Holmesdale Fanatics: Why we demand a say in our game

Borussia Dortmund’s ‘yellow wall’ is an example of the Bundesliga’s success

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Years of chronic neglect by the Premier League have left supporters at our lowest ever standing; exploited and sidelined in a game no longer working for us.

To spearhead this growing anger, we have kicked off a campaign with a hand-delivered statement to Premier League HQ demanding fan representation that gives supporters direct involvement in shaping the decisions that impact us.

The League’s fixation on profit and global expansion over the needs of fans has left supporters at the mercy of rip-off home tickets, ridiculous kick-off times, fixtures being changed at the last minute and sterile, over-regulated stadiums. In any other sector, being treated as an afterthought would see people vote with their feet, but the Premier League knows the loyalty supporters have for their team and cynically exploits this.

The raw deal English supporters get is the polar opposite of the German experience, delivered in part through their 50+1 ownership model, where fans are front and centre of decision making – ensuring the game is on their terms. As a result, the Bundesliga has the highest attendances in Europe and some of the best atmospheres globally, with fans at the heart of their clubs (and even drinking beers on the terrace).

Our league has big lessons to learn from the German model which is everything English football needs but is being pushed further away from. When it comes to fixtures, fans are treated with contempt by a league that prioritises TV audiences over loyal match going fans with increasingly inconvenient schedules and absurd midday kick-off times.

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Urgent action is needed to set games in stone well in advance while affordable train tickets are still available.

We pay some of the highest home ticket prices in Europe – with Arsenal charging over £1,000 for a season ticket, in contrast to a €150 ticket at Bayern Munich. Matchday tickets are now a fraction of overall club revenue, so it’s another unjustified rip-off that hits loyal fans hard.

Despite the league’s marketing of top-flight atmospheres, the most repressive stadium rules in Europe have unsurprisingly led to sterile grounds. Just look at the colour and noise on neighbouring European terraces compared to our own drab experience and you see how bad we have it.

Just this weekend on our away day at Leicester, their most vocal home section was swamped by stewards targeting them for standing – and there are countless stories like this every weekend.

Fans should help shape stadium rules and layout to encourage atmosphere back into grounds: from safe-standing to dedicated ultra sections. Action is much-needed to avoid the slow descent into the soulless, tourist-packed grounds we are becoming accustomed to.

As the game grows globally, we are seeing increasingly mad proposals, from the covert ‘Super League’ coup to growing talk of ‘all-star games’ and fixtures played abroad. Dialogue with fans would prevent these ridiculous ideas ever gaining traction. But instead, supporters are left picking up the pieces, trying to keep their clubs grounded and claw back tradition and sense.

New owners must know our deep-rooted game and traditions aren’t a plaything to mould into a wacky new money-making vision.

Instead of tackling the core issues facing supporters, the Premier League recently chose to demonise fan behaviour and threaten year-long bans and to ‘toughen’ the approach to stadium management.

Much of its focus was on the use of pyrotechnics, which is normalised in many leagues on a wide scale, and even legal in some. Ironically, pyrotechnics feature regularly in marketing material, showing the league relies on vibrant, passionate support to promote their product while simultaneously working to stamp it out in our grounds.

But while the Premier League is quick to condemn and demonise supporters’ last attempts to bring some colour back to the terraces, its own moral compass is increasingly skewed.

We call on Richard Masters to follow his predecessor’s lead and meet with us to kickstart a process where supporters are placed front and centre in shaping our game

Clubs are riddled with dubious crypto partnerships, gambling sponsorship deals and state ownership. Supporter voices must be heard to put the brakes on and keep our clubs grounded within the communities they are meant to represent.

With all these issues considered, it’s clear the league is pursuing a dangerous strategy that risks alienating the very foundations the game is built on – the match-going fan.

It’s also overseeing a shift towards an ageing supporter base attending games. Fewer young fans can afford the expense and are driven away by repressive and sanitised grounds that are a far cry from the freedoms enjoyed by previous generations and by equivalent-aged fans abroad.

In a statement no top-flight English owner would ever make, Dortmund’s CEO rightly stated that if supporters “get the feeling they’re no longer regarded as a fan, but instead a customer, we’ll have a problem”.

The problem is very real now in England and urgently needs sorting.

Six years ago, following extended protests, then Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore agreed to our demands to cap away tickets at £30 – with the campaign showing that supporter engagement is vital to supporters getting a fair deal.

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We call on Richard Masters to follow his predecessor’s lead and meet with us to kickstart a process where supporters are placed front and centre in shaping our game.

With football’s future at stake, supporters won’t settle for anything less.

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