Monday, March 20, 2006

The away game conundrum...

It's funny, sometimes, supporting a football team like Charlton. On the one hand, we love it most of the time, especially when we are winning and playing well, but when that isn't the case, all hell breaks loose and complaints on nearly everything soar in.

One of the latest issues that we, the fans, have with our club is the level of support. At home games the crowd can be very quiet, and we are struggling to fill the ground for an FA Cup quarter final. But it's the latest away game at Arsenal that seems to have caused a flurry of activity on the Charlton blogsites and message boards this weekend. The lack of any discernable vocal support, whatever the on-field performance, has rankled many, especially those who could not get tickets for the match.

I rarely travel to away games any more - the only game I've seen away from the Valley this season is the 3-0 defeat at Wigan back in December - but I could go to many more if I so chose.

Why don't I back up the lads at every opportunity then? Let me explain with a bit of history...

I have seen Charlton play away against over 80 league clubs, at their old grounds and/or new stadia; I cannot therefore be described as a home only fan. I have travelled to some clubs grounds on many occasions when they have met Charlton - I'm not sure which club I've visited the most, maybe I'll do a count up one day...

My busiest season was in 1984/85; that, for any new supporters, was the season that Charlton almost went out of business. I saw all 46 matches that the first team played that season - 42 in the Second Division, and two each in the League and FA Cups. This included the Tuesday night game at Blackburn (the infamous Train 12 journey).

I also saw 46 out of 56 games played in another season - 1980/81. We had a good cup run that year too...

I averaged attendance at about 90% of Charlton matches, home and away, between 1980/81 and 1990/91, when my circumstances changed.

I continued to travel to as many away games as I could in the nineties, until the Taylor report, and Charlton's success contrived to make this almost impossible.

Back in the old days (pre-all-seater stadia), if you wanted to see your team play away, all you had to do was catch a train (as I did) or coach to the ground, pay your entry fee, and take your place. If you wanted to stand, you did so; if you wanted a seat, you paid a little more and sat under cover.

The problem came with Premiership football (as so many of the ills of the current game have); clubs had to maximise revenue, and did not want to obligate themselves to leaving large parts of the ground available for away support that might or might not materialise. In comes ticketing; no advance ticket, no admittance.

The advance ticket problem is not an easy option for me; although I had a ten-year season ticket (my second), and the subsequent five-year version, thereby gaining priority, the physical presence of turning up at The Valley during office hours, or trusting the postal service with my cheque and SAE in order to get my ticket wasn't a great option for me.

Additionally, I've been to nearly all the big games at the big grounds - I've seen Charlton win at Old Trafford, Goodison, Elland Road, St James Park (the Grecian and Geordie versions!), Villa Park, Stamford Bridge, etc etc. I actually felt that it was my duty to let others who had not had those sort of opportunities in the past gain priority over me when tickets were in short supply. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to go to all the games possible too these days(it would be better than listening to the radio...).

I could have gone to Highbury on Saturday; I would have shouted at and for the team; I would have gone home disappointed, as did everyone else, but with only 1800 tickets available for our last ever trip to Highbury, I didn't want to deprive someone else, someone who has been to Blackburn, Everton, Manchester City, Wigan, Newcastle (maybe twice), Sunderland, Middlesboro, etc, already this season. maybe others should have felt similarly?

I went to Wigan as I had never seen Charlton play them away before - luckily, I didn't deprive anyone of a seat that day, not even one the 750 free tickets given away as I paid for mine up front.

Of course more supporters want to see Charlton play when they can in the London derby games - it's cheaper, more accessible, takes less time, etc. And yes, if tickets could be prioritised in a more beneficial way to those supporters who travel all over the country in all weathers supporting the Addicks, we would all be happy, but that isn't an easy thing to accomplish unfortunately. Swipe cards could help, but we shouldn't deminish the contributions of those supporters who have put their collective hands in their pockets and helped the club financially over recent years.

The five-year season tickets run out after this season; I understand that they are unlikely to be offered again. The only obvious benefits ticketwise from next season will seem to go to Valley Gold members and season tickets holders...

Hopefully, we will take up our full allocations at every opportunity in 2006/07, but I doubt it.

When there was plenty wrong with Charlton - no ground, poor leadership, no ambition, bad players - we, the supporters, had plenty to moan about. When things are going a lot better - Premiership football, ground expansion plans, great leadership, ambition, international players in Charlton shirts - then the inherrent moaning tends to be about lesser matters. I don't care if the grannies who read the paper rather than watch Charlton get trashed on Saturday come along to games, as long as someone goes.

This Thursday is an oppportunity for ALL Charlton supporters to get behind the team, the club, and other like-minded Addicks fans. Let us all support our team, our fans, the players and hopefully, hopefully, sing and support them all the way to the Cup Final.

That is one away game that I will not want to miss!

Great post, lot of good sense
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Enter your email address below to subscribe to Charlton Athletic Online!

powered by Bloglet
Sports Business Directory - BTS Local
Custom Search