Fanschartergate

A huge and almost entirely pointless row has broken out about the draft of the draft Pompey Fans’ Charter which is circulating.  I am now going to devote another 1000 or so words to this pointless row myself, after the style of this.  What the internet does for public discourse!  I say “pointless”; some people have used it as an excuse to have a pop at Scott McLachlan, who helped write it, and who has gamely owned up to his role in it.  I feel a bit sorry for Scott, who is one of life’s “volunteers”, but who seems to get it in the neck occasionally.  The accusation made on some message boards that he’s trying to “impose his view” on fans is ludicrous, as you’ll see if you read on further.

Various disagreements that are of no interest to me and have nothing directly to do with the Charter are being played out through this.  But let’s consider the wording of the two drafts – they are drafts, people have lost sight of where this project is at – and try to be constructive.

“The Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference would like to use the message Nelson sent to the English Fleet at Trafalgar on the eve of that decisive battle to remind supporters that they represent our Club and our City.”

That’s fine except that (a) it was a message to exhort Jack Tar to kill as many Frenchmen and Spaniards as quickly and ruthlessly as possible and (b) “England expects” is a clonking great cliche.

“Pompey Expects….fans to respect everyone, including club employees, regardless of gender, age, religion, race or ability.”

“Sexual orientation” ought to be added to the list, other than that, who’d argue with it?  I think the “ability” bit is an attempt to counter discrimination against the disabled.  But it is likely to be misinterpreted as it stands to mean that we can’t attack incompetence; nobody who has ever blogged about Pompey is going to give up that right without a struggle.

“Pompey Expects….fans to avoid violent, disorderly or abusive conduct.”

Fair sentiment, but “England expects you to annihilate your enemies”, while “Pompey expects you to avoid…etc”. See what I mean about the contradiction?

“Pompey Expects….fans to avoid behaviour likely to bring dishonour to the name of our Club and our City”

You need to be able to define “dishonour” if you are going to have sanctions resulting from this charter.

“Pompey Expects… fans to avoid any behaviour likely to bring financial loss or fines to our Club”.

Fair enough.  I am sure a big part of the motivation for this has been idiots with flares recently and some of the stewarding issues at Brentford last season that led to the pitch incident.  Nobody can have a complaint about this bit, surely?

“Pompey Expects….positive support given to the team wherever possible”

Don’t agree with this bit – people pay their money and within reason they are entitled to voice their opinion.

The Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference accept that fans who engage in unacceptable conduct at home or away may be subject to any or a combination of the following sanctions:
 ● Removal from the stadium.
 ● Report to the police and possible criminal proceedings.
 ● Suspension from attending matches involving Portsmouth Football Club.
 ● Indefinite ban from watching matches involving Portsmouth Football Club.
 ● Football Banning Order.
 
Further information on the Club’s origins and Customer Charter can be found at http://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk

And the problem is you have sanctions there that are silly if they are related to the “Pompey expects positive support” point.  It doesn’t matter whether the Fans’ Conference accepts or rejects those bullet points, they are the law, so the view of the Conference or the Club is supremely irrelevant.  What many would question, and I am among them, is given that the law is already very clear, why is it so inconsistently applied at grounds all over the country?  There have been bad stewarding incidents at away grounds for years, and you have the running sore at Fratton of drums/no drums.  Some people have even complained about stewarding at Fratton recently.

The second draft of the charter is like this:

“Pompey Expects That Every Fan Will Do Their Duty.”
 
Portsmouth Football Club, founded in 1898, has a proud history. Pompey fans are a large part of that history, we are a family and a community. The club and its fans have always had a warrior spirit but also a sense of fairplay and honour.

Unless you are Southampton, or “United, West Ham and Millwall”.  Or Leicester.  Or….the list goes on.  By all means clap Thierry Henry when he puts our shirt on, or admit that Ronaldinho can play a bit, but let’s not pretend that you have to be particularly nice to your opponents to be good supporters.  We got our reputation because of the deafening racket we make supporting our team and intimidating the opposition, something we seem to have forgotten how to do.

“As part of that sense of fairplay and honour the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference want to encourage Pompey fans to not tolerate unacceptable conduct at Fratton Park or at away matches.”

