The state of the game..

Hopefully some of you took up the offer of a place at the discussion this evening at the Nottingham Council House I mentioned last week.  It was an interesting hour-and-a-bit setup as part of the by the Speakers’ Corner Trust to enable football fans to do just that – speak.  To share their thoughts, opinions, hopes and fears about the state of the game.  Given the state and standing of both Nottingham football teams (or all three Nottinghamshire teams, for that matter), it’s a provocatively apt venue for it to take place!

Rather than go into an attempt to document everything that was discussed (because I can’t remember!), I’ll try to summarise how it left me feeling afterwards.  I’ve written before on here about the ultimate futility of being a football supporter – particularly a lower league football supporter.  Painful though it is to admit, that is, as Forest fans, what we are.  If you break down exactly what it boils down to, people would be quite fair in questioning your sanity.

The whole 39th game nonsense which kicked off recently is the final proof – as if any were needed – that the Premier League is only interested in money, in maximising their markets, in exploiting the revenue potential in territories they only have a limited opportunity to penetrate.  Did you notice the language I used there?  It would be more suitable in a business briefing document than a sport book – there lies the nub, football is no longer a sport.

We go to watch our teams, Forest in our case, out of a mixture of blind faith, family ties, whatever originally pushed us into our alliegence.  We pay (in our case) over-inflated prices for the level of football we occupy, and we will our team to win.  If our team wins enough, we earn much needed promotion – which puts us into the Championship (division two).  It was this thought process that lead me to a fairly horrible thought, which isn’t new as I’ve written it before on these very pages.

You see, given how ludicrously uncompetitive the Premier League is, I don’t want to see us in it.  Because we wouldn’t compete.  We’d be like Derby are this season, getting a right royal spanking every week – on the face of it, for us, that’s quite funny – but it’s indicative of what a ridiculously unbalanced system our national ‘sport’ is built upon.  It wasn’t that long ago that Frank Clark (a panelist at the discussion) promoted Forest then finished 3rd in the top flight – a feat that at that time didn’t warrant a ‘Champions’ League place.

Can you imagine say, Watford doing that next season?  Whilst perhaps not impossible, it’s highly improbable without an obscene amount of investment beyond what we’ve already witnessed.  Which begs the question, what is the point in being a football fan at all?  Cynically I suppose you’d say it’s to line the pockets of players, agents and owners who bank on your loyalty to turn up regardless.  Simon Jordan said not that long ago that football is the only business where you can serve up shit and still get the punters coming back.

What a depressing state of affairs that is!  Keri Usherwood, the chairman of the Notts County Supporters Trust, raised the notion of allowing the ‘big’ clubs to breakaway to form their lucrative and greedy ‘super leagues’ – and frankly, the idea has more appeal the more I think about it.  Let them bugger off and leech as much cash as they can, and leave us with a league structure which is truly competitive for reasons other than just how much cash you have.  Of course, that’s never likely to happen, but it’s a nice pipe dream.

The other interesting notion he raised was that, funnily enough, about Supporters Trusts.  A chap present piped up that apparently some kind of meeting of minds is planned prior to tomorrow’s trip to Leyton Orient to start to think about just that kind of thing for Forest fans.  I struggle to rationalise how this can work, having some experience of reading the numerous Forest message boards, it would be a strong character who could deal with the routine barrage of insults, childishness and sniping that would inevitably ensue should such an organisation exist – let alone if it attained a presence in the boardroom at Forest.

I hadn’t heard anything relating to this suggestion before, the nature of the gentleman’s comments prior to this were very much in line with the kind of stuff you read on the ‘Free Forest’ website – which I partially have some sympathies with, although their slogan of cutting out the spin could well be back applied to their selective use of the financials on occasions.  But it’s something that has certainly piqued my interest, so I’ll be keeping an eye out.

Ultimately as fans we are the most important people, as a collective, the game has – without us there wouldn’t be one.  I hesitate to say we are consumers, but if Sky couldn’t sell us satellite TV on the back of football games, would they pump the money they do into the game?  Absolutely not.  As such, it is wholly appropriate that every club should have supporter representation on their board – but personally, I find it hard to imagine a group of supporters such as ours (and probably everyone else’s, I just know ours better!) ever being happy united behind any particular supporters trust structure, let alone an elected board representative.

I’d be happy to be proven wrong though.  So yes, basically the upshot of the discussion was it’s a pretty fruitless pursuit being a football fan these days – the trips to Wembley, the visits to places like Old Trafford with a realistic feeling of getting 3 points, all those things feel like they cannot be attained by a side that’s fallen as low as we have now – the game is so different now, and so uncompetitive.  It does start to make you wonder why you bother, of course, until matchday comes around again!

