Fans' Concern Over Debt, Cheating And Wages
The Alienated Majority? by Jon Busk
Fans across the Premier League and Football League have deep routed fears for the future of the game, according to the latest survey polled by the Football Fans Census.
The survey, conducted at the start of July, covered just under two thousand fans and asked what they felt were the biggest issues, and also the single biggest issue facing football at the moment. The results give a stark picture of terrace attitudes to the modern game. The biggest issues worrying fans across the divisions are the financial stability of the game, and the spirit in which it is being played.
The single most important issue to the fans surveyed was the level of debt in football, while financial concerns generally dominated the findings. Just under thirty per cent of fans polled listed either the levels of debt, the wealth gap or players wages as the biggest issues facing the sport.
Tim Gentles, MD of the Football Fans Census, commented "This might be painful reading for the football community but it is clear that there are deep routed fears about the financial future of the game on the terraces. On the one hand, venerable clubs like Southampton are clinging on for dear life, and on the other, transfer fees and wages are rocketing, fuelled by the cheque books of the Real Madrids and the Man Citys. These tensions have clearly been transmitted into very real fears for the regular football supporter"
Not surprisingly, there is a difference of opinion between the Premier League and the leagues below. The biggest issue for fans of Premier League clubs, according to the survey, is the level of players` wages, with 12% of fans surveyed citing this issue above all others. For fans of clubs in the Football League the wealth gap between clubs and the divisions was the top ranking issue, polling 14% of the fans in the survey.
Interestingly, the standard of refereeing did not appear highly in the findings. Whilst the tabloids and pundits alike foam at the mouth at the man in black every new season, fans are clearly worried about other things in the game. The standard of refereeing did not even appear in the overall top ten issues listed by fans in the survey, while only 3.5% of fans in the Premier League who took part listed it as the major issue facing football.
So while Andy Gray and Alan Green are seemingly kept awake at night by the latest travails of Mike Reilly, fans, it seems, have a longer term perspective.
What the survey does also reveal however, is a significant concern over the character of the game. When asked to list the five most important issues facing football, the most cited one was cheating and diving, mentioned by 41% of fans in the survey, while 35% supported the notion that football is becoming a commodity rather than a sport.
The general picture then does not make great reading for those who actually run the game. According to Gentles, "There is a huge amount of anxiety and angst over what I`d call the soul of the game. A combination of the way it is being played - cheating and diving- and the way it is being run. This isn`t just the usual gripe from league clubs about the rich getting richer. This is a universal malaise affecting all levels of supporters. The game they love, as they see it, is under threat"
What fans will actually do in response to their fears is unclear however. The prospect of fans up and down the country forming their own equivalent of F.C. United is unlikely. That said, it is clear that the patience of fans through all the divisions is being tested to the limit by those in the game. The game they fell in love with is fast becoming unrecognisable.
What do you think is THE single most important issue in football at the moment? (one option only)
Top 10 - All respondents
Levels of debt in football - 10.1%
Wealth gap between clubs / leagues - 9.9%
Players' wages - 9.8%
Game becoming a marketable commodity rather than a sport - 9.7%
Cheating and diving - 7.1%
Lack of competition, too much predictability (big club dominance) - 5.5%
Ticket prices - 5.0%
Number of clubs facing administration - 4.3%
Not enough money redistributed by Premier League - 4.2%
Size of transfer fees - 3.7%
What do you think are the most important issues in football at the moment? (up to 5 options)
Top 10 - All respondents
Cheating and diving - 41%
Players' wages - 37%
Game becoming a marketable commodity rather than a sport - 35%
Wealth gap between clubs / leagues - 32%
Levels of debt in football - 31%
Ticket prices - 27%
Lack of competition, too much predictability (big club dominance) - 25%
Foreign owners - 23%
Size of transfer fees - 22%
Not enough money redistributed by Premier League - 21%
Many thanks to everyone on Vital Football who took part.