Twelve games and just two wins into this season, the angered Union's supporters group the Sons of Ben staged a protest. The protest's message was very simple: "Union fans deserve better."
The Union front office sent a love letter agreeing wholeheartedly with the sentiment and committed to improving the team. The Union's change of fortune started the night of the protest with a 1-0 win, and before long things were back to normal.
But I couldn't get that simple protest out of my head. Union fans deserve better. Do we? What exactly do we fans deserve? Do we deserve a team that wins more than two games in twelve? I wasn't so sure we did.
I scanned the internet for thoughts on the topic. Surely someone has written about fan rights. What I found were a series of "Fan Bill of Rights" posts that seemed to be written by bitter sports fans who like to complain about the state of things. Their long lists certainly didn't seem like anything I had an actual right to. After all, this is just entertainment right? What do I actually deserve for my hard earned money?
I did find a club that thinks along these lines. Yeovil Town Ladies FC actually publishes a Fans Bill of Rights before every season. I like it, but it falls a little short for me.
The definition of deserve is "to be worthy of or have a claim to a reward." This means that the money we give to the Union makes us worthy of a reward. So just what should this reward entail?
I think the reward for our money and time is very simple and it comes in two categories.
1. Fans deserve an enjoyable game day experience
This includes a few essentials:
- Decent concession - this includes, in my opinion, significantly cheaper water. Notice I'm not demanding a certain level of quality. Quality of food is something between the seller, the eater and the amount of money being paid.
- Unobstructed views of the game.
- A safe and secure environment arriving to the stadium, inside the stadium and leaving the stadium - it's obvious but also especially true given the exorbitant price to park.
- This also includes people who watch the game either on TV or over the internet. They deserve to be able to watch the game if they pay the appropriate fees. Blackouts are one of the worst, most greed-infested things in sports. If a fan pays for the channel they should be able to see the game. The Union are great from this perspective but there are plenty of teams that are not.
In my opinion PPL park provides what fans deserve.
2. Fans deserve an honest effort to win from the players, front office and owners
The point of the game is to win right? Notice I didn't say a fan deserves a winning team. They don't. But they do deserve an honest effort to win from the top down. The reason I choose the word "honest" mostly revolves around how teams market themselves. The team is constantly marketing games, projecting a winning attitude about their team, and otherwise putting a competent word forward about their team. In their press conferences they talk about how they are committed to winning. If there is any decision being made that is not backing up these claims, then fans are being lied to and no one deserves to be lied to.
Fans might feel they deserve a winning team for their money but any amount of bad luck or bad moves might cause a team to lose. What fans do deserve though is an honest effort to fix the issues. The front office owes you an honest effort putting the best players they possibly can on the field and giving them the best tools they can to succeed. If they fail to do this then the owners owe fans an honest effort to create a front office that is capable of operating the club effectively. This is where their responsibility to fans ends. They have to try.
If fans are frustrated with the Union they should ask themselves, do I really think the Union are honestly committed to winning? If the answer is no, they have every right to be upset. If not, then we as fans have to trust that they will make the changes necessary to put a winning team on the field. They will make mistakes and there will be issues but if they learn from them and are committed to winning, they will find success.
That's my Fan Bill of Rights. Just two simple things. A good game experience and an honest attempt to win. If you think you deserve more please let me know in the comments.