Why Andy Naylor Is (Mostly) Wrong

Good ratings at the Argus this week as Andy Naylor’s latest piece of clickbait went viral. To be fair to Andy it has also spawned plenty of debate among Albion fans in various other media such as North Stand Chat, Twitter and Facebook. He’s clearly touched a nerve. But does he have a point?

The article can be condensed in to three points, always handy when you’re discussing football. Firstly that to help the team get over the promotion finish line the crowd needs to play its part. Indeed to be the twelfth man. We need to turn up and we need to crank up the noise. I don’t really think anyone is disputing that this would be a good thing. Being at a packed, noisy Amex as we’ve seen for both home playoff games (and indeed all the Palace games) or the Arsenal cup games is far more exciting as a fan than a half dead midweek fixture such as Wigan last season. If it gives us a boost, imagine what it does for the players. His central point is correct, if obvious. But how do you get people to read something that is patently correct and obvious? If you’re Andy then you stab them in the back.

You do so firstly by inferring that Brighton fans are turning their back on the team, just as we’re looking like we have a shot of automatic promotion. Andy labours over the attendance at the Reading game. His second point, and one that goes on for far too long without justification, is that the attendance for that game was “poor” and that pointing it out on Twitter just led to “excuses”. Extraordinarily he compares it unfavourably with the Sheffield Wednesday game and our away turn out against MK Dons without realising these games were a massive factor in the turnout.

The Reading game was Category A – that’s the most expensive. Compared to that the Sheffield Wednesday game had a ticket deal, where many seats in the areas that were deserted against Reading were on sale for just ten pounds. Meanwhile, MK, as we know, priced their away tickets amazingly at twelve pounds for adults and kids for a quid. Seven thousand Albion fans lapped up this offer creating our biggest away day for years. Cheap tickets, Saturday 3pm kick off and a one off event created by both factors and clever marketing. Then you had Reading. Full price, rearranged twice, virtually zero opposition fans to generate atmosphere and a week after the dullest game the Amex has seen all season. If you have a limited budget, or a family or work life that dictates you pick and choose your games, which would you pick? The Reading game attendance wasn’t poor, it was higher than most of our rivals have mustered all season despite less than three hundred away fans and ticket pricing bordering on the insane.

Andy finally twists the knife in a bit further by stating that

“The best example of home support is the most painful of all for an Albion fan, Palace at Selhurst Park.”

Great to see this myth propagated by supposedly one of our own, one whose job means he visits Selhurst once in a blue moon. No Andy, a few black clad teenagers with a drum, a bog-roll display and goal music isn’t atmosphere. It’s a drum and some bog-roll.

That statement, of course, is cynically intended to get the article read and responded to on social media, and since I’m still responding he clearly had a great day at the office. It is, however, insulting to many other football fans, not only of Brighton and should be beneath a proper journalist.

Are Palace really better than the incredible numbers who turn up to Plymouth or Pompey, two teams who nearly died, in League Two? Has anyone watched Leicester this season? Their atmosphere is incredible, showing what can be done with the much derided clackers (no, please don’t resurrect them Paul). Are Palace louder than Stoke, Spurs or West Ham? Not for me. And how many did they have roaring them to Championship success? Fourteen, fifteen, nineteen thousand max. You can argue what you like about the noise coming from bigger clubs but to state that Palace are the best example of home support in the country is laughable. Argus ratings one, reality nil.

Recently I was on The Albion Roar and we discussed timings of games that have been rearranged by Sky to death. One of my points was that, in this day and age, you are on very thin ground when mocking attendance figures. You risk thumbing your nose at fans for not paying sixty or seventy quid for a ticket, or not being able to travel the length of the country on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday night. You risk deriding people for missing five o’clock kick offs as there are in the Europa league or suddenly not being able to go to a game that has been rearranged twice, as with Reading. It is not the fans who we should be having a pop at, it’s the system and the game, one that is in danger of eating itself.

So yes, Andy, we do need the fans to turn up and make some noise. But in this day and age, what’s needed for that isn’t just a successful team. It’s reasonably and consistently priced tickets and Saturday 3pm kick offs. Maybe someone with a journalistic platform could turn their attention to campaigning for both?

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