Often Partisan

an open letter

Dear Blues Fans

This isn’t the easiest letter I’ve ever had to write, but the way things have been I feel it’s kinda necessary and I hope you understand my intentions. It’s also not going to be the nicest of letters you’ve ever read, but things need to be said and this is the only way I can do it.

You see, it’s about Birmingham City, and the amount of people who go to watch the games. Or rather, that don’t. I was one of the sixteen thousand souls who braved a harsh Saturday chill to watch us eventually come back and beat our near neighbours, and I must admit it was slightly disturbing to see the ground half-full; and that the only reason we broke 15,000 was because Coventry took an entire stand to themselves. Yes it was cold, but it was colder still as my daughter and I were the only people on my row in my block of the paddock, and there was nobody in front of us.

You could understand it if we really were going through a poor patch, but just three days previously we’d made our first Wembley final in a major trophy in fifty plus years. Just three days prior to the Coventry game, I’d been standing along with the rest of the ground singing “Que sera sera” and feeling massively proud of being a bluenose. Yes, we’re at the wrong end of the table but we’re nowhere near dead and buried; we have a good squad and a good manager, and things should be looking up for us.

I know times are tough; unemployment is high and no one has any money – believe me, I know this as much as anyone else. It’s difficult when you’re trying to make your money stretch, and it’s not pleasant when you have to sacrifice things just to keep your head above water. And yes, I know that it’s been difficult recently; seven home games in six weeks plus a Wembley final is easily too much money for some of us to bear, and that football after all is only a sport – it’s not as important as putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your kid’s head.

The trouble is, blues fans, we look fickle to the rest of the world. We have poor attendances at home for ordinary games, yet now there is a Wembley final on the horizon everyone wants a ticket. There’s a scramble for tickets with people haranguing messageboards and the ticket office wanting to know how their stubs can add up to being worthy of a ticket; problems with client reference numbers, tickets bought on cash turnstiles and by friends.I see people trying to sort tickets out for relatives that don’t go to games; that have never been to games – and I’m ashamed to admit this, I think to myself why are these people worthy of a ticket?

A week ago, somebody posted on a messageboard that the club should offer Wembley tickets to season ticket holders only, and the rest could go whistle – which obviously provoked the uproar that the original poster intended. Now, I’m not going to promote that ideal but come on, Blues fans, you hardly make it easy for yourselves. At the start of the season, Blues fans were told at the supporters forum to ensure if tickets were bought for them by someone else to make sure that they have given all reference numbers to the Ticket Office, so purchase history could be accurate. Of course, nobody did this, and now it’s a mad rush for tickets; and no doubt people will be doing their best to screw the system to their advantage with stubs etc.

If you’re reading this, and your blood is boiling, I am sorry. I don’t want to be one of those season ticket holders who sneers at fans who book on a game by game basis. I know people can’t make the commitment I did (even I had to get the cheapest tickets, and pay in installments), and I understand that. My plea is though that the club isn’t just for Wembley, it’s for life. People say that the football is poor; or that footballers are overpaid, or have some other reason for not going – and if that’s what you believe, I’m not going to be able to change your mind. What I do plead is that if you are going to Wembley, please can you try to go to one or two of the other games in the lead up? If everybody who wants a Wembley ticket makes the effort to go to one extra game, our crowds will swell significantly. We play better with the fans behind us, and the team needs the fans desperately.

Thanks for reading, and I’m sorry if I put you off your cornflakes. I miss having a rocking St Andrews, and if everybody tries their hardest to get to games, we can have it back. Come and join me, and let’s put Birmingham back on the football map as the home of the noisiest, most boisterous and best fans in the league.



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5 Responses to “an open letter”

  • kevb8ll says:

    Hi Mate

    I can totally understand what you are trying to say in your article, and it helps that I know you.

