Saturday, 24 September 2016

League One: Limbo Land?

I've been meaning to write a piece on League One for a while and was prompted to do so by an interesting piece on the Football Supporters' Federation website recently about away ticket prices in the division.

It showed that prices have crept up, in certain cases, to £30 which is of course the same as the capped-prices for visiting supporters in the the Premeir League while paying more £20 or more is the rule rather than the exception.

I don't particularly want to single out individual clubs (the blog has always been about highlighting interesting offers when they come up) but I do feel that, on both the playing and financial side, League One is gradually becoming more and more detached from the Championship despite the link between the two division that promotion and relegation provides.

The most obvious example of this is Championship Under-23 sides taking part in the ill-judged Football League Trophy this season but it's also there in other ways. Channel 5, for instance, has changed its Saturday night offering from 'The Football League Show' to 'The Championship' with League One and Two goals shunted away to a separate programme.

Despite this, clubs are still faced with rising costs from the standard obligations they have to meet and the knock-on effect of wages that are inflated in the top-flight and going the same way in the second tier.

I'd love all clubs to be offering tickets for £20 or less but the best way of ensuring that is surely for a greater sense of togetherness amongst 'The Football League' as a whole and a fairer way of redistributing income to all of the members.

It is pleasing that the 'EFL' have come out and confirmed recently that 'B' teams and the Old Firm are not part of the proposed expansion plans but a growing divide between the Championship and the rest could yet lead to a form of regionalisation or a 'Premier League 2' in the coming years.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Two International Tournaments For October

England’s Under-20 squad are set to compete at the FIFA World Cup in May/June 2017 and preparations will take a step up in October when the FA hosts a mini-tournament across Greater Manchester (with one excursion into Yorkshire).

Aidy Boothroyd’s side will play the Netherlands on Wednesday 5th, kick-off 7pm at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park home before matches against Germany on Friday 7th at Huddersfield Town and the USA on Monday 10th at Spotland in Rochdale (both kick-offs also 7pm).

Tickets for the England games (the other fixtures are being played behind closed doors in Leigh and Altrincham) are priced at £3 Adults and £1.50 Concessions and are available via each of the hosting clubs.

England Under-21’s have a Euro qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday 11th October at 5:45pm. Tickets for the match, at the Banks’s Stadium home of Walsall FC, are priced at £10 Adults and £5 Concessions.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, will host the UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championships in August 2017 and a warm-up event has been scheduled for this October, featuring the hosts, England, France and the USA in an Under-19 tournament.

Games take place between the 18th and 23rd and will be played in Ballymena, Portadown, Lurgan and at Windsor Park in Belfast and tickets for each are priced at £5 Adults and £3 for Under-16’s.

And at senior international level, England's Women take on France in a friendly at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster as the build-up begins to Euro 2017.

The match is scheduled for Friday 21 October at 8pm with tickets priced at £7.50 Adults, £3.50 Concessions and £15 for a family. Discounts are available for Doncaster Rovers and Doncaster Rovers Belles season ticket holders.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Ayr United FC

After securing promotion to the Scottish Championship after a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out against Stranraer in May, Ayr United have made a solid start to life at the higher level, capped by Saturday's excellent victory at title favourites Hibernian.

On Saturday 1 October, The Honest Men (nicknames are something that Scottish clubs do much better than their English counterparts) host Dunfermline Athletic at Somerset Park in a 3pm kick-off.

Admission prices for the game have been reduced to £5 for all as chairman Lachlan Cameron marks the passing of his father, and former chairman, Donald recently.

Donald Grant, a family friend of the Camerons, will also mark the passing of his wife and together the Grants and the Camerons will be donating £10 to Alzheimers Scotland for every season ticket holder at the match and will make up the difference in ticket revenue to the club.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Positive Vibes As Reading Host Huddersfield Town

Another Saturday, another great occasion at the John Smith's Stadium as over 20,000 watched Huddersfield Town stay on top of the Championship with a 2-1 victory against Queens Park Rangers, a fourth successive home win for the Terriers in the league this season.

Chairman Dean Hoyle, having seen the progress that was made under head coach David Wagner last season, backed his belief in the relatively unknown (in this country) German by announcing in the summer that increased revenues from television money would be used to subsidise season ticket prices.

Adult tickets, priced at £179, flew out of the door and the scene was set for a season of good crowds at the John Smith's whatever happened on the pitch.

Results to date have been better than anyone could have expected and the whole thing looks to be taking on a life its own, success attracting more through the turnstiles and the Huddersfield players reveling in the atmosphere it is creating.

“We had unbelievable support which helped us play as strongly as we did and take the next step,” said Wagner after the QPR game.

