It certainly seems that way.
Things have gone full-circle for those who pay their way into football matches.
In the 1980s, football supporters were seen as a nuisance. Animals who deserved nothing more than the most basic facilities and treatment from the authorities that was criminal. This era ended in tragedy with multiple disasters and things had to change, but unfortunately many of the better elements from this era were lost.
Then came the 1990s and 'new' football. Sky TV came along and football stadiums were redeveloped the length and breadth of the country. Sky capitalised on the fantastic atmospheres these stadiums generated and the clubs themselves did all they could to get people in through the turnstiles -- not just the male-dominated environment of the past, but more family areas.
Today, poor treatment of football fans has returned. I don't mean the herding of thousands onto basic concrete terraces with toilet 'facilities' being nothing more than a hole in the ground. No, today's match-going football fans are abused in an entirely different way and I for one preferred many aspects the '80s.
I attended my first game as a 6-year-old in 1984 and have attended the vast majority of games at St James' Park since. I loved the Leazes End family enclosure terrace. I'd go to the games with my dad, brother, dad's mate and his three lads. We'd alternate between sitting on the stone-shaped blocks and kicking a can around if the game wasn't interesting. There was never a moment of boredom for us. One of those lads I went with then I still sit with.
Last season we took his 5-year-old along for the first time, he sat with us in the Gallowgate Corner and 20 minutes in he was bored silly. Less atmosphere than in my youth and no other options to distract him when the game was lulling. After I grew out of the family enclosure I progressed into the Gallowgate Scoreboard and then into 'The Corner'. I absolutely loved those days.
Catering for the 'armchair fan'
This is one element of modern-day football that I despise. The clubs and broadcasters couldn't care less about the people who go to the games so long as their armchair audience is happy. Brighton vs. Newcastle at 12:45 p.m. on a Saturday - are they having a laugh?! That is a 700-mile round trip in the middle of winter. There are hundreds of examples of this type of inconsiderate match arrangement - On New Year's Eve in 2005 Newcastle played an away game against Tottenham!
Late postponement of games (not designed to accommodate those watching at home) is another thing that should be stopped. Every winter we see stadiums under snow first thing in the morning. Fans get up, check that the game is on and start making their trek across country. Despite forecasts telling everyone that the conditions won't improve, clubs leave it until just before kickoff to announce the postponement, leaving thousands of fans with a completely wasted day often spent traveling in dangerous conditions.
Probably the worst part of all of this, but someone has to fund these footballers so they don't run out of £20 note toilet-roll. The mammoth TV money covers the vast majority of it (that plus debt), but too many clubs squeeze all they can from the fans. Newcastle drew Manchester United away in this year's Capital One Cup. Despite this being the least important of the trophies and both sides fielding reserve sides, the Manchester club charged £48 for tickets. We are living through one of the worst economic downturns in history, for goodness sake.
Arsenal are the worst culprits here. Supporters of other clubs laugh when Arsenal bemoan their seven-year trophy 'drought'. But if I paid well over £1,000 for my season ticket I'd want a trophy every month! Arsenal have a category that prices individual games at £123.50 and that includes no hospitality! You can see their pricing structure by following the link and scrolling to the bottom. Eye watering:
Even Gateshead FC, currently 101st in the English football pyramid, charge £14 to get in! Hardly enticing to potential walk-up fans, is it?
And it's not just the ticket prices. Anyone who has bought a pie or a pint in a Premier League stadium knows that it leaves your wallet considerably lighter. Parking too - up and down the country wasteland or school yards are offered as parking for £10. Bargain, eh?
The Bundesliga have a lot more right in terms of catering for match-going fans. Rather than the "persistent standing" season-ticket removal threat Newcastle United issued to every supporter Monday night, the Germans work towards achieving a great match atmosphere. The Guardian recently covered this well:
Not all is rosy overseas, though. When Club Brugge drew Newcastle in this season's Europa League the initial statement from Belgian police threatened to arrest any Newcastle fan in the city the day of the game without a ticket. This was an absolutely outrageous and entirely illegal threat they thankfully withdrew. The game passed off well on and off the pitch. Remember though - you can get to these games with a ticket thrown in for a vastly inflated fee by the club's official travel partners.
Modern-day football, don't you just love it?
I'll keep on going, though - millions of us will - and that's why it will never change in our favour.
It certainly seems that way.