Football: The Sweeper

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Bury

`Vincit omnia industria'

Hard work can win everything

... and a suggested update

`Supastrata divisionem ii givus vertigo'

Clubs engaged in lining of pockets

IS IT any wonder that football supporters sometimes feel that their clubs aren't only taking their money but extracting the proverbial too? Not content with ticket revenue alone, eight English clubs swell their coffers by charging for basic ticket information on premium-rate phone lines. None of the lines actually offer the chance to buy tickets.

The lines (run by Manchester City, Watford, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Everton, Leeds, Tottenham and Crystal Palace) simply tell the caller which match tickets are available and when - at a cost of 50p per minute, due to rise soon to 60p per minute in some cases.

Manchester City's message is a waffle-packed 6 minutes and 22 seconds long and costs callers more than pounds 3 for the kind of information that many clubs - Liverpool and Southampton included - provide for nothing on lines that cost the price of a normal phone call to access. The Sweeper asked Man City to explain their fleecing of supporters but we're still waiting for a reply.

An Everton spokesman said: "We're not out to exploit our fans. We make next to no money on those lines." He added that the fans could get the same information for nothing from the box office or the Internet. Why not scrap the charges on the lines then, and stop fleecing your fans? The Sweeper would welcome any club's explanation why they have to charge for something that other clubs don't.

THE CASH-IN LEAGUE - CLUBS THAT FLOG BASIC TICKET INFO

Length of Cost of

ticket spiel call

1. Man City 6 min 22 sec pounds 3.18

2. Watford* 3 min 48 sec pounds 1.90

3. Chelsea 3 min 22 sec pounds 1.68

4. Aston Villa 2 min 40 sec pounds 1.33

5. Everton 2 min 26 sec pounds 1.23

6. Tottenham** 2 min 09 sec pounds 1.07

7. Leeds Utd*** 1 min 50 sec pounds 0.92

8. C Palace 1 min 14 sec pounds 0.63

*Ticket information lasts 3min 48sec. The full message, including a quiz question, lasts 5min 8sec.

**Option to stay on line longer for the chance to enter a draw to win an autographed football.

***Option to stay on line longer to enter a draw to take part in a pre- match penalty contest.

MOST OF the ticket lines are full of irrelevant gubbins, the only purpose of which, presumably, is to take up more time and cost the fans that little bit extra. "We'll keep you in touch with the latest news from the ticket office," says a typical example from Aston Villa. It begs the question, what kind of news? Whose turn it is to buy the office digestives? What the ticket staff did on holiday? The Sweeper's award for the most gratuitous pile of tosh goes to Man City for the excruciatingly costly flannel: "So that's plenty of long away trips coming up, one after the other... but let's crack on."

CLUBS DO not have a monopoly on unsporting conduct. The Government is quite capable of obstructive behaviour, as fans of Barnet - who want to build a new stadium at Copthall - know.

John Prescott has refused to grant planning permission but The Sweeper has seen documents that indicate a Government-backed Olympics bid for 2008 could include a 15,000-seater swimming facility on the site. Those wanting to know more about Barnet's plight or wanting to show solidarity should head for Underhill tomorrow, at 11.30am. The Keep Barnet Alive group will host a meeting for supporters' associations, representatives of which have been invited from every club in the country. Barnet play Macclesfield in the afternoon.

WIMBLEDON'S COACH, Egil Olsen, has a reputation as a maverick but he indicated this week that he plans when and how to panic. Asked if he was worried about the Dons start to the season, he replied: "We won't make any decision until the 10th or 12th game. If we haven't improved by then, I think that I will have to think again."

PETER BEWSEY knows a thing or two about getting people to spend money on a Saturday afternoon for the privilege of securing a place in a large concrete edifice inhabited by overpriced foreign imports that have a habit of breaking down. How lucky. The former director of National Car Parks was appointed as Chelsea's chief executive this week.

WHOSE COMMENTS? "We must try to keep breath in our bodies as we head for the cemetery." The speaker adds: "It's no longer fashionable for the top clubs to hunt around the lower divisions for bargain buys. They now prefer to go to places like Holland and Yugoslavia" Could this be Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of PFA, who has valiantly attempted to fight the corner of the home-grown hopeful? Nope. John Gregory or David O'Leary, managers who have opted for native talent? Nope. Step forward Torquay chairman, Tony Boyce, sounding the death knell. In 1982.

As You Were

As the new millennium approaches, The Sweeper gets all nostalgic and looks back each week at a different decade of the 20th century. Today, a rare wartime match from February 1944. England's Raich Carter, one of the best inside-forwards of his generation, wins the ball against Scotland. A reminder that there is a war on looms behind Photograph: Hulton Getty

The Price Is Right

ANOTHER BAD, bad day for The Price Is Right Academicals last Saturday. Bradford - get back to the First Division you useless bunch of curry-chomping Tykes - capitulated at home to West Ham; Arsenal went down at Anfield and Everton's brief pretensions to form came to an abrupt end at Pride Park. But The Sweeper has already lasted longer in the job this season than Ruud Gullit and reckons that Danny Wilson is an odds-on favourite to be leaving his Sheffield Wednesday perch long before The Sweeper is made aware of the exit portal by the Academicals' chairman. It's another Euro 2000 qualifying weekend and, believe it or not, there's a draws treble in them thar hills. Belarus, hardly the Brazil of world football, would normally have two hopes (Bob and no) of containing a cub scout second XI even on home soil, but they get to entertain Wales and should secure a point. Bosnia, another of the globe's footballing also-rans, can repeat their earlier draw with Scotland while Dynamo Kiev, sorry, Ukraine, could be held to a draw by France, the nation which, remember, won the World Cup without having a striker who could hit a barn door with an intercontinental ballistic missile.

