Bradford City’s plight is serious – but here’s why I don’t think we should protest at matches

By Jason McKeown

After seven defeats in nine league matches, anger from supporters about the direction of Bradford City is widespread. The Bantams sit third bottom of League One, and the pre-season objective of reaching the play offs already looks pretty much dead in the water. Merely being a League One club next season would now be an achievement of sorts.

Over the past few weeks, talk has grown of holding protests and demonstrations against chairman Edin Rahic, and the way he is leading the club. Those conversations have intensified since Saturday’s defeat to Doncaster Rovers. And it seems there will be some form of organised demonstration, at the weekend home fixture against Bristol Rovers. Another is being planned for the Sunderland match, the week after.

I’ve thought long and hard about my own views on this subject. And whether my own misgivings would lead me to want to join in any protest movements. It is, of course, a highly personal dilemma for us all. Nevertheless, I have taken the decision not to protest at matches. And I want to explain my personal reasons why I don’t think a demonstration is a good idea.

Firstly, the problem with a protest is that it is not clear what the exact objective is. Saying ‘Rahic out’ is all well and good, but what does that actually mean? Is it a call for him to step down as chairman? Or to no longer be a part owner? Is it a demand that both he and Stefan Rupp, who owns the majority of the club, sell up? And is that realistically going to happen on the back of protests? Selling a business is a complicated and time-consuming process. It looks highly improbable to happen anytime soon.

The idea of protesting is more complicated than it looks. For all the widespread unhappiness at the way the club is being run, there isn’t a common consensus amongst all fans of what we would like to see change. Being unhappy with the leadership of the club isn’t the same as wanting people to leave. Right now, the message behind a protest isn’t clear.

The second concern is the fact protests can be driven by emotion, and there is a risk of losing sight of rational criticism and it crossing over into something darker, that doesn’t necessarily paint City fans in the best light. I say this not to criticise the intentions behind those who seek to organise or take part in a protest; but you don’t have to look far to find examples of protest movements hijacked by violence or other people with other motives.

On Twitter in the past few days, certain people’s criticisms towards Rahic have come across racist. And that kind of path just undermines the valid concerns most share over the leadership of the club. The majority of supporters with misgivings agree that the nationality of the owners is utterly irrelevant, but a minority are using it as a line of attack. There is just a danger that a protest which starts off calm and measured is overtaken by something that displays fans in a bad light. And that, rather than highlight valid issues, it achieves the opposite.

Thirdly, I would question how effective protests really are. I have a huge level of respect and admiration for what supporters of Blackpool, Charlton and Coventry have done to fight for the soul of their football clubs. But none of these have, as yet, achieved the change of ownership they demand. It’s clear their actions have had some impact, but I found the recent visit to Blackpool a sobering experience. Most fans have stopped going to watch their club until the Oystons leave; others still turn up week in week out. A split, fragmented, decimated fanbase, and it has yet to achieve its objective. That is a dark, dark path to contemplate following.

And the fourth and final point, which links to number three, is the potential wider damage protesting at games might inadvertently deliver. Let’s face it, this new Bradford City squad is struggling badly. The league table does not lie. There is a very real danger that Bradford City could be relegated this season.

I don’t buy into the argument that it would be fine to get relegated if it causes a change of ownership. Leyton Orient, another club whose fans protested against their owner, Francesco Becchetti, suffered two relegations before a change of ownership, and remain lumbered in non-league. That is absolutely not the fault of Leyton Orient fans, but it shows just how long and miserable the path of protest can be before change is achieved. I worry not just how bad things are right now at Valley Parade, but how much worse it could yet become.

After all the progress since 2012, going back into League Two would be a massive set back for the club. There are no givens, and it would be all to easy to be stuck in the basement league for years to come, just like the 2007-2013 period (or, like Leyton Orient, we could even fall again). Having come so, so close to the Championship barely a year ago, relegation could destroy the great strides of season ticket numbers and the city of Bradford’s engagement with the club. It could doom us to forever be a third or fourth tier club.

David Hopkin, and the players, need our support. No one should advocate blindly getting behind the lads, but the politics taking place off the field have little to do with the team. Protesting at games, or even just having an ugly, volatile atmosphere on matchdays, is only going to make it harder for them to avoid relegation. I can’t pretend I have warmed to this new set of players and are believing they deserve unequivocal backing; but I don’t want to be entertaining the idea of a local derby with Harrogate Town next season. A bit like in 2011/12, just get the job done and then rebuild the team properly.

Saturday’s encounter with Bristol Rovers, who are 17th in the table, is absolutely huge. Reverse the run of five straight defeats, and there is a chance of moving forwards. Lose that, and it will feel like the sky is falling in on our chances of avoiding the drop. The frustrations of the last few months are more embedded than whether the team wins or loses, and an improvement in results won’t change that. But it will at least limit the damage.

