Fans are real 'bigger picture' and Leeds United's supporters have history in standing firm - Daniel Chapman

Daniel Chapman has co-edited Leeds United fanzine and podcast The Square Ball since 2011, taking it through this season’s 30th anniversary, and seven nominations for the Football Supporters’ Federation Fanzine of the Year award, winning twice. He’s the author of a new history book about the club, ‘100 Years of Leeds United, 1919-2019’, and is on Twitter as MoscowhiteTSB.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 10:42 am

It's like they don’t want us to watch the games.

Going to the match used to be summed up by the click of a turnstile, the tearing of a ticket stub.

Before the pandemic, it had become the beep of a barcode but traces of old transactions were still there.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

STRANGE TIMES: Another Leeds United game at Elland Road goes by without any fans in the 1-1 draw against Manchester City. Photo by Paul Ellis - Pool/Getty Images.

Now fans have bought season tickets they can’t use, or paid to join waiting lists to get them.

They’ve bought memberships allowing them to buy tickets that don’t exist for games they can’t attend.

So they’ve bought a subscription to a TV channel. Then they’ve bought another to the other one.

They’ve got their heads around Amazon Prime and their wallets out for Now TV passes.

And now one channel or another will ask for another £14.95 to view a match that, not so long ago, you could have walked down the street and paid on the gate to watch.

It’s like they don’t want us to watch the games.

Or, more likely now that Project Big Picture has been revealed as an enormous painting of a middle finger from the self-electing ‘Big Six’ to everyone else, that they don’t want to leave a penny uncollected from the pockets of fans who want to watch the games.

The argument for the soul of the game is boiling down, yet again, to an argument about who has the rights to broadcast it and keep the money, with the added urgency of Covid-19 pushing clubs to the brink.

The Championship actually responded well to the pandemic at the end of last season, by allowing clubs to broadcast their own matches.

The aim was to replace matchgoing with the next best thing, and it meant clubs could grant free access to season-ticket holders while charging per match to others, the same as if they were coming to the ground.

Under the new arrangements the money is supposed to be ending up with the clubs anyway, so why involve Sky or BT?

I’m sure Bryn Law and LUTV are willing and ready to sprinkle that ‘Swansea away’ magic on our Premier League season.

But the presence of per club pay per view in the small print of Project Big Picture indicates why Sky and BT don’t want that on the agenda.

It’s impossible to distinguish between responses to the Covid-19 crisis and opportunistic power grabs that won’t be reversed.

As ever, when the Big Six have an idea, it’s about those who have most getting more.

Whoever takes the money, they’re confident of getting it.

If we love our clubs, we’ll pay that £14.95 on top of everything else, because they need the money. And, we don’t? Hindsight can make any fan a hypocrite.

Yes, I loved Leeds spending £100m on quality players for my team.

And yes, I realise money was hard to find during a pandemic, and my £14.95 can help keep us in Rodrigos.

But, as a fan, it’s my place to be hypocritical, and the job of the clubs not to spend a collective billion on transfers if they can’t actually afford it.

Leeds looked restrained this summer compared to the madness around them but there is an answer to football’s financial crisis in the question.

If you don’t have much money, don’t spend so much money.

The bank of football fans will never be empty, though. Whether through gate receipts, TV subscriptions, merchandise or advertising, football’s cash always comes from one source: us.

And it’s taken through emotional blackmail that is quite a modern phenomenon.

The increasing supply of televised football - which is now all we have - has had to justify itself by creating increased demand.

The game is being shown, and is now marketed in ways that put your status as a fan in question if you don’t hand over the cash to watch it.

When, exactly, did any of us agree to this bargain?

Leeds fans have a history of not falling it for it.

When the club brought John Charles back from Juventus in 1962, ticket prices were hiked up to pay for him: a club at the bottom of Division Two was charging more than most First Division teams.

The response in Leeds was unequivocal. The club bought him, but we’re not paying that to watch him.

The gate for his debut was missing 7,000 fans from the match before.

John Charles was a local hero and one of the best footballers in the world, but even that couldn’t generate enough Fear of Missing Out to pay for him.

Football in 2020 might be in financial trouble but, amid plans to fix football, the big picture should offer more for fans than the right to keep paying for it.

Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.

We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.

Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.

With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Click here to subscribe.

For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.

Thank you Laura Collins