg people to turn up. Plus it surely reduces the urgency with which they need to bring the club home.
If the aim here is to force a return to Coventry this season (or at least renewed discussions between the warring parties), and the options we have are to either flood the stadium or leave it deserted – my every instinct tells me that desertion has the highest chance of forcing Sisu into changing their thinking.
We can postulate about how Sisu may react to the surprise of an over-subscribed stadium, but when we have so many supporters facing difficulties making the regular trip to Northampton, and the opportunity is there to prove how big an impact this has had on us – then my only thought is to display my continued disgust in a way which aligns with that sentiment. A boycott serves that purpose, and makes that point clearly.
Turning up in our droves is too much of an ambiguous message, and I worry that the response it would provoke is far less predictable than is being suggested.