Chelsea Transfer Target
Feb 17, 2019, 1:53 AM
Re: [oxpete] Oxford United 4 straight defeats but most fans are happy- at the moment
One piece of news that has come out this past week is the announcement by the Oxford United Ultras fans group that they will cease their colourful banner displays at the end of this current season (though I'm sure that many of the individuals will remain supporters). This is a great shame - since their formation in 2009, this independent group of young fans have been responsible for some of the rare colour seen at the Kassam Stadium, with their huge Italian-ultra style flags and banners displayed in the East Stand.
All this has been done at their own expense, and they have kept their independence by always refusing financial assistance from the club. In a dismal ground like the Kassam, they really can make a difference with their displays.
...it has become obvious on several occasions that they do not appear to be terribly popular with those high up in the football club itself. A few years back, there was an occasion when this group of fans found themselves belittled at a meeting by the previous club owner. More recently, they have received disparaging attention from present-owner Tigger, after the Ultras decided to express this displeasure at the running of the club by hanging their banners up-side-down - a small symbol of their feelings that in no way affected their full support for the efforts of the players on the pitch. Tigger comes from a culture where even the quietest of raised voices are taken as acts of disrespect, and apparently he did not take kindly to having his faults pointed out to him by this group of paying fans. Then, before the Sunderland match, there was reportedly much unhelpfulness towards the Ultras from the stadium management staff. The club MD Niall McWilliams then went on local radio this week to express his opinion that the club themselves should be working to improve the match-day atmosphere. Things that make you go hmmm...
No doubt there is at least another side to this story. However, it seems to be another sign of the decay in the club's structure and off-field management that they are willing to allow the alienation of this particular group of fans to take place.
Even since I posted the above on Friday night, this story of the Oxford Ultras has gained much pace in just a few short hours, with a Twitter post from them before today's Peterborough match stating...
"Unfortunately there will be no flags on the back wall today. Stadium manager and Head Of Security informed us that they are not allowed up when we arrived at 10:30am."
It seems that these youngster have been allowed in the East Stand between 10:30am and noon each home Saturday for some significant length of time to hang their banners. However, today they say they were told quite bluntly that they weren't allowed in. As a result, during the match the back wall of the East Stand was bare grey concrete, with just one small yellow and blue 'Ultras' banner symbolically hung upside down. There is no denying that this hit the atmosphere during the match.
Obviously this is a complex story, and no doubt more will come out during the coming days. For a start, 'stadium manager' and 'head of security' are two different people at the Kassam Stadium (though apparently closely entwined) - the first is employed by Firoz and the stadium company, the second is a freelance position employed by OUFC. So which party - stadium or club - is responsible for this fiasco is not immediately obvious. There is certainly a particularly unpopular person called Ian Mixter, who is the Kassam 'Safety Officer' and has taken a dislike of the Ultras in the past. Whatever, it has made the greater swathe of Oxford fans on the forum and the radio phone-in so angry that the insipid performance on the pitch has almost slipped attention.
It is true that OUFC's lease on the Kassam Stadium has a large number of clauses that could best be described as 'unhelpful'. For example, there is a four-figure fee should OUFC wish to use the ground for training on a day that is not a matchday (hence the desperate fuss over the new training ground lately). Another clause is that OUFC are not allowed access to the Kassam Stadium until noon on the day of a 3pm kick-off - a clause that actually hindered Peterborough United today when their team bus turned up early! However, somewhere along the way (until today), someone gave the Ultras permission to hang their banners between 10:30am and noon.
In the two weeks running up to last weeks fixture v. Sunderland, the club put in probably their most intense marketing effort for a home match in many years, calling for the people of Oxford to help make a 10,000 attendance. And this they did, with the help of a large following of Mackems: 10,383. Apparently, the atmosphere was fantastic, helped in no small part by the efforts of the Ultras, with Oxford being roared to a late equaliser and a valuable point. So to turn around to these same fans less than a week later and imply that their style of support is not wanted is unbelievable. I'm not Inspector Morse, but others are beginning to question whether this directive came from Tigger bruised ego. Wherever it did come from, it's an absolute public relations disaster.
To anyone with no interest in the messy life of OUFC, this might all look like just another pointless argument. However, I reckon it goes a lot deeper than that. For a start, the hypocrisy coming from those at the top of the club is beginning to properly stink. As if the comments on the radio on Thursday by OUFC's MD Niall McWilliams don't now look bad enough, Tigger then goes on to write in the matchday programme for the Peterborough match...
"A crowd of over 10,000 last week shows what we can achieve, but I imagine we will lose 3,000 fans from that today. Those missing fans must surely have enjoyed the drama and the performance last weekend? Can we do more to get them along to games more regularly? Can we make coming to games something they do week after week? We will do our best to encourage it, but everyone here today can help. As we saw last week, support and encouragement can be crucial, so spread the word, bring people along, and everyone play their part in helping Oxford United stay in League 1 and then learn from this season and really grow."
You couldn't make this bollocks up!!
Much more sense was spoken on BBC Radio Oxford after the match, particularly by a caller called Nedge, who spoke about something not adding up at the club, and of the heart of the club having been ripped out. Head presenter Jerome Sale, who can often be a little guilty of towing the party line, then followed this up with his own personal soliloquy of obvious heartfelt feeling about the chaos of the stadium situation, saying...
"I think where we possibly need to examine this is actually where you talk about the club ... at this site where OUFC are at. Niall McWilliams saying that they're down to two of three sites going forward. I think we've seen today from half past ten this morning until now exactly why this situation that OUFC have found themselves in with the stadium company in particular, and how that impacts the players, the fans, people working behind the scenes, the commercial department, etc. etc. It cannot go on.
Because from ten thirty this morning when the Ultras weren't able to get in, when Peterborough United weren't able to get into the ground to get their stuff ready, never mind OUFC, that shows what a poisonous relationship there is currently between tenant and landlord. And whoever's fault it is, it has to change.
This relationship between club and stadium company has to be sorted out, and I mean like by the next time they play here, because it's absolutely crackers at the moment."
What with all this, it was easy to forget events on the pitch. It was a dreadful match, finishing...
Oxford United 0-1 Peterborough United
...though Karl still found time to tell the airwaves that he thought Oxford were the better team. Well that's alright, then! Despite the illusion of some decent recent form, the truth is that Oxford have now won just two of their last thirteen matches, they still have not won away in the league, they have only won seven league matches all season, and their much vaunted promises to buy a new goalscorer has resulted in just one goal in the three matches since the end of the transfer window. Oh, and a win for Gillingham dumps Oxford back in the relegation spaces, too.
And yet even if it does get worse, Karl isn't really the problem. He can improve or he can be sacked. The players can improve or they can be replaced. But the chairman is a different matter. Karl's gob does him few favours, but I'm beginning to feel sorry for him because the more I think about this, the more the present troubles at club seem to stem back to OUFC's past and present chairmen.
Next up: a winter Tuesday night away at Accrington Stanley...
Karl's win ratio at Oxford United now stands at 30.9%, with seventeen wins in fifty-five matches in all competitions.