Man About Town: A Wembley day out tinged with anxiety

While the money coming in goes up, so does the sum fans have to pay

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The Independent Online

While much fuss was made last weekend about one London club winning their first trophy in just under a decade, I was thinking about how it has taken me a lifetime to see my team at Wembley.

On Saturday morning I am planning to join fellow Queen’s Park Rangers fans at our home ground, Loftus Road, and walk the five and a half miles to the nation’s home stadium for the Championship play-off finals.

It’s a game I’ve looked forward to more than almost any I’ve seen since my dad first took me as a four-year-old in 1987.

Should we beat Derby County (and that’s quite a big ask given their form), we will find ourselves in the Premier League, with all the hype, media coverage and global interest that comes with it. Then, of course, there is the money.

Much of the build-up in the press has focused on the fact that this is “a £120m match”– in other words on how much more money the club will receive. But, of course, while the money coming in goes up, so too does the amount each fan is expected to pay to see the team.

It’s an uneasy situation to find yourself in as a supporter. You naturally want to see your team play in the very best league possible.

But each time you see them take on one of the “big” clubs, you are reminded just how big business they really are. The ever-increasing focus on wealth and money makes supporting the big football clubs seem more and more like cheering on a massive brand every time their stock rises in the markets.

To focus on that is to take away what a special day it is for most fans: those unemotional-looking chaps who were in tears when an extra-time winner took the team through to the final; those who spend much of their time, money and energy following the side’s fortunes; those who remember the last trips to Wembley (in 1967, 1982 and 1986, and the walks there); and those of us who are seeing QPR there for the first time in our lives.