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What An Eventful Week
Respect By: Eric Hitchmo 16/03/2012




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Well what an interesting week it has been. Two things have been at the forefront of Barnet based attention this week - firstly the announcement that next season will be our last at Underhill, and secondly the launch of the so-called 'Bee Respectful' campaign. After digesting the information and taking away initial snap reactions, the most logical thing would be to discuss them in chronological order, so that is what I am to do.

The long-awaited statement regarding our short, medium and long-term future came on Tuesday and was of little surprise. I think it was pretty clear that we would stay at Underhill until a suitable permanent alternative was found, rather than ever considering a groundshare or suchlike. That suitable alternative inevitably appears to be The Hive, where the club will move the base of its operations in order to come to a workable solution at our current home. All seems pretty logical there.

For me, the article stopped ever so slightly short of saying "pack your bags, we're off to The Hive", though it does seem patently clear that this will be our future. This has obviously led to the re-ignition of the debate on whether The Hive is an acceptable home to our fans, largely owing to its proximity, or lack of, to Barnet. When people feel passionately about something, as they do with this football club, they will often vociferously drive home their standpoint and opinion on what they feel is best. I stand at polar opposites with those who believe that Underhill has a viable, sustainable future for an ambitious football club, for example. Regardless, this matter has clearly divided opinion and the worry is that many will simple walk away and not follow the club anymore.

Although I will follow the club should we move to The Hive, I understand the viewpoint of those who will not, even if I fundamentally disagree with it. When 1,500 or so people are involved, you're going to get different opinions on what they feel is best for the club. For some it is a case of identity. How can we be Barnet Football Club when we don't play in the town, or borough of Barnet? Fair question, but I would point to the examples of Brighton and Bolton, neither of whom play in their respective towns. I haven't seen many of their fans complaining about identity. That they are far bigger clubs than us is irrelevant in terms of identity. They have moved where they have done and prospered as a result. We are not talking about a Wimbledon/Franchise type move here, to suggest so is ludicrous if you ask me. That episode was, is and always will be unequivocally wrong, but to compare such a move to ours is silly.

For others, it is a case of logistics. From Barnet, The Hive is not easy to get to by any stretch of the imagination. It's a 20 minute drive, yes, but the thing about Barnet is that a lot of people like to simply walk to the ground from the local area. You can immediately knock that on the head with The Hive, and a lot of people will have to find alternative routes. People associate watching Barnet with being able to leave their home, walk a short distance, maybe dropping into the pub on the way before strolling to the ground. We're disrupting a routine that is embedded into them. However, would they sacrifice that for a new home and a better chance on the field? Maybe. Would a move guarantee a better chance on the field? Almost certainly not. I guess only time will tell before we see just how many people decide they want to follow, or drift away into more normal pasttimes.

These are the sorts of things the club should consider very carefully. While they are not saying "we are moving, you either follow us or you can go elsewhere.", they are taking a bit of a gamble. Perhaps they feel they can offset the loss of some fans with a potential gain of new fans in a new area, but they must be extremely wary to take care of what they currently have. It takes years to develop an emotional involvement with a club and that is not the sort of thing you should sacrifice willingly. The club must do everything within its power to keep the current fanbase happy. If it means organising transport, then do it. If it means putting well-run bars on site, then do it. If it means having at least one terraced section, then do it. Without supporters, the club would not exist, and if people drift away then it will lose a part of itself that cannot be repaired.

Regardless of whether you believe this is the right thing to do, regardless of whether you have doubts over a new stadium being best for the future, it is clear that massive change is coming and we're all going to have to deal with it.

With all of this in mind, keeping the current fanbase appeased should be at the forefront of the club's mind. This brings me nicely on to my next point, the 'Bee Respectful' campaign.

When I first read this on Thursday, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. I could not believe what I was seeing. It read as if Barnet were trying to stop people from voicing their opinions during the football match, and anyone doing so would be ejected. OK, perhaps I'm slightly exaggerating that, but I was flabbergasted initially.

In hindsight, having taken the sting out of the situation, it seemed to me that all the club were trying to do was to remind people of the ground regulations, stamp out foul and abusive language and encourage a positive atmosphere. It was just done in such a bad way that it led to the reaction it got from me, and plenty of other individuals. Hereford United posted something similar this week but got it absolutely right. The only thing it mentioned was getting behind the team and bringing people along. A brief statement, that was all it needed. Instead, we were patronised to a level that it seemed as if the club couldn't understand why that after seven years of nothingness in the Football League, fans may be ever so slightly annoyed at certain aspects of the football being played out ahead of us. We were told - "Despite the fact the First Team were 18th in January, they recently had a dip in form which saw results go against them and no win in 7, before last Saturday's 2-1 away win at Vale Park" - sorry, is that meant to be an achievement and a justification of why we shouldn't be negative? Incredible. I absolutely agree that personal abuse is unnecessary and counter-productive. I have no qualms about that. However, fans pay an awful lot of money to watch this football club and I absolutely stand by the notion that they have every right to voice their displeasure if they see fit. I would be staggered if anyone is ejected for doing so.

This article, whilst most likely intended as something peaceful, has seriously rubbed people up the wrong way and is another thing that the club needs to address. I said above that the club needs to be very careful in how it treats its current fanbase while it plans such a big decision in our future. Events like this will not help. It may be small-fry in the grand scheme of things, but it is an almost unending collection of small things that lead to animosity. Why can we never get shirts out before the season starts? Why aren't the shirts amber? Why are we served plastic cups in the Pavilion, yet we can drink glass bottles? Why does the food always run out? Why has it taken this long to allow people back into the Durham Suite for a drink (with a pass, it's a good idea)? The list goes on. It all adds up to a dissatisfying experience sometimes, and if we can't get it right for our current supporters, how do we plan to get it right for new ones? Maybe a move is what we need in order to operate properly, but the questions asked above can surely be rectified regardless of where we are playing.

Anyway. It's enough of me for now. I'm off to get ready and go, once again, to Barnet and to support my team. Hopefully I won't get ejected if I say a naughty word.




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All Articles By This Author:

Date 
24/04/2013 Farewell
19/04/2013 Underhill
03/04/2013 Away
02/02/2013 Questions
21/12/2012 Miserable
07/11/2012 Corner
21/10/2012 Win
15/10/2012 Burst
08/10/2012 Glimmer
04/10/2012 Same
12345678910...


Other Articles By Category


Date 
24/04/2013 Farewell
19/04/2013 Underhill
03/04/2013 Away
02/02/2013 Questions
21/12/2012 Miserable
07/11/2012 Corner
21/10/2012 Win
15/10/2012 Burst
08/10/2012 Glimmer
04/10/2012 Same
12345678910...

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