Sunday, 2 September 2012
A glimpse of a better future – and a big reality check.
Here are some words that ought to strike fear in the heart of every Imps fan. One thousand six hundred and eighty two. That’s the number of fans present at yesterdays game with Ebbsfleet United. I’d previously thought around two thousand two hundred was just about the absolute rock bottom for a Saturday fixture and even that is well below the budgeted gate figure even for this cut price season. It’s a measure of the disenchantment the fans have with their team and a reflection on the negative publicity coming out of the club in my view with pronouncements from the chairman, now mercifully few, putting people off and the manager, who cannot seem to give any kind of quote at all without slotting in a reference to the fact that his budget is insufficient, admittedly with the caveat that he doesn’t mind. Well the fans mind, in fact they’re appalled.
One of the best bits of radio, for me, when you get back to the car and tune to BBC Radio Lincolnshire is the period when Michael Hortin is waiting for the players or manager to become available for interview and prevails upon the Echo’s reporter, Leigh Curtis to have a chat on air. The topic was, of course that terrible gate and what that means for the attendance on Tuesday when there is another home game. One shudders to think. There was disagreement on whether a resurgent City would be able to pull the crowds back but agreement on the fact that the nature of football as essentially a working class spectator sport has changed. Of course it changed some time ago with the advent of the prawn sandwich brigade and these wealthier supporters are now evident at all games, Lincoln included but what is missing is the tribal almost, group of fans, usually coming from mass employment situations, factories etc who will support the club come what may. Of course the nature of employment has changed, certainly in Lincoln where even the largest of employers are a fraction of the size they were at one time.
I’m starting to ramble a bit here but the point I’m trying to make is that the club can no longer expect the fans to roll in come what may as a result of some allegiance to their team although sometimes I think the club thinks they should and they will simply out of loyalty. Well now they know differently. Times are very hard and Lincolnshire is far from a wealthy area. The club has to offer something that will lift the ordinary fan out of his or her hum drum life and give them a couple of hours of escape from it and they are not doing so. Every pronouncement drags them back into the reality of their own situation. Lincoln City’s problem is that, unlike their heyday in, say the fifties or sixties, no we’ll leave it at the fifties, there are lots of other things to do of a Saturday. For example for the price of a season ticket a fan could buy a decent lightweight bike and spend their afternoons tootling about Lincolnshire’s attractive (and flat) leafy lanes pleasing both their doctor and their wife, once the beer gut starts to disappear. For the price of one season’s football that investment could provide twenty years of healthy recreation and yet footballers wages and therefore admission prices continue up and up as opposed to the very people who provide those wages.
This game did though, provide a glimpse of what might be as an early goal, never a bad thing, settled City’s nerves and they produced some terrific stuff, moving the ball around well and quickly but as is, dare I say, usually the case, the failure to capitalise on their advantage when a couple of gilt edged chances were spurned, they lapsed back into trying to sit on a one goal lead only for the inevitable to happen and Ebbsfleet deservedly equalised.
At the risk of perpetuating the gloom, this situation cannot continue and certainly Lincoln City cannot survive as a full time club having alienated their supporters to the extent they have, already it’s starting to look too late for any success to accrue this season, quite the opposite. I do hope I’m entirely wrong about this.