Wouldn’t argue with that as long as the definition of “unacceptable” is reasonable

“Borrowing from the message Nelson sent to the English Fleet at Trafalgar on the eve of the decisive battle the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference would like to use this to remind supporters that they represent our club and our city.”

See above re. killing Frenchies.

“Pompey Expects….fans to avoid violent and disorderly conduct.”
“Pompey Expects….fans to respect everyone regardless of gender, age, religion, race or ability.”
“Pompey Expects….positive support given to the team wherever possible”
“Pompey Expects….appreciation of fair play and good play before, during and after the match.”

The last point isn’t in the other draft.  Please don’t ever expect me to appreciate anything from a long list of clubs, some of whom I have already mentioned.

“The Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference accept that fans who break ground regulations home or away will be subject to sanctions as long as they are fair and lawful.”

See above.  It’s doubtful whether many of the obstructions placed in the way of football supporters are fair, though they are lawful.

Further information on the Club’s origins and Customer Charter can be found at http://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk

I didn’t mention under the first draft, but the club has had a “Customer Charter” for a fair while now.  It is as bland as you might expect a document with that title to be, but there are some things it would be worth carrying over into a new document.

I don’t actually see very much in either draft that is newly-objectionable.  A lot of it is the sentiment in the “Ground Regulations” expressed in less formal language, so to that extent it already applies anyway (even though I detest a lot of the law and Police practice around football).

I think people are getting upset because:

– It has appeared as if by magic at a time when fans are a bit jumpy and are questioning the direction of the club.  It would have been better released once we’ve appointed the manager, or in a less-fevered atmosphere.

– We aren’t sure how exactly it’s come about.  It’s been discussed at some point at the Fans’ Conference, which many of us see as the “Magic Circle” of Pompey’s support.  Johnny Moore suggested a charter, but Colin Farmery points out that the club did not actually ask for a charter to be written.  Something has been written and got into the public domain saying “Fans’ Conference” on it, some members of the Conference have distanced themselves from it.  Everyone gets excited about it, but it’s only a draft.  All is confusion.  But even so it’s quite clearly something that the Club have been entertaining and the Fans’ Conference are looking at.

– There is nothing in the charter from the Club making any pledges to fans.  As it stands, it’s a fans’ “Code of conduct” imposing duties on fans, not a “Fans’ Charter” confirming our rights.  But it’s understandable, if the Club haven’t formally considered it, that there is nothing in the way of pledges from the Club.  I hope the Club will come up with some suggestions to go in the Charter as it develops, explaining what guarantees they will make to us.

– The language of the charter.  We are, often deliberately and bloody-mindedly, a bit blunt in this city.  Few things get our backs up more than feeling we are being patronised.  I don’t think it’s an image we play up to particularly, it is just “us” and people who come to live here from all over the place get used to it in time.  But the modern game is drowning in BS and we are wary of more of it.  Slick marketing has been used to obscure the theft of football from its rightful owners since the inception of the Premier League.  I think when the Charter is worked on more, it doesn’t need the “Pompey Expects” stuff.  But many of the things it prefixes are already perfectly sensible.

– There is a feeling that, although we already have those repressive Ground Regulations in place, some fans get away with things that lesser mortals would not.  Let’s enforce what we have before we start heaping more obligations on fans, or emphasising them by restating them in a Charter now.

I’ve got nothing against having a Charter.  I think some of the wording in these drafts is a bit misplaced, and we should have obligations balanced up with some commitments from the Club.  I remember Mike Hall in the old days complaining about the number of kit changes every year – how about something on that?  Or a pledge to publish stewarding reports after games (something that would shed light on some of the current complaints)?  There are bound to be other and better things that people can come up with to balance things up, and make a Charter that draws support from fans.

The big losers in this row are the Club and the Fans’ Conference, because it’s their fiasco.  I think as the relationship between the Trust and the Club defines itself, people are going to ask what the Conference is for exactly.  There has never been anything to stop the Club consulting with groups of people ad hoc, and the Trust can form groups to examine specific issues.  Where does the Fans’ Conference fit into the new reality?  The Conference is supposed to be the consultative body; it is a nonsense to have it putting drafts out for consultation itself instead of drafting something and have all members agree to sign up for it.  They are supposed to be representative (though I think that is questionable really).  If the Fans’ Conference can’t get its house in order, abolish it.

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