We thought you would like to share the following article written to a member of Blues Trust by Chris Joiner who is a member of the Sky Blues Trust Board and a victim of the Caps for Wembley situation.

Last month in Basel, England fans made their feelings heard loud and clear to the FA regarding the changes to the England Supporters Travel Club. The FA have changed the way how caps (reward points) are awarded to their loyal fans. Up until the recent World Cup, members received one cap for a home game and two for an away trip (we don’t get anything for attending tournament games). This has now been switched round so an adult who pays £15 to walk into Wembley gets the two caps whereas another adult who shells out several hundred pounds on a trip to the other side of Europe only gets one.

The 2400 in attendance at England’s 2-0 win against Switzerland sang songs such as “you can shove your f*****g Wembley up your a**e”, “two caps for Wembley you’re having a laugh”, “here for one cap, we’re only here for one cap” and “loyal supporters and we’re treated like s**t”. This was before, during and after a game that we won. It wasn’t part of frustration at an abjectly poor performance by the team. It was down to the frustration of a worn down group of committed people.

The change is part of a bid to fill Wembley which failed dramatically in the only game played there since this change. A game that saw the lowest ever crowd for an England game since the stadium’s construction almost a decade ago of just 40,000. It should be noted that although 40k is low for England it’s roughly average compared to other countries. These are rough average attendances for friendly & competitive home games from the last 5 years.

  • Spain 38,000
  • Germany 51,000
  • Holland 48,000
  • Portugal 30,000
  • Italy 31,000
  • Belgium 41,000
  • France 62,000
  • Russia 15,000
  • England 80,000

If you just count friendlies, England and France’s both drop by around 10%. Meanwhile the rest drop by as much as half. This shows as a footballing and sporting nation for that matter (try getting a ticket for Twickenham) we are unique in Europe for our loyalty, passion and patriotism. Especially considering the relative amount of success many of the nations listed above have experienced on a football pitch in the past couple of decades.

Never the less the current mood amongst the loyal fan base is an unhappy one and it’s not only the caps issue that is wearing us down. It appears the FA have little regard for us that travel and all they want is Wembley full of the flag waving, facepaint, jester hat/wig and half & half scarf wearing zombies that’ll start a Mexican Wave every 5 minutes. They’ve exchanged a perfectly adequate website for one that doesn’t match up to its predecessor. The forum on the site is a ghost town at times compared to what we had before as many of the posters don’t want to use it. The regional meet ups with members to discuss issues and problems have long gone. We feel alienated, unwanted and cast aside.

The 7500 or so members have put well over half a million of our hard earned pounds into the FA’s coffers in membership fees alone since the summer and many, myself included, are questioning what it’s been spent on. It wasn’t so long ago England Fans, as it was previously known until a few months ago was at capacity of 25-30,000 and had an extensive waiting list. This only highlights the general feeling of its membership.

We are playing at the Euros in France in 19 months which could be something special. 1, 2 or 300,000 people should go. This is followed by the semis and final of Euro 2020 taking place in our capital. Euro 2016 should be a party we gate crash. It should be a festival of football that we will be at the centre of. It should be an English invasion that would see the amount of people participate equivalent to the entire population of Northampton, Coventry or Hull. Something to be proud of.

Yes the 7500 or so current members are only a small number of those that should make the festival, party and invasion a success. The important point is though that we are potentially the glue that will stick it all together. They are at risk of losing the core of the loyal, passionate and patriotic fan/customer base the vastly more successful nations listed above could only dream of and thus potentially making the festival, party and invasion a failure.

An issue the FA have no control over is Uefa’s qualification system which isn’t the best to give the European footballing fraternity a reason to be interested in the games in the upcoming 12 months. Following that opening game we are all but guaranteed a place at the tournament as group winners and quite frankly it’ll take a minor miracle for the Swiss not to qualify in second place despite the home loss.

The FA need to work out a way to keep everyone interested and give those that are 50-50 a reason to go. I accept games have to be played at Wembley due to the contractual obligations of paying off the huge mortgage and Club Wembley. However how about B internationals around the country? Why not reduce ticket prices to Family Enclosure prices across Wembley for some friendlies and qualifiers? Talking to the train companies to negotiate slightly later run times as it’s pretty much impossible to get back by rail after a night game if you live north of the Midlands. Holding open training sessions and signing sessions at St George’s for winners of free to enter competitions. There are a number of things that the keepers of our national game could do. Part of this is to look after the wavering hardcore support.

Please open your eyes FA. Don’t lose us forever.

Chris Joiner

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