    I genuinely don’t think it is a simple matter though, as the nearly 40 comments we had to this article we published – http://www.joysandsorrows.co.uk/2011/02/attendances-at-st-andrews/ – yesterday indicates. It is obviously a topic that is stirring debate, as it was more than we’ve had on a topic for a long time.

    People are affected by different things including the following:

    Time, money, family, work, distance, results, the way we are playing, illness, travel problems, in fact just life.

    The complication is that everyone will be affecting by those things to different degrees and in those degrees some people will be MORE affected than others. Generally speaking, we rarely understand fully other people’s situations and what they are going through.

    Special events are different. People can plan for that one day of a trip to Wembley or whatever. Or, re-direct finances for it because it is seen as a possible “one-off.” So I don’t think that adding trips to Wembley should be used as a bench mark for typical attendances. They are different.

    So what am I saying? Well I’m not disagreeing with your comments mate, I suppose I am trying to say that these sort of things are complicated and there is no quick fix.

    (Well that’s my opinion anyway).

    Keep up the good work, and I wanted to add that I really appreciate your support of J&S with allowing us to use articles. :-)


    • almajir says:

      Special events are different. People can plan for that one day of a trip to Wembley or whatever. Or, re-direct finances for it because it is seen as a possible “one-off.” So I don’t think that adding trips to Wembley should be used as a bench mark for typical attendances. They are different.

      So in effect, we are big time Charlies. That’s what I’m saying. Being a supporter isn’t just about the big games, it’s about the little ones too. The crux of my post was that whilst I know Wembley is a big deal, and that it’s something worth making plans for, as supporters the club needs us for every game – and it would be nice to see people make some effort to make some of the smaller games. That’s all.

      • kevb8ll says:

        Totally understand that mate. I was trying to address that with the list of issues I presented.

        As you know I live in Devon and with a number of other factors – my maximum match attendance is 4 or 5 per season more likely to be 2 or 3. There is nothing I can do about that unfortunately and there will be loads of others in the same situation.

  • gavin says:

    remind me how much you pay to go in per match ????

  • Gavin says:

    The first thing I’d say is that is there any evidence that Birmingham are any different to any side. IE The crowd is made up of a percentage of season ticket holders, match by match fans that go to roughly the same amount of games, big game only fans, fans who only go to the cheapest fixtures and fans who hardly ever go for whatever reason be it work/finance/travel or being bothered.

    If you said that those were the 5 types of fans it would be interesting to see Blues stats to other Prem Clubs, those without near Season Ticket sell outs.

    Beyond that adding to the lack of excitement, atmosphere, high cost of entry, players on too much money etc I would say that Birmingham is not a great place to be a floating fan. Almost as your article leans towards, there is a clear resentment at the floating fan. The waiving of the season tickets, or the shouting of loyal supporters at high gates or ironically at bad gates does not encourage you to come back.

    The violence factor is still an issue, many of the fans I know who don’t bother anymore pinpoint some fight that put them off. I have seen a few that came close to ending my interest. Stones thrown at Baggies families many years ago made me sick. Also a few of the Blues on Blue fights in the ground have not made me feel part of a crowd.

    Then we go to the signings. Blues are reliant when it comes to flair players on loan signings that they have no chance of making permanent. Players don’t stay long enough to become heros.

    The youth policy is the worse in Europe or at least joint last. It seems that the only way to get local talent is to buy off Aston Villa.

    Also for some reason Birmingham City hasn’t got that appeal that makes a Geordie support Newcastle or a Scouse support Liverpool/Everton. I can only guess it is at roots level where something goes wrong?

    Spanish clubs appear to have got youth policy right and bring fans up as life long fans of their home clubs more often than not. A bit of coaching at schools is part of a Spanish players job even David Villa had to.

    So yes I too go with it’s a lot of reasons why attendance is low. I have went from season ticket holder to hardly ever go fan. All I ask for is a good day out. My next game is Stoke whenever that is. Just don’t waive a fucking season ticket at me !

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