“THE FASTEST growing sector of fans?” asks crack US sportswriter Dave Zirin in his book, Bad Sports. “People who love sports, but hate what they are becoming.” From sofas to the stands, the resentment supporters feel towards their clubs is real and it’s on the up. But who could possibly be responsible for, as Zirin has it, “destroying what took more than a hundred years to build”?
It’s the owners, of course. The escalating cost of going to the game; the courting of the corporates; the fawning of club-branded media: we know how these bigwigs prey on our pockets to fund their follies and energise their egos, but how do they keep getting away with it?
Ken Bates has been doing just that ever since he became the chairman of Oldham Athletic, where he pumped up ticket prices and established a radio station whilst penning regular opinion pieces in which he clashed with adversaries and voiced his vision for football in the lap of luxury.
Sounds familiar? This was in 1967, and Bates’ big idea remains unchanged: despite the fact that much of it now resembles one of those cheesy 60s visions of the future in which we all go round in tin foil suits, wearing wire coat hangers on our heads.
Brasseries, beds, bars. Eat, sleep and drink Leeds United but don’t ask any questions: just keep those coins coming and always listen to Ken. This is football in a world of Batesonomics, where we fans are on the outside looking in, and the more we pay the less we see.
“There’s a time to cheer and a time to seethe,” Dave Zirin reminds us. “We all have a stake in knowing the difference.”
Batesonomics: Lesson One featured in the sell-out issue 9 of The Square Ball magazine. Find Lesson Two in the brand new 64-page issue 10 featuring an exclusive interview with Noel Whelan, on sale from vendors outside Elland Road at Saturday’s home game against Burnley.
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