Friday, 17 April 2015

Football Fixtures: It’s the Economy Stupid!

As the season draws to an end plans are already in hand for the scheduling of next year’s football fixtures.  So this is an open plea to the powers that be to consider the humble fan but for more than the usual reasons.

Charlton played 11 league games on a Tuesday night over the season including away fixtures at Leeds (away fans 303), Derby (311), Blackpool (222) and Bolton (234) with a further two games held on a Friday evening.  For away fans these games generally mean taking an afternoon off work or traveling major commuter routes in the expensive rush hour.  After the match it means a tiring journey home arriving back at two in the morning or in many cases an overnight stay as the last trains have left by the time the match is over.  This makes it difficult and undesirable for many fans to attend without sacrificing time off work and costs over and above weekend travel, and the attendance figures back this up.

Turning up at the match is usually the only way we get to see our teams play for these fixtures.  Miss it and all you’ll get to see will be the goals on Sky Sports News or Youtube.  There won’t even be the obligatory two and a half minutes on the Football League Show.  

As football fans we often appear to be bottom of the list of priorities, especially when it comes to scheduling fixtures and yet some sensible planning would not only allow fans to see their team in action but also benefit so many more in a real commercial sense.  To coin that memorable phrase once uttered by an American politician “It’s the economy, stupid!”

We all know the disparate financial gap between the Premier League and the Championship with match day revenue being a key source of income.  Who knows, Bolton with debts of around £173m could certainly have done with more than the 234 hardy Charlton fans that made the long journey North that night.

While we may not realise it, professional football plays an important role in the economy.  The economist would put forward the argument as follows:-

A football club arranges a game of football.  Fans buy tickets, programmes, merchandise and beverages from the club allowing it to purchase inventory from suppliers, employ footballers, ground staff etc, who all spend their money, creating a knock on effect in the economy.  Similarly, fans travel to the ground, meet up and have a few pints and some food thus boosting bus and rail companies and stimulating the trade for local hostelries and eateries in the area, again stimulating trade and employment in the economy.  The government gets more tax revenue from VAT, corporation tax and PAYE thus allowing it to spend more money on public services or cut taxes giving individuals the ability to spend more money.

You only have to look at the activity in and around Charlton on a match day to see this in action.  It’s clearly a bit more complicated than this but you get the general idea.

By playing those games mentioned above on a weekend many more away fans would attend.  If we assume a further 700 fans would attend those games and that they each spend £25 on a match ticket, £30 on travel, £20 subsistence this gives a boost of £52,500 for each game.  Assuming each team across the four leagues has six weekday games that are difficult to travel to over the season then that gives us a total of about £28.35m over the season.  The assumptions are rather simplistic (for example many Premier League games are sold out regardless), and this is just a first order effect for the clubs and that does not include the second effect stimulus for the local economy but one can see that the figures are not insubstantial.

It therefore also makes both commercial and economic sense for the Football League to prioritise weekday fixtures such that more away fans can attend.  Given the need to generate additional tax revenue I'm surprised that no political party has yet put it in their manifesto.

Having said this I do appreciate that the busy season means that it is not possible to avoid playing on weekday nights, and I personally wouldn’t want to get rid of my fix of mid-week action under the spot lights.  Tuesday nights are always going to be hard for some given that children have to get up to go to school the next day and our supporter base is spread over the South East.  We also have to bear in mind the regular plea for Boxing Day games to be held locally, given the work on the railways over the festive season.

However, we currently do have four reasonably local teams that are within easy distance for a night game including Millwall, Brentford, Watford and Fulham.  The atmosphere, if not the result, at Fulham away this season was electric.  Furthermore other teams such as Brighton, Ipswich, Reading and even Norwich can be reached reasonably by most in an evening.  So it is possible to go some way to accommodating this for many clubs.

It won’t completely solve the issue but it will go a long way to getting more away fans to games and boosting the economy and the financial situation of our clubs.  Here’s hoping for a bout of common sense, and don’t forget, each time you attend a match you are assisting the economy!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Charlton Athletic: Player of the Season

Nominations are open for player of the year are currently being taken by Charlton.

There are plenty of contenders including new arrivals such as Tony Watt, stalwarts such as Stephen Henderson and Tal Ben Haim, to a trio of academy players that have broken into the first team including Joe Gomez and Jordan Cousins.  They all have their merits, but for me there is only one player that makes the grade and that player is Johann Berg Gudmundsson.

