The uncertain future of the Bradford City fanbase

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

After the dreadful run of events at Bradford City over 2018, it’s clear many fans are turning away from the club and next year’s season tickets could take an even bigger hit. Four Width of a Post writers explain their own personal feelings on why they, at least, will continue to keep watching the Bantams this season and beyond.

“City have always been this sort of club which makes us value and cherish the good times all the more.”

By Ian Hemmens

I’ll lay my cards on the table, I’ll be renewing and I’ll continue to watch the team.

Reading social media these days I think I’m one of a dying breed. I have no problem with people protesting in any way they want as long as it is respectful and not maliciously personal. As I keep harping on, I’ve been supporting City over 50 years and seen it all: good, bad, downright awful to ecstatically good. I’ve had plenty of moans at poor performances but can proudly say I’ve never booed a player in a Claret and Amber shirt.

I’ll admit one reason I will renew is the economical aspect with the price of season tickets. If they went up steeply I might have to consider my position, but it would only be due to economical pressures. I’m a 3rd generation City fan born in Manningham, the club is in my blood and I wouldn’t abandon the club purely due to bad owners, I’ve seen them before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy at times; but we as fans will hopefully be there when the latest custodians have been and gone.

In my lifetime, City have always been this sort of club which makes us value and cherish the good times all the more. Hopefully they will be back again.

“I fear for the next generation of fans and the recently-hooked ones too.”

By James Pieslak

Against my better instincts, I’m dragging myself there. Through the week I’m adamant that I will not go, but on Saturday morning I find myself succumbing. To be honest, it isn’t the football that’s drawing me back – it’s the chance to catch up with friends and family in the Record Café. As soon as we get to VP, the fun comes to an abrupt end.

For the past couple of seasons we have gone in a large group of family and friends but that is dwindling. It’s mostly the younger ones who are turning their back. My nieces are in their late teens and their enthusiasm has been snuffed out. They’re at an age when the world is opening up for them, but the thought of ‘watching that lot’ has slipped right down the list. Who can blame them?

My two sons are six and four. My eldest has come with me for the past couple of seasons and he has always loved it. This season has been a struggle. He’s lost a lot of enthusiasm, and I’m finding that the bribe of a Dandelion & Burdock in the Record Café is the best way to entice him along.

My youngest came to a couple of early games, having fallen in love with football during the summer (cheers Gareth Southgate). He sat in awe, and I was delighted to watch him following the play and cheering along. The problem is, the poor lad didn’t see us score in those early games. He’s losing interest, although he is young so I’m not too worried at this stage. He’s still yet to see us score though.

I’m confident that I’ll manage to keep my two coming along, but I fear for the next generation of fans and the recently-hooked ones too. A lot of good work has been undone. A decade ago, you didn’t see many young ones wearing City colours as they chose to spend their money on more fashionable clubs. I fear that could return, and very soon. That’s another unwanted legacy that I fear Edin Rahic could leave us with.

“I’m prioritising other things over City, where in the past, maybe I wouldn’t have.”

By Nikhil Vekaria

I renewed at the start of the season through a combination of habit and obviously very wrongly, actually think we’d signed quite well.

Despite the horror show from last January onwards, I was relatively optimistic that we could turn it round this season and at least show a bit more than we had throughout that run, despite the appointment of Michael Collins as manager.

However, a few weeks into the season, it was clear to see I was wrong.

Since the season began, it has been harder and harder to find the motivation to get to home games, especially as I’m living in Sheffield and it’s more of a commitment to get back.

I certainly wouldn’t say I’m ‘boycotting’ games, but I’m certainly less bothered if I miss one and I’m prioritising other things over City, where in the past, maybe I wouldn’t have.

The difference between this season and a couple of years ago, when City were playing some genuinely exciting football, is stark and games just aren’t enjoyable at all anymore.

My approach to away games is the same and I simply don’t want to commit to spending money on them, only to watch a team that I have simply no faith in and no real feeling towards.

Despite this, if the new season began tomorrow, I do think I’d still renew (even assuming we were in League Two, which looks very very likely to be the case).

However, this is more due to force of habit and the fact season tickets are so cheap, as opposed to any real optimism or hope for the future. I imagine my approach would be similar to this season, where despite having a season ticket, I’d probably only attend if it was convenient for me.

I think the most damning thing about this campaign is that as someone who’s watched City for 16 years and always hated missing any game, I’m simply not bothered if I can’t make it anymore…

“My father-in-law he had better things to do with his time than watch Rahic destroy the team so many fans care about”

By Ian Sheard

My father-in-law is an old fashioned Yorkshire man who enjoys a pint, loves value for money and enjoys the local sports clubs doing well. I first encouraged him to buy a season ticket with me a number of years ago when the cheap season ticket was first introduced; not wanting to miss a bargain he snaffled one up. After a few seasons of ‘drab’ League Two football under Peter Taylor (shades of which were starting to emerge) we were rewarded for our loyalty with the History Makers of 2013 and the decent couple of seasons after that.

