Chip Wrappers: 08/09/2006

Where else to start this week but with the fallout from the comments made by Alex Feguson in a new book in which he labels FCUB's fans as self-publicists.

Inevitably this gave the M.E.N the opportunity to once again go 'Fox News' on a United story with a front page banner splash and sensationalist terminology. Instead of taking a balanced look at what Ferguson said, the Evening News got FCUB mouthpiece Stuart Brennan to apply his own one-eyed view on proceedings. Letters and e-mails from outraged FCUB supporters were also printed but they all combined to not only miss the point but back up what Ferguson said.

Read any article and match report on them or listen to interviews with their spokes people and see how many times the 'rebel support' or attendances are mentioned before what the team has done. When you meet an FCUB fan, see how long it takes them to mention crowd figures or rant on about Glazer because one thing you won't be discussing is their team.

The very nature of FCUB is that it's a publicity stunt. If, as its founders have said, the club was set up as a response to more than just the Glazer takeover, why not do it sooner? Why wait until their own mini-platform of publicity as members of Shareholders United was taken away? Hang on... that couldn't be the reason, could it? As a poster on the M.E.N.'s comments board has said '(what FCUB) does do is allow a few "shop steward" types to have some of the power they have craved for so many years.'

I'll leave the final comment on this to another poster on that board - 'Do you see why FC fans that continue to define their support of FC as "a reaction to the MU takeover" therefore come across as self-publicists, more interested in making a political point than in simply watching their club football? If you now support FC simply because you love FC - great, good luck to you and to your club. But you made the choice to let go of United - so let go.'

At the start of the week in the Non-League Paper the big-wigs of the National Conference were proudly boasting that the total attendances over the first five fixture dates were up 12,000 on the previous year. But is it really a cause for celebration and backslapping? If you take out the large 5,000+ crowds that the new clubs Oxford and Weymouth have, the aggregate crowd figures are actually down slightly. Proof that it's easier to spin what is in essence bad news rather than address problems.

And the Conference was the subject of that issues most prominent letter. A member of the Football Federation highlighted the ludicrous demands of the Conferences ground grading commitee, particularly their insistence that you need a 500 seater stand if you want to be in the Conference North or South despite most clubs only having attendances around the 300-400 mark. His argument, quite rightly too, being why should the organisation pay out hundreds of thousands for things clubs don't need. The Conference North and South are the same standard as the NPL and its sister league's were three years ago but then you only needed a 250 seater stand. Why the doubling in minimums?

The thing is though that this shouldn't be on the letters page: it should be a major story in the Non-League Paper. If funding bodies are openly starting to question the motives behind the extreme grading requirements the Conference have implemented, shouldn't the paper be investigating why? Instead of going on about how wonderful the non-league game is, shouldn't they be concerned that the higher echelons of the pyramid are effectively being turned into a closed shop through regulations that seem slanted towards reducing the instances of promotion and relegation? But hey... why let important issues like these spoil a cosy relationship.

For the fourth week running Stalybridge make the back pages of the Reporter, along with Steve Waywell who this week is reassuring Hyde supporters that things will improve when he employs a 4-3-3 formation. The bad news for their fans though is that he's still to sign the personnel who can play in it first. Listen carefully... that whistling sound you can hear are the odds on Steve Waywell being the first Tameside managerial casualty falling rapidly. Elsewhere in the paper there's an excellent report by Jamie Holt on Mossley's defeat to Lincoln United but once again you've got to question why reserve team match reports get so much prominence.

And that's where I'll leave it. Musings on headline writers that don't read the story can wait till another day and if you want to see an example of proof readers not doing there jobs properly, check out Smiffy's blog.