Speaking of which, it’ll be all quiet on the blog front ’til some point on Sunday when I’m back from what surely must be the turnaround point in our away form?  Mustn’t it?  Come on, we have to believe, don’t we?  Otherwise, what is the point of it all?

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4 Responses

  1. I nearly agree 100% with you, but it is possible for teams to achieve what we did again, we were lucky in that we had bought the most exciting strike partnership in the land, Collymore who banged in silly goals, coupled with Roy who we acquired before his stock rose in the WC. Pure class behind them with cheap but great imports like, Bohinen, with technically sound home-grown players and a great leader like Pearce. It is possible if you get this excellent mix, with a decent tactically aware manager and the right club to attract the players ie. Nottm Forest – 2times EC Winners!
    Not like it used to be though granted, its tragic!

  2. Last Tuesday my Greek team Olympiacos played Chelski at home. They drew 0-0. That’s not the point. On the next day the “Guardian” wrote: “There’s no way we will see that kind of atmosphere in our Premier League grounds ever again”. We discussed it with a couple of Chelsea fans that evening, and they agreed: The Premier League has become a little too posh for their standards too.
    Well NFFC, although I agree that the Premier League today is nothing like the old Division One I used to love as a kid when we used to watch only parts of games here in Greece, I must say that even back then there were the big names i.e. Liverpool, Arsenal or Man U, and they were also monopolising the titles with rare breakthroughs by “lesser” clubs such as Everton, Aston Villa or our own and beloved Forest.
    It’s a worldwide phenomenon that titles almost always go to teams with a big (I should say HUGE) fan base (and according financial strength). I wouldn’t even dream of Real Valladolid as Spanish Champions, Udinese picking up the title in Serie A or Karlsruhe winning the Bundesliga. The fact that Forest won the title right after promotion was a wonder which I think has happened only once more (I may be wrong, but I think that our national manager Otto Rehhagel led Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga title after promotion as well).
    But this is football. A bunch of guys with a good chemistry between them works wonders. It’s not only money that counts (and really nffc, are you sure we would have won that title without making two ultra-expensive signings in Shilton and Francis?)
    The D***y example is an illustrating one, but not the rule. Why don’t you take Reading, who broke into the Premiership two years ago and are still alive and kicking? What about Wigan and Sunderland, hanging in there by the skin of their teeth, what about Bolton that has been there since 2001 with a fan base much lower than our own? Watford may not win the title next season, but what about bigger clubs such as West Brom or Ipswich if they follow Cloughie’s example about a good chemistry of players?
    The Premier League had a goal, in its beginnings in the early 90s: To provide football fans with a highly competitive top league, deprived of the plague of hooliganism, offering better standards for spectators (such as all-seater grounds) and with stars shining all over. In the beginning, foreigners were reluctant to try the hardships of the english game. After Bosman, they flooded in. But there again, the Premiership used the rule of national team appearances in order to decrease the number of work permits issued – it’s a very good rule that I wish we had in Greece as well. As a result, the foreign players are now the creme de la creme, which is a good thing but also can create problems. And I will explain myself.
    I am worried too about the English game; it’s a hard-fought, never-say-die, full of pace kind of football, which I came to love as a kid and still respect. I am sure that English fans deep down are not so sure that they want to go to the ground and cheer for clubs without a single homegrown player in their squad. And I believe the problem lies there – and this gives also a lot of answers about the England national team’s recent shortcomings. So I am not that pessimistic about Forest being spanked like D***y should we break into the Premiership. Maybe the sheep sh*****s were a little overconfident (how uncharacterising of them – he he) and were caught offguard, which did not exactly happen to Roy Keane’s Sunderland (also a team with a big fan base), so why should it happen to Forest? I wonder.
    But again -and I will repeat it every time- as I am too far away my vision of things could be a little different than yours, who live the game every single day in its cradle. Maybe it’s my optimistic nature, but yeah, I wanna see my Forest up there again.
    Good luck today in London U REDS!

    PS I also think that the Premier League project to play games abroad is ridiculous. If not for anything else, travelling would add more to an already heavy schedule of tired players……… And would it be still called the English Championship? As Ancient Greeks used to say, there should be a measure in everything – even greediness!!!
    Sorry about the long post, but the topic is huge as well I reckon.

  3. Bet the Havant and Waterlooville supporters didn’t think it was all a waste of time a couple of weeks back.

    Keep the faith.

  4. Probably not, I guess they signed up to something different to me, though! That said, a trip to Orient has cheered me up no end anyway!

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