And then the winter of discontent arrived! No real promising signings, McCall falling out with Rahic and results taking a turn for the worst. McCall was sacked.

My father-in-law had his suspicions about what was going on at the club and stated that he was of the opinion that these new owners were out of their depth and did not have a clue what they were doing. In his view, the  problem was that they did not understand what the club was about and what it meant to the fans. He drew parallels with the Bulls in terms of their recent fall from grace and troubles with the administration etc.

I still held some promise from the new owners and tried desperately to defend the sacking of McCall based on results, naively thinking that this was clearly a ‘footballing decision’. In walked Simon Grayson – the self-proclaimed Messiah that would bring us back into the Play Offs and lead us into the Championship. He failed.

It was around the time of Grayson signing that I renewed my season ticket and also that of my father-in-law. As the tickets were still relatively cheap he paid, but I suspected that he would not be attending as many games as he had previously. After the farcical summer regarding coaches and the appointment of Collins, my father-in-law asked me if I knew of anyone that wanted a Season Ticket as he had better things to do with his time than watch Rahic destroy the team so many fans care about. He hasn’t been back since, and I don’t think he will unless the club make some dramatic changes.

My father-in-law now spends his Saturday down at Park Ave. He tells me there the fans are respected and looked after, the owner keeps the club ticking over; allowing it to run and finance itself but with his backing if required. The manager is a Bradford – nay Wibsey lad – who demands that players play for the shirt and play attacking, exciting football.

I understand his decision, he has never professed to be the die-hard City fan his son-in-law is but wants to see all clubs in Bradford do well and will support them financially and invest emotionally if he feels as though it’s a good investment. If not, then they don’t deserve his time.

Personally, I hope that bringing Julian Rhodes in will bring some heart back to the club and the connection between the fans and the club that has become so toxic will be repaired enough to encourage supporters of Bradford (such as my father-in-law) back to the club.



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10 replies

  1. I’ve been coming down to Valley Parade since I was 14 / 15 and I am now 57!! what a fool but like many have said I have seen some good times – but mostly though bad to poor!!!!!
    However, for the last 5 or six years my now 16 year old has also been coming along and has seen some really good times in his few years of being a Bantam. The problem is he has not enjoyed the debacle we have seen in 2018 and having gone to watch Harrogate Town a couple of times and seen some exciting dynamic football, goals and enthusiastic support – aligned with the fact that he can walk to the games with his mates we (Bradford City) may have lost him and that is the tragedy and a young supporter – lost.
    He is not coming to the Oxford game and has told me he will not come until Rahic has gone.
    I hope he will return but I have my doubts – I would join him, but once a fool always a fool.

  2. There was no need for our club to be struggling like it is now.

    This is all because one man had vision that for some strange reason thought he knew football.

    Yes there’s been struggles and ups and downs as cty supporters but this is different.

    We were never out the top 6 we had just lost in play off final with squad that just needed maybe 3 new players to add to the quality already in the squad.

    We had manager that it’s clear now over achieved with the squad but was sacked because he wouldn’t allow our chairman cart blanche.

    To many mistakes in short period of time have now seen our club struggle.

    Yes I’ll renew because I believe Rahic will be gone in May.

  3. I always intended, due to age, that this would be my last season ticket whatever happened this season. But I shall still support and watch games when I can.
    City are in my blood and I will not, and do not want to, change.
    I am angry at Rahic and Rupp. They have wrecked the pleasure and dreams of thousands of people and must always be remembered for what they have done. I cannot excuse or forgive them.
    Hopefully, this season might not end in relegation, but I sadly think it will.
    City will not recover while they are there.

  4. There is nothing exceptional or unusual about the current malaise at VP or the fans response to it. A snapshot of the football world at any time over the last 50 years will find a clutch of clubs in dire straits with indifferent stewardship and declining fortunes.. Similarly the less committed fans will come and go (some never to reappear) whilst others will remain. Those who stick with it get the biggest emotional pay off when times are good. It may take time and it might get messier but there are enough football loving Bradfordians who grew up with the club to ensure that we will be fine. It is a truism but it is the fans who make the club and not vice versa. Time to park the Rahic issue for now and get behind DH and the team

  5. As part of the bigger picture I’ve been going off ‘modern’ football for the last few years now; the amounts of money involved, general exploitation of fans as customers, the relentless coverage it receives, etc.