A grim battle to avoid relegation is unappetising, but staying up is better than going down. The big mistakes of the past few months cannot be undone right now. The inquest needs to stay open, and the campaign for a change of approach from the top – and more accountability over failure – is absolutely essential. What we need are central places to articulate frustrations, away from a match day, and where constructive criticism can be shared with the owners, in the hope they are taken on board (if they haven’t been doing so already). The comments section on this site could be one such place.

But to avoid the risk of the fanbase splitting (because not everyone wants to protest, and a big, big part of Saturday is coming together to show our solidarity with Stephen Darby) and to give Hopkin support to turn it around, matchday is not the right moment. The situation on the field is looking serious, and we need to turn Valley Parade into a cauldron of noise to give the players every chance of turning the tide.

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Categories: Opinion

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26 replies

  1. I say leave any protests until after January. Rahic has admitted mistakes, apologised and given us a manager who has the right skills and passion. He needs time with the young squad and with 13(?) Players out injured the players need us to get behind them. January transfer wonder will let us see if Rahic has changed his approach. (For the record, I haven’t forgiven him yet for sacking McCall)

  2. I simply couldn’t agree with you more. Well said.

  3. I agree with you that protests at games could further affect our chances of survival. However pressure must be brought on Rahic to either step away from the club & leave the day to day running of the club to those who actually DO know football. The key to this is our very own Mr.Invisible, Rupp. It’s his investment at risk, yet he is no where to be seen. Why? We can’t give Rahic a pass just because it will affect the team, our club is at serious risk if he is allowed to continue unchecked.

  4. A well written, sensible piece Jason. Michael Collins has gone and in replacing him, Rahic has rectified that particular mistake and issued a form of apology. Recruiting David Hopkin was a positive step and whilst we are still looking for the first points, the performances and overall attitude of the team has improved. I believe that patience is now the requirement, particularly in view of the significant injury list. Let’s get behind DH and the team.

    I am not a fan of the current owners and would welcome a change of ownership, however, I agree that mass protest at a game is unlikely to be the answer.

  5. Totally agree Jason. Well said.

  6. Jason, a couple of things from your article prompt me to comment. Firstly, there is a real problem with the way social media allows for unpleasant comments to be made about Rahic and certain players. I wouldn’t characterise many as racist, as you did, but they may well contribute to the gap that seems to be growing between club and supporters. It’s not a one-way street.
    Secondly, at Doncaster on Saturday, a couple of wild-eyed individuals tried to start up anti-Rahic chants. “And some fell on stony ground” best sums up the results of their efforts. With the team making a much more spirited effort than in early season then it doesn’t look to me that massive protests will take off at present.
    I think there are a host of factors that are now causing us grief but I don’t think they’re simply the fault of the latest in a long line of fantasists to be associated with Bradford City.

  7. As far as I’m aware the intention is to protest outside the ground. Edin has been lucky in many respects thst this hasn’t started earlier. At some clubs the sacking if a legend in the way they did would be been enough. Some if the anti Stuart brigade are seemingly sticking behind Edin at all costs so as not to lose face it seems.

    For me it is time for Edin to fully realise the fans displeasure and the potential of losing several thousand more fans next season. Just look at the ‘real current crowds for evidence if this The consequences been that income and thus budget would be lowered further leading to another inevitable battle against the drop next season too. Rupp need a to fully realise what had happened and not just Edins version.

    Ultimately doing nothing will achieve nothing….do not, not protest out of fear because we now have an infrastructure thst has taken us back years anyway…..time to let Edin know our thoughts imo

  8. In general, I don’t think mass protests are a very efficient way of forcing change. However, if the Club is still in a relegation place come the Scunthorpe game a show of mass displeasure would be justified. An extended mass chant of Stuart, Stuart throughout the game would be effective. Probably wishful thinking on my part but if Sky televised the game the protest would be shown on the national stage and definitely not an opportunity to be missed.
    The Scunthorpe game would mark the halfway point in the season and surely the protest would get the support of most fans.