Having made 40 starting line ups and 4 substitute appearances (pre-Bolton) he has been consistently selected by both Bob Peeters and Guy Luzon.  A natural right winger he has often swapped sides with Frederick Bulot during periods of the game and in my mind would make a good makeshift striker.  His work rate on the pitch is second to none.

He is a consistent goal scorer, having notched up as many goals as Vetokele this season, 11 in all competitions and is much improved compared to the 13 at his former side AZ Alkmaar over four seasons.
However, Vetokele cost good money and so there is an expectation that he would deliver the goals, but we picked him Gudmundsson on a free transfer (thanks I understand to the scouting of Karel Fraeye, Jose Riga’s former assistant) which makes him a bargain signing.

See here for a selection of Johann’s goals this season:-

Admittedly one man doesn’t make a team and Chris Solly has combined well with him, in a number of cases drawing players away from the pacey wing man to create shooting space.

His scoring also comes from a variety of situations.  A specialist from free kicks he is also a solid penalty taker when Yoni Buyens is not available, but also has the confidence to hit accurate balls from a distance in free play, resulting in some stunning goals from his trusted left foot over the season.  This reliance on the left foot is perhaps also a weakness with good goal scoring opportunities closed by opposition defenders as the extra touch is taken to touch the ball on to his better side.

So for these reasons, Johann gets my vote.  In the meantime, with rumours of interest from Premier League teams, I just hope that summer contract talks will open soon and we don’t see him going away like last year’s player of the year! Oh, and isn’t it time we had a song for our Icelandic International?

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Deptford Pub Walkabout

You may remember many moons ago that I wrote a piece on a pub crawl from Charlton to Greenwich
Since then I’ve done a few more of these and it was fellow Charlton blogger Hungry Ted who suggested that I should put pen to paper to share these with you.

The introduction of the pedestrian bridge over Deptford Creek means that there is now a pleasant walk west from the Greenwich foot tunnel along the Thames rather than walking along Creek Road.  The river side is all built up with modern high rise flats but the view down the Thames is still spectacular and you can take in the statue of Peter the Great (Glaisher Street) a one time resident of Deptford, on the way. 

As you follow the path away from the Thames around a huge tract of land that was once Convoys Wharf you come to the Dog & Bell on Prince Street.  This is a quiet unassuming pub untouched by the need to gentrify or attract the hipster crowd, tucked away down a quiet side street away from the hustle and bustle of Deptford High Street.

The bar billiard table in the corner is a rare sight in pubs these days as was the lack of music which encourages good conversation.  On our walk we noticed the tell tale signs of number of former pubs nearby and this is the last surviving pub in the area that served the dockers from the massive but now mostly derelict Convoys Wharf.

It survives as an independent real ale pub and the walls bear witness to this with certificates for pub of the year from the local CAMRA group amongst others.  They always have four or five guest real ales there and the few times I’ve been the beers have always been new to me.  We plumped for a pint of Gravesend Shrimper, a best bitter from Loddon Brewery.

It's then a short walk down  Deptford High Street to the Job Centre ( the contrast could not be more different.  This is part of the Antic pub group and as appears to be the trend with Antic pubs the place looks like it is part way through a refit but to be honest I don’t really care as long as the beer and atmosphere is up to scratch.  The music is loud and the beard count in the double figures but they do serve a good pint.  There are approximately five ales on cask and many more on tap again with a nod to London beers.  The London Fields' Hackney Hopster was pouring particularly well that night served in the hipster's vessel of choice, the toby mug.

They currently have a kitchen hijack where every weekend the latest street food merchant runs the kitchen.  On our visit it was the turn of Prairie Fire BBQ (slow cooked meat smoked the Kansas City way), and jolly good it looked but we were there for the beer.

The trip back to Greenwich took us along Creek Road and past the Duke ( a more modern pub run by the Inn Public group but still retaining that local bar feeling.  It has two cask ales which change frequently.  The offerings on the night were Sothwark Brewings LPA and Truman’s Zypher, both well kept and well served.  The Duke has music most nights but is spacious enough that you can still avoid the music and have a good conversation if you want a quieter evening.

Creek Road takes you back into Greenwich where the Lord Hood, a truly local pub, is often overlooked but serves a decent pint of Gypsy Hill Brewing's South Paw as its regular bitter.  There has been an ongoing development battle surrounding the Lord Hood and its not clear how long this local will last so you should visit while you have the chance.

In all, four decent pubs all offering something different and a reasonable three mile walk (including the trip through the foot tunnel back to the Isle of Dogs) which will burn of roughly a pint and a half of those beer filled calories.

Don't forget that SE London CAMRA hold the second Kidbrooke Beer Festival at the end of April.  More news on this event at the following link