    As part of that I don’t want to be a football martyr who relentlessly turns up out of loyalty. While football business has always been murky, if I’m being misled to the point of being taken for a complete mug I’ll find something else to do on Saturdays.

    The biggest stink for me is around the financial statements; apparently we submit the least amount of information of any club IIRC? If the rumours are true of £27k going straight out of the club a month to repay the loan used to purchase us then that’s me done, certainly until they’re out.

  6. James Pieslak. In general i agree with all that you have written
    But i take issue with your claim.that its mainly the younger ones who are not populating the VP seats or renewing their season tickets
    As some one who has supported City for well over 50 seasons i know a lot of City fans of a similiar age. Believe me i was shocked at some who are either not going or have not renewed their season ticket. These are what i would call loyal fans some of whom have been going longer than.me.
    If it was just newer fans who have jumped on and off during the good times i would not be concerned but some of these fans are THE most.loyal.ones.
    Some have bought season tickets to ‘support’ the club but wont go whilst we have these owners.

    • Bang on Mark.
      Until Edin goes, then a lot of LOYAL fans won’t.
      Want a big gate for Saturday…..
      Tell us all Edina OUT of the picture.
      You wont be able to fit us all in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mark

      When I say ‘it’s the younger ones turning their back’ I’m talking specifically about the group I go to games with, not the wider fan base. It’s ‘Personal feelings’, as Jason mentions in his intro, so hope that clarifies and you don’t feel need to have an issue there.

      That said, your point is bang on the money. The fans who are turning their back, despite a long history with the club, is a matter of grave concern.

      I’m just talking about my own match day experience.

      James

  7. Having read the article, then I find that my own personal feelings are similar to the authors of the different items.
    I think I need to put this into context. I first went to VP in 1966, with a friend, no adults and we weren’t even teenagers. We were enthused by the ‘World Cup Willie’ euphoria. I then attended on a regular basis until 1972, when the growth in football related violence and other new and interesting opportunities to spend my leisure time, became apparent. I fell out of love with football and within a year had gone to University, out of the area.
    I started going to City again in 1981. My girlfriend (now wife) liked football and although we lived out of the area, I still worked in Bradford and so rejuvenated my interest. We attended increasing numbers of games until 1985. Thankfully we were away for 11th May 1985, having sat in D Block of the main stand for the Burnley match a few weeks earlier. Had we gone to the game, this would never have been typed as my wife was six months pregnant. The holocaust of the fire, a new job out of the area and most importantly a first child, finished that episode of live support.
    My third return occurred because my then eight year old daughter, had discovered Sire A on Channel 4. She fell in love with football. The 1994 World Cup fully captured her emotions.
    I bumped into an old friend who like myself had moved away from the area. We talked about football and my daughters new love of the game. I said I had thought about taking her to a match, when she told me about Richmond’s initiative to attract ‘kids’. Given the price and the fact that l thought she would become easily bored, then it seemed a good idea. As was pointed out tome, ‘you use to go regularly’!
    So in the autumn of 1994 against Brighton, we went to a home match. My daughter absolutely loved it. We came to several more games that season. By 1998 a friend and his son from the area l now live in, was coming with us. My younger daughter first went to the QPR home game which saw us avoid relegation. By 1998 we were Season Ticket holders. Despite my older daughter going away to University, she still came to home games (including evening matches)!
    By 2001 her boyfriend was coming, again he is from well outside Bradford and has no connection to the City.
    The group has grown to six season tickets, despite one living just north of London and my youngest daughter in London itself. None of us live in Bradford. Yet we support Bradford City!
    This year has been a dreadful experience. The emotions that bind us to City have been tested to the extreme. To be honest other things are now starting to become more attractive. The appalling performances on the pitch have eroded the the emotional tie. It is becoming an onerous exercise. The ‘Band of Family and Friends’, the seeing people before the game, is now one of the main attractions. The amount of times most of our seats have been empty has grown through out the year.
    If I stop going once again, then the lengthy trip over the Pennines may become too much of a barrier. I guess if I stop going again then that will be it.
    So this Bradford City of ‘ours’, is not a ‘play thing’ for owners who have a different cultural outlook and are slowly but surely choking the lifeblood out of our Club. Once the support is gone, it will be exceptionally difficult to rekindle.
    This is not a ‘threat or a promise’, it is a stark and very grim warning of what can and could happen to a club and its supporters.

  8. 279 City at Gillingham, 176 at Aldershot!!! Embarrassing following even in this doom and gloom period. Why aren’t the ‘fans’ following the team/players, instead of using the owners as scape goats all the time for not attending games. Get behind the team not the owners, or pretend we are playing the likes of Arsenal,Chelsea, Villa!! It’s in these poor times the backing is needed not just in the glory moments. Come on City. ⚽

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