CFCnet is not easily swayed by glitz and glamour but you’d have to be blind not to be impressed by ‘Under the Bridge’, Chelsea’s nightclub nestled under the East Stand. Pockmarked with one of the world’s finest collection of iconic rock photos, just being there was like re-visiting your childhood all over again – Plant, Page, Hendrix, Bowie…you name it, they were on the walls.
Surrounded by such memorabilia and plied with teas, coffees, Danish pastries and pizzas, it was hard to get into the ‘angry old man’ vibe so needed to make things happen at the Fans Forum. Perhaps the Club, being the wily old foxes they are, purposely chose the venue for precisely this purpose? Who knows, but the atmosphere was cordial, participatory and respectful. We enjoyed it.
It’s been seven years since this writer last sat on the Fans Forum and Saturday’s agenda was very different than in 2005/6. At that time, major decisions needed to be made e.g. moving the away fans, but with most of these major decisions now implemented, the present day Fans Forum is more about getting the minor details right.
I’m not going to go into these details simply because the Fans Forum Minutes will be on the CFCnet website in due course. Rather, I’ll simply cover a few major points discussed. Chief amongst these was Chelsea FC Head of Security Keith Overstall who came to tell us that the level of complaints due to persistent standing were reaching epidemic proportions. How big is the Ebola-like epidemic? 40 letters over the course of the year i.e. 2 per home game or, to get pedantic about it, one Chelsea fan in 19,500 gets the hump each and every home game. In fact, some geezer in Kingston is probably penning a letter to Overstall as I write this.
Now CFCnet doesn’t want to wade into the debate about persistent standing but Overstall was adamant that Chelsea FC fans must sit down except when goals are scored. His argument hit a brick wall, however, when he politely informed us that he ‘could do nothing about’ the persistent standing of away fans. So, in effect, he wants 38,000 Chelsea fans to sit on their ar**ses whilst 3,000 Scousers can do what they want and bounce to their hearts content. The word ‘deluded’ springs to mind. It’s not going to happen unless you police the away fans too. #never #ever #yourdeludedmate.
Of course, a dynamic, entrepreneurial Club, free of the shackles of political correctness, would simply campaign for terracing, especially now that the authories have been blamed for Hillsborough. Make the MHL or West Lower a terrace and at a stroke you’ve solved the stadium capacity and CPO issue; allowed younger fans to come to the bridge with cheaper tickets; solved the persistent standing in seated areas; improved the atmosphere… you’ve solved everything in one go. There’s an idea for you Chelsea. You don’t need to employ McKinsey’s for that one!
Other important changes mentioned include the change of the loyalty point system for European away matches. Currently, if a fan goes to AC Milan away he gets just one loyalty point whilst a member watching Brentford in the FA Cup gets five. Hardly fair. So the Club will be changing this so that European away fans get more loyalty points. Nice one.
Other points raised include that of the away ticket allocation. We are the only Premier League Club (in the top half) who allow general members to get away tickets. In fact 40% of our away ticket allocation goes to members, which is 40% more than Arsenal, Liverpool, United or Tottenham etc. Is this fair?
We don’t know but CFCnet made the point that when the away ticket allocation was purely season ticket holders, the away atmosphere died a prolonged and horrible death. When this was changed to include vociferous noisy members, the atmosphere changed radically. For this reason alone, the present away split of 60/40 is wholly endorsed by us. The team need our support at away games, not rows of pensioners opening their coffee flasks.
Finally, CFCnet was asked about Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, who had a well-publicised meeting after the Wigan game. We want it put on public record that we have nothing against this new organisation. However, we are not in a position to either endorse it or give it any publicity until we are clear about their stance on CPO.
Simply put, any organisation claiming to represent fans’ interests must back either SaynoCPO or Campaign55’s overall stance(s). Failure to do that, in our view, is either a demonstration of incompetence or, even worse, the mark of the hidden hand of the Club manoeuvring behind the scenes. We fear the latter. For that reason we are holding judgement on the new Chelsea Supporters’ Trust until we know their stance on CPO.
Overall, the Fans Forum was well run and we look forward to the next one.
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