Carol Ann Wood
Friday 30 December 2016
Mr Roman Abramovic
C/o Chelsea Football Club
I don’t really have a lot to complain about, currently. So this isn’t a letter of complaint. It’s more a few words for you to reflect on. We know how much you love our club. We know that you are not the man that many predicted – namely the sort who would get bored after a few years and sell up. You are a supporter too, passionate about winning, just like the rest of us.
I would like you to think about your staff at Chelsea TV, Roman. Whilst I understand we are seen as a global brand, we are also a club with older supporters who have lived and breathed Chelsea for many years. They have tales to tell. Interesting tales. The past wasn’t all about violence, Roman. You don’t have to feel worried that if Chelsea TV speaks to older supporters, they are all going to reveal things that would damage the club’s image. Many of them have amusing and emotional stories about their journeys following Chelsea.
I went to the megastore recently to meet Michy and N’Golo. I don’t often get the opportunity to do this kind of thing, but a friend alerted me to the fact they were appearing, and I was free that day. So off I went, feeling especially upbeat, given that it was shortly following the Spurs game at the end of which I was the happy recipient of David Luiz’s shirt. What an exciting week, I thought. I purchased my obligatory photos of the signees, then joined the growing queue outside the megastore. Hot chocolate was dispensed to us, as it was a freezing cold day. (Thanks for that, by the way. A nice gesture.) Chelsea TV people came along to speak to some of the fans in the queue. Now, let me make it clear that I am not against foreign supporters. That would be hypocritical of me on every level. But I will say this: The first ten people in the queue ahead of me were asked if they wanted to say why they were there. (Wasn’t the answer a bit bleeding obvious?)
Roman, none of the first ten people in the queue could speak enough English to participate in an interview. They had less English than Diego Costa, if that’s even possible. (Although I think Diego understands more than he lets on, but he’s perhaps not confident enough to speak in front of the cameras.) The TV people then walked along the line, completely ignoring me – a little old lady, if the Daily Mail are to be believed. Just ignored me. Now, I am not normally one to push myself forward. I don’t seek the limelight, but to be honest, I thought blimey, this is going to look embarrassing if they don’t find anyone with enough command of English to interview. And as I had something nice to report, namely getting David’s shirt, I actually called to one of them that I would be happy to speak. I hate the camera! Whilst I get that a pretty face is more appealing to the wider audience, surely someone who has something to say makes for interesting TV?
I think your TV people seem to look for the prettiest face rather than the old-timers like me who have had their mugs ravaged by the worry lines Chelsea helped put there in the first place. I feel like we are being written out of history to an extent, in the same way that some of the ex-players have remarked upon. Not all the older fans will put themselves forward like the fan-girls who hang around the East Stand vying for attention. (Some of whom are seeking fame, a free ticket or possibly access to Pedro’s pants.) Older fans have memories and knowledge of the club that should be celebrated. Such as the stalwarts who go to midweek away games. I can’t always go to them myself, unless I can get home by public transport, but I have one friend who survived on two to three of hours sleep after the Sunderland game, before going to work the following day. She does that because she loves the club. I have two friends who were once involved in a car accident en route to a game. Thankfully, they were not badly injured, although their car was a write-off. Guess what? Another Chelsea friend turned back on their journey and picked them up so they could still get to the game. Tell your TV staff to seek out those sort of supporters, Roman. They won’t be coming forward voluntarily, as they are not courting fame. But they are important to our club and they need to be celebrated as such. It’s too late when someone passes away and they get a little obituary in the match day programme. Speak to them while they’re still alive.
On Boxing Day, I happened to be killing time after visiting the megastore, waiting to see which pub my friends were going to. I watched the Chelsea TV crew walking around the ground. I wasn’t seeking an interview, but it was noteworthy that I wasn’t approached to speak about the forthcoming game, whereas a much younger overseas visitor was. I believe that this is as a result of unintentional bias. Again, nothing wrong with overseas supporters if they’re genuinely passionate about Chelsea. However, while it’s important to have an ethnic mix of people featured, it is also important to have a wide age demographic. Speak to the older guys and gals who have been knocking around for a few years. Make them feel that they are still of worth. Because, whilst a large proportion of the once-a-season/once-a-lifetime attendees were having an online hissy fit during the awful days of last season, the stalwarts were resolute. We didn’t like what was happening but we’d seen worse, so we gritted our teeth and carried on.
Roman, there is a lot that you have done for the travelling fans, and I praise you for your introduction of discounted club coaches and trains. It’s something I can’t often take advantage of, living 55 miles out of London, but many of my friends use it regularly and it’s appreciated. It goes some way to compensate for the fact that the TV companies don’t give much thought to supporters who attend games, preferring to concentrate on their global audiences for ‘Super Saturdays’. Somehow, that analogy reminds me of 1970s kids TV. I half-expect Chris Tarrant to appear and shove a custard pie in Jamie Carragher’s face. (Actually, that might not be a bad idea.)
If you could just take a look at what Chelsea TV are doing on match days, who they’re speaking to, and why, many of us would be very grateful. All supporters are of value, wherever we are from, provided we are genuine and here for the long-haul. Of course the younger supporters are crucial, because one day, the oldies amongst us won’t be around. But before we pop off, we’d really like to to pass on our love of the club, our knowledge, our special memories. People (well, a few whinging scousers to be exact) say we haven’t got any history. We have. Some of us are part of it and we’d like to share it, if that’s ok.
Carol Ann Wood
PS Would you like to hear about the time I missed the train home from Manchester when we’d won the league in 2005, and had to spend the night on a railway bench with a transvestite scouser who’d been working in a fetish club?
PPS Or maybe you’d like to hear about my overnight coach trip to Munich when someone swore they’d seen a lion at the side of the road? Those are the sort of tales that you couldn’t make up. And they need to be told widely.
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