...are they all right?
Three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon was once the only time weekend football games kicked off. If you're a supporter of a top-flight team, thanks to the dictates of the television paymasters you're lucky if this tradition is adhered to. Sunday afternoons. Monday nights. Any time but 3pm on the first day of the weekend is OK for football these days.
It didn't stop there. Once television had crowbarred its way into the footballing week there was no turning back. European football on Thursdays saw Sunday games become a more regular occurence. Soon the excuses became more oblique. Thankfully the lower two divisions proved to be a safe haven from this scourge.
But the past couple of seasons have increasingly seen lower-division teams kicking off at an unconventional hour. Bewildered? Especially given the absence of TV cameras? Most fans are. Especially when they're not consulted. Especially when the changes are made within days of the fixture lists being released. Especially when the changes are made after many season ticket holders have committed their cash to the club.
Town are pushing it this season. Within a week of the fixtures for this season being announced, the club brought forward three home games to Friday evenings. Reasons? To avoid clashing with England games. Another switch produced a frank admission that the change was for marketing purposes, part of a reciprocal agreement with Cheltenham.
However, despite its claim that "the Club continues to develop ways to consult with supporters", the club took this decision unilaterally. It did not consult its fans. (Fans tried to protest the decision using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org - as set down in the club's customer charter - but by the club's own admission, emails to this address have not been picked up by anyone at the club for some time, despite the charter continuing to display it.)
The official line is that we all support Friday night football. We all turn up in our droves. Evidence? Attendances for last season's Friday night home games are 'high'. Are they? Against Cheltenham, Town drew 6,133 on the back of a 'kids for free' promotion. Against Oxford, without a marketing gimmick, only 4,777 turned up. Compare this with the average home crowd for last season: 4,943. Town must be coining it in from those hot dogs, Mars bars and weak teas, making up for the attendance deficit.
And remember why and who turns up. The loyal, regularly attending fans, usually with blind loyalty, be they season ticket holders or otherwise. How many of the free ticket recipients returned later in the season? Is it right to be making a decision on a hunch as to when those people will be drawn to Blundell Park? (Given the club's inability to produce hard facts in support of Friday football, a hunch is all it can be.)
Is Friday the only alternative time football can be played? Football is a social occasion. How many fans want to tear to Blundell Park straight after a hard week of graft? How many fans are being denied the chance for a trip to Cleethorpes, to support their team, to socialise, to support the businesses local to the club's ground, and all at their own pace? Friday night football just hurtles the exhausting rush of the working week past the 5pm hometime.
So what about lunchtime on Saturday? What about after five o'clock? Or how about Sunday? What about just keeping the game as it is?
Enough is enough. It is time the fans had a say when games are moved. We're the ones who have to go to the games. We should be able to have a say, rather than being dictated to.
Here at Cod Almighty we think Friday football is shit, but that might be because many of us are exiles - who have to leave work early, use time off work, or even miss the game. So you might not share our view. Whether you're pro- or anti-Friday football, tell us what you think by completing our simple survey on Friday night football. Tell us, and we'll tell the club. If you don't tell us, they won't know. If it is the option fans prefer, then fair enough. At least then we'll have had a chance to discuss it.