CEO Blog 17-18
This week features safe standing debate, Arsene Wenger bows out and the 2018-21 grassroots strategy.
The standing debate
The safe standing debate is gathering momentum and provoking some strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
This is on the back of the decision to reject West Brom’s application to install 3,600 ‘rail’ seats at The Hawthorns. A number of clubs, including Bristol City, have looked into the concept, which is the norm in Germany’s Bundesliga.
It is understandable that the Government’s position is that ‘the safety of fans is the Government’s priority’. This resonates strongly having recently passed the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy. Any variation to the current policy and the law supporting it must be clearly evidenced as a safe alternative to all seater areas.
That said, the reality is that fans, often in a main home section and in the away section, are choosing to stand. Many away fans, and I have experienced this recently, are having to stand just to be able to see the game, so in their case it’s not out of choice that they are on their feet for the duration of the game.
My personal view is that safe standing adds atmosphere and it is clear that many fans want it. Germany seems to be leading the way, and the games I have been to there are vibrant and full of atmosphere. Perhaps the difference is that many of the German grounds are purpose built to incorporate safe standing.
It would be welcome to see some of the wealth at the top of the English game go into piloting a safe standing scheme to gather the evidence required to make a decision. In the short term, fans standing in areas designed for seating only feels like an accident waiting to happen.
Wenger bowing out
The big news of the week, and of the year, is that Arsene Wenger is to leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, signalling the end of an era in English football.
His record, and no doubt the over used legacy phrase, will be examined by many in the coming days. Of all his achievements- the stats, win ratios, the unbeaten record with the Invincibles, the number of trophies, the new stadium, financial prudence and so on- in my view the biggest of all is his longevity. 22 years as a top flight manager is a phenomenal achievement and one that is unlikely to be beaten.
I’ve long admired Wenger for many reasons. He has brought something different to our game, his teams have always tried to play great football, and he has been true to his values. One of these has been to avoid succumbing to inflationary fees for players and agents, and even he, in the end, could not avoid this to keep up with the big spenders.
Perhaps his send-off should have been at Wembley last May when he lifted The FA Cup, and there is a tinge of sadness that his values proved difficult to uphold in 2018, which says more about our game today than Wenger himself.
What is clear is that replacing long serving managers is tough- just ask Man Utd fans (or indeed Forest fans post Clough) about that, so maybe the message is to be careful what you wish for.
We’re beginning to plan for our new Cambridgeshire FA strategy 2018-21. I mentioned last time that we’re recruiting for our reformed Council, so to come in at a time when a new plan is being formulated is a great opportunity.
We’ll keep everyone updated on what will be in the new plan in the coming weeks.
Until next time.