The Barclays Premier Greed
Tony Pulis recognises this fact in his consistent homage to the fans and so do the players whenever they are interviewed. You could say that we worked just as hard as the players last season to keep us up.
Why tell you something that you already know? Well the basic fact is that WE as a group know this, but sometimes this gets lost in translation.
The greed of the Premier League machine is unsurmountable in my opinion, everything is designed to exort money. I spent my Saturday last week at a non-league game and found the hospitality quite refreshing. From the home-made pies in the food outlets at £1.50 a throw, to the welcome you receive and a real sense of the fact that you are valued as a customer. The chairman of both sides openly standing with the fans, along with the substitutes warming up and having a natter with the crowd on the way.
The feeling I get is that the higher up the leagues you go, the more at arms length the fans are placed. Keep pushing something away and you soon become out of touch with it. I am not singling our club out in any way for critisism but Stoke are not discounted from this.
I quite often deal with people's dissatisfaction at various elements of the club that could improve with relative ease. The one thing that has become clear is that off the field activities need catching up with the Premier League status of the footballing side. Several examples are the direct debit nonsense and the way in which that was handled, the lack of replica kit, even though assurances were granted last year that things would change, smoking areas for fans, the list could roll on. Problems we as fans are told to live with across the Premier League, or are a by-product of teams success wouldn't be tolerated at the lower levels, simple as that.
On the flip-side, there are some elements that really do set Stoke as a club apart from our peers. The way in which the club supported it's fans with the Section 27 issue last season without publicising this as well as the response we got from the club in relation to the issues with GMP at Bolton. Whether you like Tony Scholes or loath the guy, I dont think we would have got half the response we did from Stoke if Jez Moxey was still at the helm.
That aside, I think the Premier League could learn a lot from those clubs in the most modest of positions in the lower echelons of the league system. Whilst you could argue that the lower league clubs have less "customers" to attend to and therefore the problems they have are on a lower scale, you could also argue that the amount of effort they put into creating an overall experience for a fan on a matchday, rather than a feeling that merely a transaction is taking place is far greater than that seen at a higher level.
Whilst the footballing authorities are keen to get back to "grass roots" on the pitch with the new foreign player legislation coming in very shortly, clubs also need to take a "grass roots" approach to the people who matter most, the fans!