  9. The key to all of this is making Rupp aware of the feeling. I believe that he thinks those that comment on forums such as this are a moaning minority. He needs to know that the majority of fans are not happy with the way the club is being run, or their long term vision.
    Rahic probably only informs of certain aspects of the clubs day to day running and sanitises the rest.
    Rupp needs to protect his investment which is fast declining in value.
    I believe he does read `Width of the post`.
    If you are reading this Stefan you need to take note and act fast.
    Askl yourself why we are in a league position that we now occupy rather than six months ago? Ask yourself why 4k supporters did not renew their season tickets and why many more are saying they wont next summer.
    Ask yourself why the supporters feel a massive disconnect with the club and are unhappy to the point where they are not going to games.
    Ask yourself why we have so much staff unhappiness?
    In short get yourself over here at the very least to see at close quarters the mess that this club is in as a result of one mans incompetence.
    There are a lot of unhappy people in Bradford and you owe it to them to sort this mess out now.
    So in terms of protests, we need to start to show somehow the level of displeasure that we are feeling.
    If that means supporter protests at games then so be it.

    • Totally agree…..back the team but let Edin know how we feel….the players will be now fully aware of what Edin is like and may even join in 😉

      • I agree with Mark. Doing nothing gets Rahic off the hook.
        I didn’t renew my ST this season because of his meddling last season. I’m staying away until he shows (in deeds not words) that he has truly learned from his mistakes. But I would be prepared to go to VP to show him just how fed up a lot of fans are with him.
        Let’s remember that the problems currently facing BCFC are a direct result of this man and his actions.

    • As you say, Mark, Rupp is the key to all of this. I understand Stefan was at the last home league match. Evidently, there appeared no love lost between him and Rahic, who cut a sad and forlorn figure. Rupp stands to lose a big part of the lion’s share of the investment in City. Unless there is an immediate turnaround, I would imagine it’s the beginning of the end. Rupp’s no mug. He won’t be treating his share as a charitable donation. He put his trust in Rahic. Put yourself in his shoes.

  10. In reality the big protest will come when the club releases its 2019/2020 Season Ticket promotion. As things stand I anticipate that they will sell less than 10,000.

    As has been said many times, protests do not seem to bring about much change. Arguably in spite of fan protests, both Coventry and Blackpool have achieved promotion.

    Protests can unite owners against some fans, by portraying them in a negative light. So the focus turns on the behaviour of the supporters rather than addressing the underlying issues.

  11. Your article suggests protest produces little or no change. There have been incidents throughout the tenure of the new owners which warrant a response. The only thing I feel the directors got right was the appointment of SM. The decisions since then have cause for concern. SM did a remarkable job following our loss to Milwall in the playoffs. He managed to pull together a team lacking the stalwarts that took them to the play off finals. He had a bad January in 2017. Yet you could argue that he had a horrible injury list and some discontented players. This is when it all went wrong for Rahic and Rupp! The decision thereon, were poor. The club was torn apart by those bad decision. Bad recruitment of players, farcical appointment of a HC. The loss of key back room staff (Mason et al). These decisions brought about a attitude of disconnection by many supporters. Some buying season tickets out of loyalty to the club but not bothering to turn up. 4K not buying them at all. You talk about not protesting at games but I believe the protests started once SM was sacked. The number that attend matches these days are a lot less than last year and unless results pick-up it will continue to deteriorate. These directors should be feeling the squeeze now and if they want to save this club they need to just look at what is happening with lower attendances and fewer season ticket sales.

  12. I fear for the very future of the club if things continue as they are. Therefore a demonstration of our feelings is paramount. This needs to be stepped up match by match and efforts made in every way to show our discontent.
    To do nothing now will result in us regretting it later. Dialogue with Rupp is important and there are high profile fans already pursuing this. I believe an open letter to Rupp is also.an option providing it is high profile. Published in the T&A etc. Rupp should see this and surely if he realises we are not just a moaning minority then he has to start to take notice and protect his investment. We cannot damage whats happening on tgw pitch can we? The track record of backing the manager in the January window is not good. Last January was a disaster. So in short i think every avenue including matchday protest had to be explored.

  13. The protest will be to tell Rahic that fans are not happy that the club has been taken from the cusp of the Championship, into a relegation battle.
    Sadly as we’re all well aware there’s not a line of potential buyers, however nothing wrong in letting him know we want him gone.
    Dont underestimate the BCFC family, yes there’s some clutching pearls, whimpering what can we do. However, fortunately there’s plenty just getting motivated for action.

  14. Although there is not a line of potential buyers, there are interested parties. I believe a stumbling block in any form offer is that the current owners believe, amazingly, that the club is worth more than they paid for it. Gibb however has lost interest, put off by the fans reaction to any bid he was thinking of making.

