Friday, September 03, 2004

Away Support

I note from the Netaddicks site that the issue of lack of away support was discussed at the City Addicks meeting. I have always been a bit embarrassed by the rows of empty seats at games which would hardly be described as long-distance, but frankly does it matter and does it honestly reflect the depth of our support? It is clear that some clubs have better away support than others (West Ham always seem to be well-followed) but should we be surprised that we struggle to get into four-figure support away from home when we were struggling to get five-figures at HOME? And after all despite our history (75,000 crowds in the old days), our traumatic period in the late-1980s/early-1990s saw a generation of fans disappear FOREVER. Let's face it we're not a big club (in an attendances sense) and it's noticeable that at non-season ticket home games that our crowds are highly disappointing. It is hard to imagine say Chelsea (or even Spurs) getting 15,000 or less for an FA Cup game. But surely it only matters that we are genuinely competing with the best clubs on the pitch - who cares that West Ham can get 30,000 for some games in the 'Championship'?

More importantly perhaps, I'm quite proud that our fans have the balance in their lives to acknowledge that in a period when most people have less leisure time than they would like, the possibility of spending the best part of six hours travelling to watch 90mins of football is perhaps not a great use of that time. Throw in the possibility of a Man City or Bolton calamity, and the cost/reward ratio becomes even less attractive. I took an away season ticket during the 1998/9 season and would guess from memory that I saw us win barely 3-4 times, which probably works out at about £400 per win when you consider the costs of tickets, travel, food/drink etc.. I barely went to half that number of games when we returned in 2000/1 and did not regret it one bit. I found myself gaining as much pleasure from a win that I listened to on the internet/radio and satisfied myself that I was far better off after a defeat in the comfort of my own home than in the depths of some awful Northern city. Sure if you have a bunch of mates with whom you can travel it can be a fun day out, but as I get older it is strangely unappealing. Somehow the routine of a home game, the ease of travel and the certainty about the quality of the seating etc.. is incredibly more attractive (and it seems we're finally winning some home games too).

Talking of away games, I went to a New York Mets vs New York Yankees game last month, and the stadium was probably split 70/30 between the two sets of fans yet the concept of segregation was anathema to both. The atmosphere was strangely muted as a result (I quite like the idea of segregation since it allows for far more spontaneous and co-ordinated singing) but it got me thinking why it would be unheard of to have the same concept at football in the UK? I think I'm level-headed enough to enjoy chatting to a fan from the opposition about their team, hopes for the season, favourite players etc.. Surely the fact that many fans enjoy visiting the message boards of other clubs to get a gauge for their feelings about their club and players, implies that the vast majority of fans could countenance the idea. When I've argued about this issue with Americans, I tend to explain that UK football fans are more passionate about their clubs than say baseball fans and hence the tendency for normally sensible fans to see red mist. However they usually claim this is nonsense that we have a problem perculiar to football and need to grow up and realise it's not the be-all and end-all. Personally I think the fact that no-one bats an eyelid that say the LA Dodgers began in New York, or that the Atlanta Braves used to be in Boston suggests that my argument has some basis in fact, but still it's an interesting issue.


At 6:05 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

Hey, NY Addick welcome to the world of exiled American Addicks.

Was interested to read your thoughts on away travel. I used to follow Charlton a lot away from home, in the 90's in particular - I have to say it was more fun then. I always considered our away followings pretty good versus our then home support and I think it belied our supposed 'little club' status. We used to regularly take 1,000 away, not bad when our home attendences were 10,000. However with the influx of 'new' fans at a bigger Valley, I think the majority of these people certainly have different expectations and like you say perhaps watching a game every other week is enough and therefore our away support has not grown in line with our home.

I went to Pompey away last season, just before I left for Chicago and apart from younger people, it was very much the same faces that I used to see pre our Premiership days.

Anyway, good luck with the blog. Come on you Reds.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

I was also at the Pompey game as it happened (one of a handful of away games I attended before I came to the US). There is a prime example of awful seating, appalling facilities, aggressive policing, and until the second half a dreadful performance.

I come to Chicago a fair amount - have watched games at Fado before.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

Agree Fratton Park is a dive, unlike St Mary's, although the policing at both is very over the top.

I will be in Fado's for the Soton game, although Gingers Ale House in Lincoln Park is a better location for 'soccer' for future reference. When did you get to NY?

At 4:47 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

I got to NY in April - have been travelling back and forth for the last few years, including several trips to Chicago. Was invited to Wrigley Field last time which was fun.

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