One-One Fanzine - Cover of Issue 26 - June 2006THE CYNIC'S VIEW - JULY 2006
Previously published in full in issue 26 of One-One…

For those who get entertainment by the unpredictability of football, then following the fortunes of Wycombe Wanderers on the pitch during the 2005/6 season will have been a treat. It will also have been encouraging for many onlookers to see once again that it is not simply a case of throwing a shed load of money at the football side of a club and watch the positive results flow in.

Of course when it’s your own club then emotions are somewhat different. The reaction to Wanderers’ losing sequence was interesting to view from the perspective of fans, players, management and directors alike. It may have made the money men now in charge of what was once Wycombe Wanderers Football Club contemplate how many people actually care or have any sympathy with what is now simply another entertainment PLC?

But I wonder if those in and around the Club that are so quick to criticise the cat-callers and moaners have thought for a moment that it is perhaps a culture that has been manifested by the PLC itself?

The change to a PLC blew away much of what sympathy factor remained but whatever was left was replaced early season by arrogance in many quarters. When the Loan Chief proclaimed back at the start of the season that anything but promotion would be ‘failure’ and ‘not to worry about the budget’, it gradually equated to an attitude amongst management and fans alike that went something along the lines of ‘who cares how much money we are spending, just feel the length of that unbeaten run’.

The reality in football is that you can get away with almost anything when you are winning. When the results start to go against you, you get to see the dividends of the sympathy culture you have created. In Wycombe’s case this now just involves a viscous circle of moaning and criticism of the team followed by more moaning and criticism of those moaning and criticising – repeat through all types of media at every available opportunity.

Of course there was no shortage of sympathy when the tragic news of the death of Mark Philo was broken on the evening of Saturday 14th January 2006. The Club excelled in many aspects of its handling of the affair and the number of genuine condolences from supporters was something that will stay in the memory forever. However, was I alone in feeling a certain crassness attached to comments issued by the Club within a few days of the sad events, that the tragedy should be used as yet another reason why we should ‘all pull together’? People say some stupid things under extreme emotion so perhaps the benefit of the doubt can be applied in this case.

However, reading the reports of the AGM a couple of weeks after Mark’s death, it appears that a similar spin was put on events by the Loan Chief. And ‘pulling together’ was exactly what the three major shareholders carried out at this first PLC AGM when they steamrollered through an important share issue despite a show of hands against the proposal. Gratifying to hear again though they were reported to be ‘acting in the best interests of WWFC’, only for it to be later reported that they had effectively cut-off the opportunity of fans buying shares in any amounts less than £35,000. Don’t be surprised if next year’s AGM is marked down as a pointless waste of time by those who previously used it to gain knowledge of the inner workings of the Club and maybe even felt part of the Club – Club being the operative word.

A perhaps novel and easy way of ‘pulling together’, as well as gaining goodwill amongst supporters and the town itself, would have been to declare that following the conclusion of the ground sponsorship deal, that the name of stadium would revert forever to Adams Park. In an ideal world this would have been accompanied with a humble apology issued by those responsible for their previous crimes against the heritage of the Club and adding that, yes, we could do with some extra money but we believe we can gain more value out of marketing the Adams Park name.

Sadly, instead of that, we are told that the Club is suggesting using an ‘interim name’ while the PLC board discuss ways to desecrate the name of the Club’s greatest benefactor yet again. Perhaps we all imagined the Chairman admitting the original decision had been a ‘mistake’ when speaking at a Fans Forum shortly after the original deal was revealed in the summer of 2003?

To add to the farce it is now reported that we will be subjected to some sort of vote/placatory charade regarding the sponsorship options. How bizarre that there is a suggestion that a PLC should go down a route where a commercial decision they want to make could be blocked by people with little to no legal say in the organisation. The PLC would gain more credibility (ie marginally above zero) if they just made a decision and got on with it rather than conduct something that will draw even more criticism. Who remembers that infamous ‘Smith Kit’ vote? True democracy in its full working glory. This time around the PLC will be relying on the apathy factor to conveniently make the vote non-representative. You can see it now, “Sorry chaps, less than 1500 people have responded, we will now go and do what the hell we like, just like we were going to do anyway. Thanks for providing the outlet for more lip service.”

But if (or more likely when) this scenario happens, they should ask themselves another question. Why the apathy? Why the lack of caring and sympathy? Selling off the Adams Park name in any form again is one sure fire way of reducing the sympathy factor even more and consequently increasing the apathy to new levels. Now one day they may need real help. eg. When the loans run out, when the unsustainable wage bills catch-up on them, when the latest mission statements are forgotten, when our rugby tenants put pressure on ground ownership. But will there be enough left who care?

Perhaps the most worrying aspect (for the gradually diminishing numbers who do care) is hearing reports of how important promotion is. It seems that the basis of the plans of the PLC centre around whatever minimal extra money can be made from a jump up a division. If that is the case then the risk the PLC have placed the Club under is unforgivable. Not going up last (or this) season should not have been portrayed as ‘failure’. What would have been wrong with generating a culture of saving money and living within your means? There are fine examples at other clubs where this has been achieved. Chesterfield, Lincoln City and Stockport County being just three with varying success on the pitch. But the current culture created at Wycombe means the automated accusations will fly around suggesting this line of thinking means ‘you have no ambition and would rather see Wycombe play in Conference’. If only they could be re-programmed to understand that perhaps there are people that would you rather just see Wycombe Wanderers exist and exist beyond a play thing for the rich few.

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