Sympathy In Similarities With AFC Bournemouth TSS September 12, 2011 Leeds United 32 Comments When the Chairman of AFC Bournemouth took over the PA system this weekend following his sides 3-0 defeat to Chesterfield, the minutes that followed were almost as embarrassing as Ken Bates’ recent sexual analogy. Intrigued by the problems at Bournemouth, I went in search of a fans take on recent events to see what had them all so rattled with their chairman – himself, an AFC Bournemouth fan (allegedly). I stumbled across Court Offside – an independent AFC Bournemouth site – and after reading an article about a recent fans forum they attended which aimed to address supporters concerns, I couldn’t help but notice how similar their concerns were to that of Leeds United fans. Take the second paragraph for example; I say “our” club, because it is our club, the fans’ club. Yes Mitchell is the man in charge, but without the fans there would be no club. How many times over the last seven years have Leeds United fans argued that this is “our club”, as if it needed clarification? The argument that “without the fans there would be no football club” is pretty much cliché nowadays, such is it’s overuse in the modern game. But clichés are generally truths repeated in similar situations across the world – accurate, if not entirely original. Another example of repetition is this; I have always been of the opinion that a fan pays their money and therefore they can voice whatever views they want at a football match, be it booing the team or cheering the team. Every time the support splits and protests arise, some will argue it’s our right as the primary investors in Leeds United FC to voice our concerns, whilst others will argue it doesn’t achieve anything and could unsettle things further. Another concern ourselves and AFC Bournemouth share is public perception. As Leeds United fans we like to perpetuate the myth that we’re already hated, and therefore don’t give a crispy duck what anyone else thinks. But that’s simply not true, because if it was, there wouldn’t have been any uproar following Ken Bates’ sexually transmitted programme notes. Eddie Mitchell is a PR disaster. He does not speak well in public and therefore should not speak in public at all, it makes a mockery of our club when he gives interviews. We’ve been making that exact same argument on here for years, as have many other Leeds United fans. But the biggest similarity between the situation at Elland Road and the one at Dean Court is the isolation some fans seem to be feeling. It’s the idea that the club is heading in the wrong direction, and that the supporters aren’t listened to or kept suitably informed. I’m sure if you looked at other examples of fans at odds with the owners of their club (eg. Everton) you’d see exactly the same similarities and that’s because the underlying cause of all these problems is that we have absolutely no power any more. In some cases, we probably never had. But when a club is actively trying to please fans by answering their concerns – like a good business addresses the needs of it’s customers – you’ll find relative peace. It’s the reason Supporter’s Direct rose to prominence; because there’s a lot of fans out there that are becoming more and more disillusioned with the game they love. Forcing the owners of clubs to make a percentage of the shares available to fans is an idea that’s been floated about for some time now, with absolutely no noticeable action taken by the FA or FL. But I don’t really think it has to go that far. It’d be nice if the fans owned a percentage of Leeds United so that we had direct input into how the club is run, but all we really want is to be kept in the loop – a fans representative on the board could do that, democratically elected through an independent supporters trust. Like Leeds, the troubles at AFC Bournemouth have been exasperated by performances on the pitch, but the underlying concerns were already present at both. It’s generally the case that when things aren’t going according to plan, this is when we feel the most isolated. We become cynical and start to doubt the official line from the club, because we’ve seen things go wrong too many times before and the skeletons are always found when it’s too late. It’s at times like these when you need someone on the inside without any personal agenda representing the supporters and relaying information back to them. It has to be someone we trust, who can assure us that our failure in the transfer market was unavoidable and that there are funds available, that the East Stand development hasn’t affected the budget of Simon Grayson, and that the wage cap isn’t too low. No matter how many times Ken Bates reiterates that message, there’ll always be those who don’t believe him and it’s because he has something to gain – money. And that’s the root of all cynicism in football. My point is that the problems of Leeds United and AFC Bournemouth are systemic of football as a whole, and not individual cases brought on by their respective chairmen. Giving supporters input is one way to relieve the problem, but to fix it entirely you’d need a time machine. We want football to be about the football, and not about financial problems and money-making. Owning a football club used to be about guiding a team you were passionate about to success, but with massive potential for profitability comes people like Bates who want their slice. I hope someone, one day comes up with a way to redress that balance. To give football back to the community of fans that are so passionate about the game and take it away from the people that sense an opportunity to make money, because while ever that culture exists, people like Ken Bates will capitalise on it – and in all honesty, I can’t really blame him.