An away trip to Reading is up next and if you are a Huddersfield Town season card holder then the cost of your ticket at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday afternoon is £20 for an adult with various reductions for different age groups.

That comes after the Royals took the decision in the summer to cap away prices and implement the 'twenty's plenty' initiative for supporters of away teams who are season ticket holders. These prices are matched for home supporters, with a £2 membership card, in the Eamon Dolan Stand.

The variation of away prices in the Championship has become a topic for discussion in the wake of the £30 cap introduced in the Premier League as it means a number of clubs now charge more than that for matches in the second-tier.

Next Saturday, for example, it is £36 for an adult ticket when Nottingham Forest head to Sheffield Wednesday and £35 for Ipswich fans off to Leeds United.

So, hats off to the Royals for their move. They have always been a club who have featured heavily on our pages with free admission to Under 21/23 games at the Madejski (such as the clash with Chelsea on Monday night, September 19th at 7:05pm) and with reduced prices for home cup ties at the stadium.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Champions League Update

An update to the recent post about the UEFA Women's Champions League and two good chances to watch big matches under the lights in Edinburgh and London.

Hibs Ladies take on Bayern Munich in the last 32 of the competition and their home leg will take place at Easter Road, home of Hibs, on Wednesday 5 October at 7:30pm.

Tickets are priced at £7 Adults and £3 Concessions.

Stamford Bridge will host Chelsea Ladies as they attempt to gain revenge on last season's conquerors Wolfsburg. The home leg will be played on Wednesday 5 October at 7pm with tickets priced at £5 Adults and £3 for Juniors (Under-20) and Seniors (Over-65).

I've added a 'Coming Up' tab to the top of the page which I will update regularly with matches that may be of interest and dates for the diary.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Football for a Fiver at Charlton Athletic

‘Football for a Fiver’ is an offer that has been running at the Valley since 2011 and it returns for the 2016/17 season when Charlton Athletic host Rochdale in League One on Saturday 1 October at 3pm.

I touched on the deal in an article last season but that came at a time when the main backdrop to matches at the stadium were the protests against owner Roland Duchatelet and chief executive Katrien Meire‘s running of the club.

A recent article in The Guardian gives an account of the current situation, Russell Slade’s appointment as manager being seen as a necessary first step towards restoring some stability and identity to the playing side although it may take longer (and for some supporters, a change of ownership) for divisions off the field to be healed.

As the Guardian piece touches on, such divisions seem more pronounced at a club where supporters played such a huge part in saving and then re-building it and where initiatives such as the Valley Express travel service have reached out to the whole community of those people with links to the Addicks.

My own club, Coventry City, in contrast, continues to suffer from a total lack of trust between fans and owners but there is no golden age of good relations to look back on, unless you followed the club through the glorious 1960’s when Jimmy Hill’s team and the city as a whole seemed interlinked.

I've added a 'Coming Up' tab to the top of the page which I will update regularly with matches that may be of interest and dates for the diary.

Monday, 12 September 2016

October’s Affordable Football

A first look ahead to what is coming up next month...

It is a busy time in the Women’s game as the FA WSL season approaches its finale and there is also the Champions League and Continental Cup Final to look forward to.

In the Champions League, Glasgow City have been drawn against Eskilstuna United of Sweden with the Scottish champions at home in the second leg. This will take place at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie on Thursday 13th October at 7:45pm with tickets priced at £10 Adults and £5 U16's.

I haven’t seen ticket details yet for Hibs Ladies against Bayern Munich or Chelsea versus Wolfsburg but the home legs of these ties will be played at Easter Road and Stamford Bridge respectively.

Manchester City are making their debut in the competition and are likely to be heading into their tie against Zvezda Perm of Russia as the new WSL champions. City have been drawn at home in the first leg which will take place at their Academy Stadium on Thursday 6 October at 7pm.

The Academy Stadium will also host the Continental Cup final between City and Birmingham City Ladies on Sunday 2 October at 2pm. Tickets are priced at £7 Adults, £3 Concessions

Manchester United Under-23’s are in action twice at Leigh Sports Village in October, against Liverpool on Tuesday 18th and Arsenal on Monday 24th, both at 7pm. Admission to all United matches at LSV is free of charge, simply register your details on the website.

'Football for a Fiver' is back at Charlton Athletic for 2016/17 and this season's fixture is the home match against Rochdale on Saturday 1 October. £1 of the £5 ticket cost will go to the Charlton Athletic Community Trust.

I've added a 'Coming Up' tab to the top of the page which I will update regularly with matches that may be of interest and dates for the diary.