REMEMBER when fans were considered a crucial part of a football club’s make-up?
When bosses had to be wary not to upset fans for fear of falling attendances or even the odd difficult moment outside the ground or in the pub on a Saturday evening?
While it is still largely the case lower down the league pyramid, the clubs at the very top are rocketing away from their core support at an alarming pace.
When once as kids we could visit the training ground during half-term holidays to catch a glimpse of our heroes, hope for an autograph or even a picture, most complexes now are more secure than MI5 headquarters.
As adults you may have seen the odd star walking around town, eating out or doing a bit of shopping, and the bond between players and fans was strong in the community.
Nowadays you are lucky to even hear an interview on the radio with a footballer, let alone get the chance to bump into them yourself – the fear of the camera phone may be a contributing factor. God forbid anyone should get a sneaky picture of Wayne Rooney eating fish and chips.
Rising ticket prices have disillusioned supporters who cannot relate to players who were once accessible but now multi-millionaires living in a world most of us cannot comprehend. We’d be lucky to earn in a lifetime what the stars at the top earn in a month.
It’s no surprise some fans have become that disenchanted they have formed breakaway clubs or stopped going to games altogether. They do not want to be considered customers.
Things took a worrying step further this week when I read reports a Manchester United fan saw his Twitter account frozen at the club’s request because the profile photo was the official crest, apparently in breach of trademark laws.
Just what is the world coming to when you cannot even use an emblem for fear of legal action.
What next? Everyone with a club tattoo needs to go and get it removed.
Are we not allowed to wear replica shirts on uploaded Facebook photos? Will gravestones be destroyed if they reflect the deceased’s love for their club with a badge? It is ridiculous.
I can understand those clubs where money is now king wanting to protect their brand against fly-by-night hawkers looking to make a quick buck out of fake shirts or scarves.
I remember Manchester City changing their badge in 1997 as former Wanderer and then Blues chairman Francis Lee explained at the time: “Manchester City did not even own the rights to its official club badge, so you had stalls outside Maine Road selling shirts and scarves bearing the crest while the club wasn’t making a penny from it.”
Foresight from Lee means City are now reaping the rewards on and off the pitch. But for Joe Public – just hold fire on that new tattoo.