United front over match pricing would be just the ticket for football fans
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I think all football fans will be delighted with the news that the recent Premier League shareholders meeting saw an announcement of increased funding for grassroots facilities, solidarity payments to lower leagues, sporting and educational initiatives, and support of disadvantaged groups.
With so much money concentrated in the upper echelons, any form of redistribution towards the rest of the game is a welcome development, although the full detail is currently still to be announced.
What was of particular interest in the announcement from the point of view of the Canaries Trust was the new commitment to funding work in relation to the match day experience and fan engagement, which hopefully will result in greater dialogue between clubs and supporters groups. As the cost of going to games gets ever higher any development that might help to make the game more accessible to more people is something that we would welcome.
The Football Supporters Federation, to which the Trust is affiliated, has lobbied hard for an easing of the financial burden on fans and last week's announcement suggests that the message is getting through.
However, real change can only be achieved by all clubs agreeing to lower ticket prices across the board, not by unilateral actions. Recently the Trust decided not to join the protest by Derby County fans about being charged £40 for their tickets to Carrow Road because we felt it had become an attack on Norwich City in isolation, when the real problem is football wide.
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While I feel for fans having to pay large amounts for away tickets (after all, I've done it myself often enough) the issue won't be resolved by individual clubs dropping prices and therefore putting themselves at a disadvantage to their rivals.
I received several emails from Derby fans querying our stance and I asked all of them the same question, namely, how many of them had staged a protest when their club charged Leeds fans £39? Not a single one answered it.
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Undoubtedly a way needs to be found to control ticket prices while allowing clubs to continue to be competitive, but it will only come through dialogue and consensus, not hypocrisy and self interest.
However, for the next few weeks at least all that matters is how City perform on the final run-in as this helter skelter Championship season hurtles towards its final denouement. It's been a wild ride so far and I see no reason why the last seven games will be any different.
At least City have their fate in their own hands, a scenario which seemed unlikely in the extreme after all the setbacks of October and November when so many points went begging. There is no doubt that Alex Neil has reinvigorated a drifting squad and there will be no lack of focus in the coming weeks.
With five games in little over two weeks it's going to be a stressful and demanding time for all the promotion hopefuls and mental strength will be just as vital as physical fitness.
Today's game will be a tough test against a Brighton side who have themselves experienced a renaissance under Chris Hughton and have beaten Derby and held Wolves at home in recent weeks, as well as winning at Blackburn.
City fans will need no reminding that Hughton is more than capable of putting out teams that will get players behind the ball and look to play on the break. The Canaries may need to be patient, but they will also need to be clinical when the opportunity arises.
However, today is just one of seven cup finals that await before the season's end, so it's time to strap ourselves in, try to control the nerves and cheer the Canaries back to the Premier League.