One of the tenets of being a football fans is that, by and large, nothing will hold you back for being “there” for your team.
However, with our supporters being stretched not only by the financial demands of everyday life – you know, those luxuries like mortgage or rent, food, etc. – but the demands of the early season European and domestic cup games, it appears that we may just have reached what scientists refer to as the “Tipping Point”.
Those of you who read Twitter will be aware that over the last few days a campaign called “Boycott Genk” has been launched by one of the many supporters groups that cover the interests of Chelsea fans. I’m not here to pick a hole in the argument for a boycott per se, but simply to put the point of view as to why this one action is unlikely to succeed and to outline an alternative that really might impact on Chelsea FC.
The numbers game part one – the people.
Chelsea FC have over 350,000 “followers” on Twitter. Whilst “Boycott Genk” will only have come to the attention of followers of said supporters’ group over the course of the weekend, at the time of writing the “Boycott Genk” account has 106 followers. So hardly a rush, then. A companion account is said to be operating on Facebook (I haven’t yet seen this).
To have any kind of success, they need to accrue many more followers. And not just followers in terms of their accounts. It needs to have a impact on the number of people who were going to attend the game, but now won’t directly as a result of this campaign, i.e. if you were never going to any of the group games, your support for the movement could quite reasonably be described as counterfeit.See also those who aren’t going to CL group games but are more than happy to let friends use their account for tickets and accrue the loyalty points themselves (don’t kid yourself this doesn’t happen).
The numbers game part two – the cold hard cash.
The reason for the boycott is the £10 per ticket rise in Champions League prices from £30 last season to £40 this season (plus obligatory £1.50 breathing charge). However, it is worth remembering that in Jose Mourinho’s last game against Rosenborg in 2007, West Lower tickets were priced at £48. So in real terms, the cost of the Genk game is still less than we were paying four years ago. It is of course remembering that since that time we have been through the worst recession since WW2.
Whilst economic difficulties were cited for the drop in CL group game prices, one wonders whether the club dropped prices too far in the beginning – an economist might certainly argue that they could not have seen that people’s standard of living would still be moribund, if not actually in decline, by 2011. The argument seems to be that we shouldn’t be asked to pay £40 to watch Genk. Remind me again how much people are paying for games in the Premier League against the likes of Norwich and Swansea?
The Media Involvement.
The involvement of media figures in the campaign, at least one of whom in my humble opinion seems to have no great love for Chelsea, concerns me. The Boycott Genk group need to be sure that they are not entering into a pact with the devil known as the Fourth Estate, sections of which seem to have the sole aim of further blackening the name of Chelsea FC with the general public. With the demise of the anti-Glazer “Green & Gold” campaign, they also need something new to get their teeth into.
The Radical Solution.
Boycotting Genk won’t work. It’s a cop-out. If people want to protest about ticket prices at Chelsea, then boycotting a non-event CL group game isn’t the answer. It requires a genuine sacrifice on our part. What I am about to propose will shock many people, but it would have the effect of letting the club know that fans are serious about price increases. I’m certainly not saying this would be the answer for members, but season-ticket holders are in a position to make a significant stand.
It’s worth remembering that however much your season ticket costs, it’s still cheaper (a game and a half, roughly) than buying on a match-by-match basis. My proposal is that on the day of the 12.45 kick off against Arsenal on 29th October, fans do not take their seats until 41 minutes and 50 seconds of the game have elapsed (get it?). This would have the effect of leaving the ground half empty in a major televised game; it would also show that fans are capable of making a real, genuine sacrifice in order to get their point across.
One of the anti-Genk boycott arguments is that the players need our support. I would argue that they need our support to raise their game far more in a match against mediocre opposition than they do against the likes of Arsenal. If you can’t gee yourself up for that as a player, you shouldn’t be playing for our club. People don’t have to miss the first half, they can stand on the concourse inside the ground, or lurk in a nearby hostelry. But the whole point is to absent ourselves.
I don’t know how people feel about this suggestion; and at the moment it is only a suggestion. And please don’t think that I’m having a go at anyone involved in the Boycott Genk campaign. Their intention is admirable, I just don’t think it will solve anything simply because it’s an easy option.
What will cause the suits at Chelsea more grief? A half empty ground against Genk in midweek, or a ground empty for 41 and a half minutes in a massive game against Arsenal? Embrace a cause to assist our fellow fans by all means, but make sure it’s the right solution.
And before you ask – I’m not boycotting Genk.