As a football supporter, there is a lot asked of you. I’m not talking about Manchester United ‘fans’ who were born and bred on the outskirts of Andover, whose only peril comes when they have to swallow the rise in inflation as they purchase their new home shirts from Sports Direct every July.
I’m talking about the diehard flask-and-sandwich brigade; the people whose heart and souls are buried in the grounds of their club; the people who are grateful to be watching football with a smile on their face; the people, by and large, who read this very paper, page to page. The role you play can never be taken for granted but unfortunately, it often is. This is why I have nothing but sympathy for Chester (and Solihull) fans who, with their season-starter less than 24 hours away last Friday, were dealt the first blow of the campaign before a ball had even been kicked when news broke that the opening-day fixture at Damson Park was to be postponed.
The reason? An email from the National League’s press office confirmed it was for health & safety matters, after concerns were raised by the local safety authority. There was no more information, only that arrangements were in place to ‘urgently deal with the matter’. Talk about sweeping your mess under the carpet!
Whatever the reasons for the postponement – and there are various stories being spouted around the Non-League campfire, with some, it has to be said, more sinister than others – supporters need to know. They need to know why they can’t attend a fixture they have been planning to attend for months; they need to know why they are having to fork out travel and hotel expenses even when they have no reason to spend a night in the Premier Inn.
Supporters have a vested interest in these matters. Clubs and the league cannot simply palm them off with a customary: “Sorry, but there will no further comment at this stage.”
We harp on about how much we value the fans, and clubs never grow tired of claiming their own to be the best. But we don’t look after them, and they don’t get the respect such a lofty status deserves. They are always the ones kept in the dark. “They’ll keep coming back,” you say. “They’ll stand by us through thick and thin!”
But if you keep pushing them aside, there will be a day they won’t come back…
Every effort should have been made to get the fixture on. Safety measures should have been met and boxes ticked weeks ago, and the league should have ensured this was the case. Who knows… there may be an underlying issue at Solihull. Maybe I am sounding off unnecessarily. But until I’m told any different, the postponement of last weekend’s game was nothing more and nothing less than an act of gross incompetence.