  15. The main anxiety I have about a protest is the impact it would have on a group of players who clearly have lost confidence.
    The idea of an open letter is more appealing as it takes the protest away from the field of play.
    I was at the Burton game and the fans really came alive and got behind the team once we had scored. You could see the change in the City players as they grew in confidence.
    I’ve seen a great deal worse over the years believe me, let’s see what Hopkin can do and hold our nerve for now.
    I also agree that a lot of the social media comment has been tarnished by xenophobia at best

  16. I actually think that with exceptions there has been very little xenophobia from the fans on this issue.
    Yes there had been one or two highly publicised examples of what you allude to, and some of the language used towards our owners has been disgusting.
    But there has also been a lot of intelligent discussion and the importance of this cannot be overlooked.
    City fans are generally quite restrained and quite unified in their comments but one of my concerns is the way they have become split. (‘happy clappers and negatives’ ) and that almost seems to played into Rahics hands.
    I believe that we should try now and show a unified approach to any protests or displays of how the supporters feel, and sing of one hymn sheet.

  17. I’ve sat back and wanted to see exactly what the feeling is agmonst the majority of support.
    As I understand the player recruitment was between Rahic Abbott… Collins ? .
    If this is the case then we have to question what exactly is Gregg Abbotts role in our very poor recruitment and start to the season.
    I’m very disappointed in Greg Abbott … as player he was tenacious and gave everything on the pitch .
    So to stand with Rahic and see all what is going on and do nothing can only be questioned.
    Any protest must be peaceful protests.
    I agree something needs to be done …

  18. You get the impression with some that they think selling a club is as easy as putting something on Ebay, and it is done the next day.

    Even if the owners agree to sell these things take months to go through, so in the short term at least we need to concentrate on getting behind Hopkin and the lads, to try and pull away from the relegation zone.

    If somewhere down the line there is a need to protest, it just can’t be the small few; it has to be coordinated, otherwise it totally undermines the movement.

  19. Whilst a protest would be against the owners, the reality is there is a direct relationship between on the pitch results and performances and people’s desire to protest. If we were playing well and winning, Rahic’s decision making would be by the by because our club are not failing on the pitch. But because they are this is causing the protest even though it’s the reason for protest is meant to be for off the field reasons.

    Hopkin, I believe is a good appointment and will prove to be in time. I think he will steer City clear of relegation, comfortably.

    Keep the faith.

  20. Lots has been written and much has been talked about since the sacking of Stuart McCall. Everyone has their opinion so here are a few points from me.

    1) The majority of supporters agree that the football club has gone backwards in 2018, both on and off the pitch.

    2) Protests in whatever format, at Valley Parade or at a neutral venue, may make the owners listen to our concerns but so far Rupp and Rahic don’t appear to be listening to the supporters concerns.

    3) The atmosphere at Valley Parade is very poor at the moment (don’t know what it was like last night as I watched Morpeth Town v Ossett United) and this stems from the fact that there is very little connection between the players and the supporters.

    4) David Hopkin has a massive challenge to keep Bradford City in the third tier of English football this season. We need every single player who pulls on the claret and amber shirt to give 100% in every game they play this season if we are to have a chance of staying in the division that we currently occupy.

    5) Even if we start winning football matches, the concerns of the current owners will still remain unless they start to engage more with the supporters and allow Hopkin to manage the team.

  21. Whilst I disagreed with Stuart McCall’s sacking and have been alarmed by off pitch management, i have a simple view. I support my local club. I go with my kids, to watch an entertaining game of football. I would much rather watch a winning team and do expect the team to put in a total effort. But i believe i supporting the 11 players in claret & amber on the pitch.

  22. What a load of tosh Jason, are you making excuses ‘cos you’re too close to Rahic, don’t care to risk your position on Pulse 2?
    You mention the protest is “Rahic Out” then why on earth is that so complicated for you to understand? It’s nothing to do with Rupp as you well know? You then go on to use that wonderful middle-class catch all excuse, it might possibly be racist , he’s a foreigner you know we must be especially nice to him . Then the veiled threat, if we don’t support Rahics’ players or coach we may go down and the poor little dears need our help. This was our club, it means SO MUCH more to some of us than the results on the pitch, it’s the only good thing in Bradford. I don’t give a toss if we go down but I never want us to be just a feeder club for the dog botherers even if that means staying up.
    Any organisation that goes through 4 sets of accountants and sacks 95% of it’s employees has something very, very seriously wrong at it’s heart, not to mention the directors wife that earns who knows how much and never seems to work etc. etc. etc. Not everyone who cares about the club needs to protest but please let those who want to get on with it , who knows they may just be right?

  23. Agreed Jason.What would the protest seek? For me we need Rupp”s money.Rupp needs to make Rahic Finance Director not Chief.Bring in a new Chief.Seek buyers.Rahic to have zero day to day.Contracts may prove difficult to achieve this.If Rupp wants to do anything to save his investment he must.We are stuck with this garbage in player standard and poor spirit this season now anyway.What a circus.Mark no regime change will save this year.Finances may now be so bad it may make things worse.

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