Details have been released for our game with Shaw Lane Association, and there have been rumblings of discontent amongst some Imps fans. If you’re one of them I urge you to stop and think for just a minute.
The game clashed with Barnsley v Norwich, and with their ground being in Barnsley it has been moved on police advice to Sunday December 11th with a 1pm kick off. The game has been made all ticket and their entry fee has been raised to £10 and £5 concessions with home fans being offered vouchers in the match day programme for reduced entry to an upcoming home game.
Some Imps fans have stated giving a discount to one set of fans, albeit via a voucher system, is against the rules of the competition. I read some discontent on the Lincoln City Banter site about us effectively paying for their policing. I do understand the concern, but I think we need to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Firstly let us look at our FA Cup tie with Oldham. That is, to many fan, our cup final. It’s our moment in the sun on television and a real chance to have a go at a team out of form from two leagues above. It seems like a big tie but frankly we could be in the same league as them next year. Oldham have allowed us to reduce ticket prices for the game, I understand we’re doing it throughout the ground but as visitors they have graciously allowed us to reward all fans this season for loyalty.
Shaw Lane have got to play us in their cup final. They’re expecting a bumper crowd and the move to Sunday will give some of those Barnsley fans a chance to attend who otherwise may not. The police advice has probably helped them secure more of a home following then they usually would. They’ve seen us take over 1,000 to York and they hope to get in on that action. £10 is an increase for them, but for us it is still cheap entry.
I don’t blame them for trying to make the game attractive to their supporters, having a side like Lincoln City visit is akin to getting a big FA Cup 1st round draw. We won’t be non-league for ever, and eventually they are hoping games like this will be the norm. They are surging through the non-league pyramid and this is perhaps the biggest game of their history to date. It might be the FA Trophy but in real terms who could they have drawn that would be a bigger attraction? Top of the National League, packed with England C internationals and travelling as well as any set of fans outside the top four divisions.
Therefore I think it’s crucial that we play our part as the ‘gracious’ bigger team and accept that they want to make as much from the game as possible. I know it appears on the face of it we’re playing for their policing, but after York away they’re not going to take chances. Even if we take 300 there’s a chance that it will eclipse their ground record. We have a history of bringing pyro into games as well, perhaps they don’t operate such a strict ‘stop and search’ policy normally and they’ve been advised to? Should they really suffer as a smaller team because they’ve drawn bigger opposition? No. This should be a Brucie Bonus for them and they shouldn’t come away from it out of pocket because they’ve paid more money to keep supporters safe.
Whatever the reason for the increase we shouldn’t be overly critical of them trying to make the most of it. The entry fee is still reasonable and as a smaller club they simply want to use their cup final to get more bums on seats, and I imagine they’re hoping to capture the imagination of a few floating fans in the Barnsley area. So they’re offering a few quid off for the next home game, so what? Other teams this season have donated their gate receipts to the smaller clubs (Eastleigh spring to mind), and it is our duty as lower league football fans, and as lovers of the wider game to ensure we take our role in this game seriously. I don’t begrudge paying £10 to get in knowing that the week after their game against Rushall Athletic will only cost their fans £4. You know what, for watching that level of football consistently I think it is nice that the club are looking to reward fans for coming back. Fair play.
Shaw Lane away is worth very little to us financially other than a chance to progress in the trophy, but Lincoln City at home represents a memorable match and a viable opportunity to grow their fan base. Any attempts by smaller clubs to do this should be supported by both our club (which I bet 100% it is), and especially by our fans. As front runners in the National League, and the pace setters of the non-league game we owe it to those who look up the structure and aspire to be top flight non-league sides. For us the National League is the lowest we’ve ever been, but for some of the teams we play it is the Holy Grail, and everything they aspire to. If a match against us helps in any way towards achieving that dream then I say we let them crack on with it.
Don’t forget folks….
My book, the Who’s who of Lincoln City: 1993-2016 is on sale now. It would be the perfect Christmas present, so why not send your loved ones the link? I’ve still got some of the fifty limited signed available as well.
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