Why Walsall FC unrest is about progress not points
A key criticism leveled at current and historical supporter unrest at Walsall FC is that it comes purely as a reaction to poor performances.
It’s suggested that fickle supporters are happy as long as the team is scoring goals and gaining points, that disquiet starts to build only when the team are having a torrid time on the pitch.
And yes, perhaps the substandard facilities and overpriced tickets seemed more palatable when the class of 15/16 gave us hope, the poor communication and exploitative ownership of the club overlooked as the ‘dreamers’ began this season in fine form.
But winning or losing, the key issues don’t disappear. The stadium is decaying, attendances are dropping, the playing side is underfunded and any lingering bond between supporters and the club is in terminal decline.
The football team and its supporters should be the life blood of Walsall FC. But both are neglected due to the financial constraints the club exists within and the malaise that surrounds its ownership, the land and the £440,000 we pay to rent our stadium.
Three points on a Saturday doesn’t change any of that, not by a long chalk.
No-one becomes a Walsall supporter expecting a win every week and a trophy at the end of each season, our devotion is founded on hope.
But periods of on-field success have been all too fleeting over the past ten years, and the fact they have proved neither frequent nor sustainable falls at the feet of the Board and the Chairman.
As we approach the final phase of the 18/19 season Walsall are in a relegation battle, the second in as many years and a fourth in the past decade. For a club that maintains an ultimate ambition to win promotion to the Championship, this just doesn’t add up.
But the hard truth is that we’ve finished in the top half of League One just four times since we exited the second tier in 2004, reaching the end-of-season play-offs once. That’s fifteen years in which football has changed and moved on, fifteen years where Walsall FC has been reluctant to adapt or failed to commit to positive change.
The success of the late 90’s and early 00’s fuelled by Bosman free-transfers is gone, this is the age where football clubs like Walsall must speculate to accumulate. Similarly, a squad put together with one of the lowest wage budgets in the division is more likely than ever to finish in the bottom positions.
As is so often the case, the club’s purported ambitions on the pitch are not met by its operational priorities off the field, and this refusal to adapt and compete is naturally jarring for supporters.
So yes, the institutional mismanagement of Walsall FC is most evident on the pitch at present, but this only acts to amplify the issues at every other level of our club.
It’s time for change.