WIN pounds 100 A WEEK TREBLE CHANCE

pounds 3 treble with Ladbrokes or the Tote: Belarus to draw with Wales (5-2); Bosnia to draw with Scotland (12-5); Ukraine to draw with France (9-4).

OPENING BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 75.

BALANCE: -pounds 25.

TODAY'S BET: pounds 3 STAKED.

Fan Power

Your chance to reclaim the game

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE are, even their most pessimistic supporters would agree, better off than some clubs who have endured troubled times lately, writes Rupert Metcalf. Unlike Doncaster fans, for example, their chairman has not attempted to burn down the Home Park grandstand.

Even so, the followers of the Pilgrims are not happy. A decade ago they were watching Argyle take on the likes of Leeds and Newcastle. Now they are in the Third Division, having endured three relegations in nine years.

The man many fans blame for the club's slide is the chairman Dan McCauley. He insists his money is keeping the club afloat, but supporters accuse him of not investing enough of his wealth in the team. At tomorrow's home game against Brighton, there is to be a boycott of Home Park's Lyndhurst Stand in protest at McCauley's stewardship of the club.

The demonstration is being organised by the long-running Argyle fanzine, Rub of the Greens. Its co-editor, Dave Pay, says: "We feel that Dan should continue to invest, and make real progress, or step aside to allow those with a true feel for the club to take his place. There is a real danger of the club dying."

"Rub of the Greens": 12 Valley View Close, Larkhall, Bath BA1 6TP. E- mail: StevePAFC@aol.com

Football Supporters' Association: PO Box 11, Liverpool, L26 1XP. Telephone: 0151 737 2385. Web: www.fsa.org.uk

Coalition of Football Supporters: Telephone: 0113 237 4545. Web: www.cofs.co.uk

Unsung Heroes

No 5

EDDIE HOWE: Bournemouth's 21-year-old defender might be young but he has been at the club since he was a boy and has firmly established him as a favourite with the fans. He worked his way quickly through the youth team (where he was captain) to the reserves then to the first team, and has, apparently, displayed all the hallmarks of being the consummate professional.

"He's gutsy, football-dedicated and health conscious," said a club spokesman who could not speak highly enough of Howe. "He doesn't drink, he does loads of good PR for the club, and he's a cracking guy. He's every mother's favourite, they'd all love to have a son like Eddie."

The central defender's mature displays have won him a regular first-team place and international honours. Last season was a highpoint in Howe's career so far, starting with two appearances for the England Under-21 side in the Toulon tournament in France. Those matches were quickly followed by the signing of a record seven-year deal with Bournemouth. Howe then represented the Nationwide League against a side from Italy's Serie B. He missed just one match all season (through suspension) and capped a fine campaign by retaining the club's Player of the Year award. In total he's made more than 120 appearances for Bournemouth and stands out as one of his side's most promising home-grown talents.

Do you have an unsung hero to recommend? Someone who holds a "one club for life" record perhaps? An octogenarian groundsman? A hospital radio team? A super tea lady? Let us know.

Sign Of The Times

From The Sweeper's autograph collection from the late 1970s and early 80s. Who are they?

KINGS OF Europe - one kept on and on playing while the other manages to be vulpine these days.

Answers next week. Last week: Arsenal's Malcolm MacDonald and John Hollins.

Just Imagine...

... how Arsenal can cure Dennis Bergkamp's fear of flying before the Champions' League campaign starts. He can stay at home if...

n ...he watches a video of Alive! on continuous loop (while being read aloud to from a recipe book by a family of cannibals).

n ...or he takes a cruise with The Story Of The Titanic, Bow Doors: All You Need to Know About Closing Them, and Up Belgrano (all available from The Sweeper publications) as compulsory holiday reading.

For next week, The Sweeper invites suggestions for the supporting cast for: "Intensive Care", a new soap starring Dr George Graham and hospital CEO Kevin Keegan, who is recruiting patients for a fund-raising match against the Young Conservatives. Addresses as above.

In T'net

Found on the Web: The players' union.

AN ABSORBING site which includes a history of the Professional Footballers' Association - the longest established sportsmens' union, dating back to 1907; four interviews per week with current players (one from each professional division); football postcards to e-mail to your friends; a hall of fame; and loads of links.

http://www.thepfa.co.uk/

Read Of The Week

THE HOMES OF FOOTBALL - THE PASSION OF A NATION by Stuart Clarke; Little Brown, paperback, pounds 14.99

STUART CLARKE has been photographing the changing face of football since 1989, both as an artistic quest and as a project for the Football Trust. This superb collection, taken from his archive of more than 60,000 photographs, contains wonderfully evocative images capturing all levels of the game - from rickety goalposts in municipal parks, and spectators (with their dogs) watching Ullswater United, to panoramic views of a packed Hampden Park on Scottish Cup final day and Wembley during Euro 96 - but mainly its focus is on football fans in love with their clubs, reflecting a national obsession.

Courtesy of Sportspages Bookshops, 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London, 0171-240-9604; & St Ann's Square, Manchester, 0161-832-8530. Website: www.sportspages.co.uk

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