A question not a statement: Why do some football clubs still treat Scottish fans with such contempt?
The hero of this story, the story of Falkirk Football Club’s board and management Q&A on Tuesday evening, was the club's MC Dave McIntosh.
During lockdown he turned his hand to teaching, presenting fun and informative YouTube videos for young Falkirk fans. This week, he was back to doing what he does best, controlling an agitated crowd that had been poked, prodded and patronised by the villains of the piece, namely chairman Gary Deans and member of the board Gordon Colborn.
McIntosh wrestled back control when proceedings were heading out of control 12 minutes in to an event which would last 104 minutes. He proceeded to tell the room where the toilets were, that the bar was open and if they held a fire alarm to “run like hell, basically”.
Despite the best but failed efforts of the top table, featuring board and management, to tell a few jokes, McIntosh provided the funniest moment of the night. A night which had very, very few laughs if you were a Falkirk fan.
‘A statement not a question’
Unfortunately for the supporters, the protagonists of the night were the villains, even if they tried their best, depressingly, to convince both themselves and those in the room that it should be the fans.
The Q&A, which can be found on the club’s YouTube channel, was an incredible occasion, one which will go down in infamy.
It has to be noted, the club should be commended for putting on such an event, engaging and interacting with the fans. It was just a shame about the manner in which they did so.
Colburn, in his introduction, accused the fans of not supporting the team.
"We need to be in a place where supporters support the club," he lectured. “They support the team. We can't have conditions where players are frightened to do things on the park because they are going to be booed for that.”
The laughter which met the comment said a lot, with one fan speaking for many when he said “get a grip”.
Then came the first question. A withering list of problems at the club dotted out before culminating with the question: “At what stage do we get to when there is serious change happening?”
Deans, the Falkirk chairman, met it with a reaction which bordered contempt. “It was a statement, not a question,” came his retort before he reluctantly answered the question after the crowd quite rightly expressed their dismay.
Reminder, that was the chairman speaking to fans. What chance have you got when that’s the approach?
Potential investors and sponsors
It was another example of football clubs looking down at and almost vilifying their own fans. There is enough of that from external factors.
The mind boggles as to why football clubs can treat fans with such contempt. And, by all means, Falkirk are not alone in this.
Rewind a couple of weeks or so to October 5. Dunfermline Athletic issued a statement regarding the future of manager Peter Grant. For the most part it was pretty informative, bordering on insightful as sporting director Thomas Meggle detailed the problems with the team’s “defensive compactness”.
Then the statement turned from David Kessler into werewolf as it had a go at the behaviour of a “handful of supporters” following the loss to Queen of the South. The club said they wouldn’t say any more on the subject before, in the very next line, warning fans it did not portray the fans in a positive light to potential investors and sponsors.
That comment was more likely to do more harm than good for those “potential investors and sponsors” who were unlikely at Palmerston Park for the loss where the visiting support made their feelings known to Grant.
You get the distinct feeling that many of those who run football clubs would prefer that fans be mute, pay their money and shut the hell up. While there are those who transition from a fan to a board member and appear to lose all perspective and sense of what it is like to be a supporter.
Take Dunfermline and Falkirk. Supporters of both clubs have had to tolerate a lot of nonsense. Two clubs, who should see themselves as Premiership clubs, have been out of the top flight for a combined 22 years.
Rolling out the red carpet
Fans have every right to be angry and to vent that anger in a sensible way, which does include booing underperforming players and managers, as is the norm across world football. Yes, there will be supporters who take it too far, get carried away which results in unacceptable actions. That is the minority. However, some clubs would have you believe it is the majority.
You would have thought, probably naively, that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown would have resulted in clubs appreciating their fans that little bit more. In fact, having had to suffer games with no atmosphere, no colour, no character and a lot less money coming in, clubs should have been rolling out the red carpet for their match-going heroes, their importance never more prevalent.
Supporters themselves should have learned that their place should be very high in the pecking order, the priority list.
But for some clubs it is back to square one. The easy route of scrambling around to avoid taking full responsibility, taking full accountability, the ‘nothing to see here’ approach as they hold a large neon sign directing you to the supporters.
Can clubs learn from situations like these this month? You really hope they will because, eventually, fans will eye the fire door and run like hell, basically.
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