East End Aggro-Hello-Dunno?
Bristol Boys thoughts and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Bristol City Supporters Trust.
One could be forgiven for thinking that City were looking at renaming themselves Bristol East End, if youíd just read the Forums over the last few months.
Itís nearly time for a decision to be made on a part of the stadium that the club can hardly bring itself to call the East End.
The club will only use it as an overspill and that makes senseÖÖÖif you forget that weíre in an emotions industry as well as leisure, entertainment or whatever else Football, not Soccer, is called today.
Weíve had all the clever marketing gimmicks to re-brand what didnít need rebranding for any other reason than to sell itÖÖ.No, not to the fans, to sponsors! They are highly necessary and, at least, are clear about their reasons for involvement. Publicity by association and, in essence Iíve no problem with that, in fact I welcome it on the basis that itís needed to bolster the finances of the lower division clubs.
So now that the clubs who were damaged by a failed sponsor have partially recovered weíre no longer Div Three, Div Two. Weíre now League One. God, I feel better all ready, until I open my eyes and realise Iím exactly where Iíve been for the last nine years and it isnít for the want of trying.
Back to the East End, AKA The Wedlock Stand.
It was recently opened, with certain restrictions, by SL, after a meeting that a number of interested parties attended, some of whom had collected over 3,000 signatures on a petition asking that it be re-opened. The opening was on a trial basis and one would think that a successful trial would lead to further such openingsÖ..if not, why trial it?
RestrictionsÖÖrather one, was put in place, needlessly in my view, that tickets had to be purchased by 11.00am on the day. As it turned out around 700 people did that ( a lot more than regularly occupy our Premier & Corporate Area).Some of those exchanged their tickets for other areas of the Ground to sit there.
The game, against Brentford, produced the better atmosphere promised by itís supporters, with thankfully, none of the downsides in terms of hooliganism or bad behaviour that itís detractors had feared. The policing, I have heard from those in there was a tad confrontational and it looked that way from a distance.
Prior to that, the EE had been used as an overspill facility for the games against Middlesbrough and Bristol Rovers without a whiff of trouble. Great News.
So why then, canít it be opened as a choice option for all games. Called a designated singing area and policed as such?? If that were the case, fans who wanted to do thatÖ..let me say that Iím not one of them so Iím not writing this out of self interest, could purchase an unallocated ST for that area.
It may be necessary for The EE Supporters to swallow their pride a little and agree to a membership scheme, although I would far rather have ST Holders who have swapped their seats in other areas of the ground in there than random fans or opposition fans, who have purchased a ticket from our ticket office. Ask yourself, who has more to lose from bad behaviour and a ban??
It could also be opened as a pay-on-the-day basis as is the rest of the ground on most occasions and the fact that the paltry number of 600 tickets made available for the Forest game sold out in advance of 750 in the other stands, shows there is demand for that area.
As with other parts of the ground, once itís full, sell no more. Seats, even STís should be unallocated. If it holds 2,000, then bums keep seats.
SL was honest at the meeting and confirmed that the cost to open the EE is appx £4,500 per game. He said that wasnít a factor although, Health & Safety was and he was concerned about standing and past poor behaviour.
As far as Iím aware, there were no major problems or issues against Rovers or Boro and at £17 or £19 a ticket, itís well worth allowing another 1,500-2,000 City Supporters in there in financial terms alone.
Gary Johnson went out of his way to praise the fans in that area and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience whether they were in there or, like myself, in The Dolman, just watching and singing along.
Will it be needed to house around 4,000 City Fans at The Rotherham Game? It will and weíll be able to fill it twice, if promotion rests on that game. Rotherham can have the little bit we usually have and letís get the place rocking. They can even join in!!
Swansea have only 2,000 Tickets (Rovers had 3,000 & Boro 1,750) does that mean that over 1,000 seats will be empty & City Supporters take 2,000 as per the Boro game??
I suppose the third option behind open it & close it, is knock it down and replace it. SL made his desire to do that clear at the meeting. If we do that, all these issues will come up again and, until we have a ground, albeit with only a 20,000 Capacity, that will actually hold 20,000 fans, this will rumble on.
The East End
Leaving construction aside and I donít think next season is the time do build a new stand, particularly if we arenít promoted, the decision has to be made and, from a football aspect, it doesnít make sense having the EE full with 4,500 Wolves or Man City Fans-Wouldnít a fifty/fifty split with 1,000 Seats Segregation work??
Is Bristol such as hell hole that we canít consider the two or three rows rule that is successfully employed at Arsenal & Tottenham derbies for example, enough?
Cardiff, hardly a shining example of crowd behaviour, still have standing in a ground that is far worse than ours in construction terms. I know theyíre building a new ground but the fact remains that their old one is still in use, about the same capacity and age as ours with sections being far, far, older. They contrive to fill it for major games and have had no problems with reduced capacity or points deductions, despite major hooligan incidents over the past few seasons.
We shouldnít disregard the progress weíve made in terms of crowd control & behaviour at Ashton Gate over the past five years. There will always be the odd incident from the loan nut (They got to The Pope & Reagan) and one thing that has become clear is that the EE IS NOT a catalyst for trouble and hasnít been for many, many years.
The people that invaded the pitch against The Rovers came from the Dolman Stand, the disturbance against Coventry was in The Corporate Seating and the guy that swung at Bradley Orr, from The Dolman again.
I think that the end of the season would probably be the best time for all parties to sit down and come up with an agreed solution. Supporters Club, Supporters Trust and representatives of those that signed the 3,000+ petition accompanied by Gary Johnson, Our Club Captain, Colin Sexstone & Steve Lansdown on whose shoulders the decision will finally rest. That would give a broad perspective of what is required from fans, players, management & owners alike
On the basis that the club do not proceed with a new stand, I would suggest that the club split the EE down the middle, losing appx 750-1,000 Seats for segregation and also look at ways of moving the dividing line between rival supporters, based on the opposition. Vary the segregation, as it were. Unallocated seats would be an important part of this.
Man City & Wolves will easily sell 2,000. They could sell 5,000 if theyíre going well, however, we know that Colchester & Scunthorpe definitely wonít. Of course, promotion would have a major impact on whatís feasible.
There are no other areas of the ground to consider and I donít think Iíve seen to much discussion about the Williams (Now That Prem Seating is in place) The Atyeo or Dolman Stands.
What is clear, is that there needs to be concession and good will on both sides of the argument. If that happens, this isnít rocket science, we can all talk about something else and get on with supporting Bristol City, because, in spite of any other differences we may have, isnít that what weíre all about???
The views expressed in this 'Soapbox' section are those of the author of each article and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bristol City Supporters Trust>