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Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?



The Vicious Circle!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 06/05/2004

PETER Furneaux recently commented on the fact that the club can only do so much with the income they generate. How right he is. Clubs like Grimsby Town are caught in a never-ending vicious circle.

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The club does not have sufficient resources to manage without financial support from the directors. Like all other clubs, its main income source is the ticket sales but with an average of 4,664 coming through the turnstiles this past season, one wonders how we have managed to survive at all.

The attendance figures are the main cause of the problems we have faced over the last few seasons. The fans and supporters are calling for success, consistency and a settled squad, but with the funds the club has, it is not easy and we have seen that this season with the multitude of loan players, trialists and itinerant travellers all playing some part on the green at Blundell Park.

The real need is for more people through the gates, which will enable the club to acquire players who will be with us for the long term helping us to build a squad that can work together.

A decent team with good players that know each other's strengths and weaknesses and can get it together. But that costs money and we do not have a great deal of that.

So the fact is, that without increased attendances the old vicious circle imposed by the fans will be upon us again next season. We cannot build a successful team without money and we will not get the money until we get a successful team because the fans stay away.

But it would be most unfair if the fans concerns and situation were not considered. As someone else once said "As a rule we are treated like shit. We pay over the odds for programmes, food and merchandise and have almost no say in what happens at our clubs."

But those days are changing. It has taken time but clubs are now recognising that the fans and supporters are a big part of the club and in cases like Grimsby Town, the small core of 'real' supporters are playing a very considerable part in the club through their support.

Some say that it is time the club recognised that fact. I am sure they do and with the creation of the Trust, there is now a vehicle in which the fans and the club can, and are, working together. But the trust cannot be successful if it, like the Mariners, does not get support.

But getting the fans back will be difficult. It is not easy paying your hard earned money to watch rubbish week after week and that is understandable. On the other hand, if we are to be successful, the fans have to be a little more patient (not that they have not been in the past.) That patience will be rewarded in the end.

Because if the support does not come it will not be long before someone asks the question of whether the people in the community want a football team or not. (One could be forgiven in thinking that that decision has already been made.)

So, once again, the fans have to be called upon to play their part. And there are indications that they will if the right motivation is there.

We had one of our best gates of the season last Saturday, with an increase in sales locally. The away attendance was also a reason but nonetheless the Grimsby count was higher. Our away game at Tranmere will probably have a bigger away following than we have had all season.

If those people who supported last week and will be supporting this week, had been there all the season it could have been a different picture we are looking at today.

But I suppose we will be hearing the same old stories next season for poor support.

You can blame the facilities at Blundell Park if you like and plenty do. But you are only there for 90 minutes. No one is asking you to sleep there. (Mind you a few did at certain games and only a fool would, at this time, even consider talking about new stadium plans. BP holds 8,000 comfortably and we cannot fill that!)

Sickness, geographic location and financial circumstances are real reasons that prevent supporters from getting to games. But the other excuses are just indications that the person who is making them is a not 'real' supporter. (Angry responses to the MB please).

So nothing changes. The chicken and egg situation, the vicious circle. "I will go if they play better or get a better team or they have cushioned seating at Blundell Park" etc.

The statistics show that the Mariners have 4,600 supporters. The rest we can count as 'casuals'. These 4,600 souls have braved the conditions at Blundell Park. They have seen the best and the worse and they will still be there next season even if we get relegated. The 'real' fans and supporters!

On the other hand maybe relegation will be the saving of Grimsby Town Football Club. Maybe we will not need the casuals. 4,600 is not a bad gate for the 3rd division and it is a cheaper division cost wise to be in.

But is that what people really want? If we get relegated, will we be unlucky or just taking our rightful position in the league?

Or will we be getting what we deserve?

You only have to look back a couple of seasons to see that even in the first division, we could not get reasonable attendance figures and although we never showed the promise to attain entry into the premier league, the opportunity was there.

Even that thought could not fill BP. So it looks like another struggle next season unless we get relegated which will reduce the pressure on the finances but that in itself would be a very high price to pay.

If the so called fans (my apologies to the "real" fans) say that they will not attend owing to the conditions at BP or because the team are not playing well or they don't like the manager or whatever, then why should they expect the board to keep putting their money into the club?

Because they too suffer the same conditions at BP, see the same results and have to watch 2nd or 3rd division football and they are paying a great deal more than any fan. What if they decided that they would sooner be watching Premier League football either live or on TV?

It is unrealistic to expect the board members to continue to constantly pour in money to keep the club afloat. Sooner or later, someone will call a halt. If that happens it might prove very difficult to find someone to take their place. That is the real danger.

I cannot help thinking about clubs like Manchester City, Newcastle, Middlesborough, Doncaster Rovers and our old favourites the MASSIVE Sheffield Wednesday.

Clubs, who like us, have in the past and present been on the up and down merry-go-round. Doncaster Rovers in particular have had more problems than any other club in the league. But they like the others have survived simply because their fans and supporters have stood by them through the lean times.

Discard any notion of the catchment area differences. On a pro rata basis the percentage of fans that deserted them in the lean years is not as great as that at Grimsby.

Maybe because at Grimsby apathy rules. If that is the case, then the future looks very dim. Unless we can break the vicious circle.

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