The pre-season campaign grinds on, and last night was yet another “split-team” exercise. This time against the tenants, and a victory with a penalty shootout for once. Actually, we were a lot better than the scoreline suggested, and they got their goal with a 99th minute penalty. Still, we got the chance to practice spot kicks, and they were all put away pretty nicely. Definitely worth the exercise.
Of course, the big talking point was the crowd, or lack of it. 354 really isn’t very good is it? OK, there are various reasons for that. It’s been a seriously tedious pre-season campaign anyway – the opposition hasn’t been exciting, the split-games have taken the piss for anyone who paid Â£8 to watch them (I’m aware of one old AFCW guy who went last night, found it was Â£6 for concessions and buggered off again), and it’s only really Sutton that is getting people excited. Couple that with a fixture that most of our fans are pretty bored about anyway, and it’s no wonder there were as many people in the WUP virtual stadium as in the ground. And it was on a Monday night…..
One thing is certain though – the future of this fixture has to be in doubt, at least in its current form. It was set up as a 10 year deal in 2002 when it was assumed that there would always be 1000 people ready and willing to turn up. I think the last 4 figure crowd was in 2003, although last night was the lowest yet. Bit odd as last year it actually went up from previous years. There may be a couple of ideas to kick-start this fixture, like making it the first PSF or even playing it once every two years to keep it “fresh”. But like a couple of other things to do with AFCW, what we thought in 2002/03 doesn’t apply now in 2008.
Needless to say, we seem to be getting it in the neck a little bit from Ks fans over us not turning up. I certainly heard two old guys having a serious whinge at us afterwards, there may have been one or two comments made elsewhere, not to mention this. Though I wouldn’t say “embarrassed” is the right word, because that would suggest people at AFCW give a toss about the game. If people are talking about getting better turnouts for it, it’s because we know it pays our rent for this year and we know we’re lumbered with it for another four years.
The ground situation isn’t perfect for anyone, and by and large it works as well as can be expected. I believe our board and theirs get on pretty well these days, and it’s in our interests to have a healthy Ks if only to ensure we don’t pay for it all ourselves 😉 Even so, there’s still a fair degree of sensitivity, when you consider that Ks don’t appear to help out with the KM ground maintenance during the summer – yet apparently help out at RPV’s ground instead. I know for a fact there’s plenty of harumphing from us lot about having to put in red seats in the Main Stand extension, especially when we have to do it and shoulder the costs ourselves.
Actually, thinking about it, I suppose that’s the main reason for why this contractual obligation of a fixture gets so little support. I’m convinced that there just isn’t much affection for Ks. We don’t hate them but deep down, if we didn’t share a ground with them they wouldn’t be on our radar at all. Bit like the way Tooting and Mitcham are – does anyone at AFCW really, really care about them either? Whereas look at tomorrow. There’s an affection for Gander Green Lane because of the obvious reason (OK, the first ever AFCW game was there in case you’ve forgotten), and while we won’t get 4k there we’ll certainly get more than 354. As FCUM away got pulled, this has been the only PSF that gets people reasonably excited.
It’s why plenty of us are still so hard-hearted when we say that Ks would cease to exist if we hadn’t bought KM off Khosla. While that may or may not be true anyway, we don’t have paternal feelings towards them, do we? I’ve never sensed much of a bond between us and them, not in the same way as many of us have some sort of affinity with Chelmsford or Newport County (note : I said affinity, not love-in…). If there was that, I think many would make the effort for the fixture
Even so, going to KM yesterday was weird. I’ve been to about one Ks game in the AFCW era as a neutral, and the whole place just felt different. It was exactly the same vibe as last night. It’s low-key, in fact much more low key. It’s far more of a non-league setup than a surrogate league one you get at AFCW games. You see the kind of clientele that you associate with “normal” non-league that you just never get with AFCW. Chances are you’ll also get a far higher percentage of Ks fans who also wear Chelski/Fulham shirts.
So, why do I mention this? Because I just cannot see how Ks will ever get crowds touching four-figures again. I certainly can’t see how they could ever buy back KM should we vacate it, and if there’s to be the first FA Trophy celebration in the back bar since 2000, it’ll be us making dicks of ourselves. But then, if you look back at the Conference ten years ago, or even in 2002/03, you could realistically plan for league football with crowds of 1000. Now, the Conference is effectively League 2.5 and it’s only the likes of ourselves that could handle being in the upper reaches these days. Amazing in about a decade clubs like Ks and Margate and others you can think of have been left a long way behind.
Of course, they also beat us in the SSC final a couple of years ago, and I don’t think we’ve ever quite forgiven them…….
Elsewhere, I note that the Unibond TV deal has been scrapped (it’s in the digitial NLT edition, find it yourself). What has this got to do with us? Well, remember the Turdey TV concept last season? You know, that bizzare internet based venture where millions of sports watchers would turn off Jeff Stelling on Saturdays, to watch pixellated blobs (aka ETU vs Leyton) on buffered feed. Same mob for that as for the now defunct UTV. Anyway, we ended up with Nuts TV and now Invision (the mob behind the ventures) have finally got the hump.
Personally, I’m glad we never had to sign up to it, especially as it appears that Invision wanted total rights to broadcast (in other words, clubs couldn’t do their own DVDs). Thing is, as my analysis of Ks and our other trips across the country have proven, who really cares about non-league unless you’re directly involved in it? If you support a pro club, you tend to watch say Ks because you can afford to get in. You don’t seem to develop the affiliation as much, and certainly not to the point where you’d pay to watch it on telly. That’s why I’m a bit unsure about this new ITV thing about showing prelim rounds of the FAC. Those clubs who actually have a market for video feed (ie Dover) will do it anyway, and those like Ks who don’t won’t really see the benefits beyond a one-off payment.
Knowing ITV, they’ll only be interested in the bigger ties – Exeter City v AFC Wimbledon will be shown, but Margate v Burgess Hill Town won’t. Which will mean more money and more exposure to the bigger non-league clubs like ourselves, the ones with bigger support and more profile. Which will mean a Premiership-style inbalance even down in the reaches of the non-league scene.
And if that prevents Ks from progressing up the leagues, how else are we going to get more rent out of them………..? 😉