The following was passed onto BCFC in December 2006 by the supporters trust on behalf of fans who had collected sevarl thousand names in support of re opening the East End. It may be of interest to look back at what City fans had envisaged being the East End's future.
For far too long Ashton Gate has felt like the preserve of the dispassionate.
The chairman recently congratulated the vocal support of City away fans at the Swansea match at the Liberty stadium and acknowledged its importance in achieving an impressive result against a fine Swansea team. Yet he denies these same fans the opportunity to use their vocal support at Ashton Gate to help the football team create a true home advantage. Our stadium is being mis-managed in the most obvious way. The management cannot or will not organise a place where vocal fans can be together to create the "twelth man" effect where it should be most easily achieved, at home. Fans who have not shared the Chairmans view that our ground has been traditionally quiet, have attempted by various means to return to what is seen by many as the home of the vocal Bristol City supporter, namely the East End. In an attempt to show the Chairman that there was indeed significant enough support to warrant the East End being open to City fans, a petition with a simple message stating that opening the East End to home support would benefit fans and players has been initiated by grass roots supporters.
One of the main hopes behind this petition was to elicit a response from Mr Lansdown other than his being openly defiant and resolutely against the idea of opening the East End. In the past, he publicly stated in the red and white bar that even if it was proved the majority of City fans disagreed with the Chairman over the East End Mr Lansdown's view would take precedence. Indeed at a later date after questioning by fans and being made aware of the petition from the clubs own fans Mr Lansdown uttered what sounded like an ultimatum "I HAVE MADE THE DECISION"! Never the less fans have not been put off by the Chairman"s stance and have continued to petition fellow fans. These notes will accompany the petition and will be be handed to Mr Lansdown at a board meeting on behalf of fans by a Bristol City supporters trust committee member. It is hoped that this will demonstrate the very palpable strength of supporter feeling and remind Mr Lansdown that Bristol City is our club as well. It does not"BELONG" to one or two very affluent individuals.
Mr Lansdown and the Clubs Chief executive have put forward various reasons why the East End can no longer be used by Bristol City's fans. This is despite the club being constantly called upon via thousands of on line posts, polls, e mails, letters, questions via the clubs FCF and in public at question and answer sessions, banners being seen at City matches and eventually a petition to consider a re-opening. The clubs position has included various arguments (the cost of moving a fence, policing costs, standing, under sixteen running around the stand, fans climbing on the fence, missiles being thrown over the fence, goading/abusing/swearing at opposition fans, rakes of stands, a fear factor and being a catalyst for trouble]. Bristol City's Chief executive has indeed gone as far as stating that almost every time the East End was open there were problems. At the recent Supporters Trust question and answer session he said he had seen horrific scenes taking place in the East End when observing fans, but seems too coy to tell us what they were. He uses these vague illusions to "fan the flames" of the fear of the East End which seems to obsess the Chairman. Neither of them produce any evidence. The City fans of course visit other football grounds and see the stark differences between how these stadiums are run and stewarded and the over zealous attention, amounting to persecution that follows vocal fans around at Ashton Gate. Those fans who were in the East End on the last few occasions saw a few teenagers moving around a little and offering the ritualised abuse and banter to away fans. This seemed very incidental to the uplifting effect of vocal fans singing and shouting for their team. Where were the scenes of violent mayhem that frighten the Chairman? Mr Sexstone says he dearly wanted the East End to be a success again but then lets the antics of a few teenagers put him off. Those behind the petition remain utterly unconvinced by the arguments of the Club that problems like climbing on a fence v Plymouth or throwing a few coins are sufficiently and persistent serious enough to warrant closing one quarter of the ground. A competently run stadium would deal with these problems on a weekly basis. This is what our fans see when they visit other grounds.
Cost and influencing Police Policy
Thousands of on line posts regarding the East End, on line polls demonstrating the overwhelming majority support opening the East End up properly again, the supporters trust survey results and a petition signed by a significant proportion of City's support show that there is undeniably a demand here. Is it so simplistic or glib to state "open it up because the fans want it"? Perhaps it is but there are many other points that could be considered by Mr Lansdown. For decades the East End was used by choice by City fans in their thousands [fact] despite Mr Lansdown stating few want to go in there. On the last occasion the stand was open despite no Pay on the day, no under sixteen's being allowed and fans having to transfer their season tickets in advance four hundred and fifty still entered the East End and under those conditions that has to be looked upon as an achievement, impossible in another part of Ashton Gate. No other group of fans would tolerate this amount of inconvenience when supporting the team. Matches v Plymouth, Brighton and Hartlepool in the not recent past saw the East End selling out for what were of course high profile games but sold out the East End was and most of those wanting in did not go there because of a sense of masochism.
It is accepted that there are costs but the amounts mentioned must be open to scrutiny and scope for negotiation as it is hard to believe it would cost £4500 to police the one hundred and thirty seven fans Colchester brought last season or the one hundred and sixty seven from Milton Keynes just because the East End has been opened. City away fans witness the wide variety of ways in which other clubs use police at their grounds. We see there is no set way, no national policy. We are mystified that the club cannot seek to influence the policy of the Avon and Somerset Police in the way they operate at Ashton Gate. Why cannot the club stick up for its loyal vocal fans and change the policy? The current Police Liason Officer seems completely deaf to any ideas suggested by fans. So in what way is he liasing with the club? Who is living in the past and sticking to obsolete ideas on this issue? The Chairman, Chief Executive and the fans are all part of Bristol City Football Club. Why cannot the chairman and chief executive defend the fans for once and campaign for a change in Police policy?
WHY NOT RUN AN EXIT POLL AT ASHTON GATE TO FIND OUT WHAT FANS REALLY THINK EN MASSE ABOUT THE ISSUE OF THE EAST END?
It would have been useful to be able to refer to research Bristol City fc have conducted on this issue by consulting their fan base via market research to identify consumer trends which the club do use. As Mr Lansdown has not made reference to any evidence his position really could be based but solely on his own opinion. So here reference will be made to a subcider online poll which is hardly representative but the results do show out of three hundred and seventy nine fans 98% wanted the stand open and 90% would use it. As stated it is not a representative poll but that result is startling unless they are all liars. Ally those poll results to over two thousand City supporters signing a petition & another on line poll of City fans on otib showing 86% want the East End open. Surely any reputable business would be seriously investigating what could be a lucrative market with its fans?
Mr Lansdown is a very successful business man. It seems odd that he cannot see that happy customers will spend more and attract more happy customers. We are all of course excited by the current form of the team in cup competitions as well as the league. The club seem puzzled that attendances are not improving. Why cannot Mr Lansdown bring himself to admit that the poor atmosphere at Ashton Gate is a significant factor in our disappointing attendances? People have stopped coming because Ashton Gate no longer offers an exciting sporting occasion. The atmosphere could be transformed almost immediately if vocal fans were given a proper setting.
Vocal City fans may well be the most potent asset in attracting stay-away fans back.
4000 of us went to Nottingham Forest because we enjoy following City at away games.
At away games we are in one place.
We are embarrassed at Ashton Gate. Speak to away fans. They cannot believe that 12,000 people are so quiet with so few getting behind a team on the up.
No true fan of Bristol City wants to see the club lose money so if after a realistic period of being open the East End is not making a profit it would shut forever. But this run of games needs to see the club allowing unrestricted access for all at prices for the majority on par with the Atyeo and with some marketing to allow supporters a fair opportunity to prove that the stand really is an asset. Unlike the premier club those fans wishing for the return of the East End will not be expecting the club to be offering tours of the old end, call fans in person or offer lavish and extravagant discounts on tickets or even free tickets like the club currently do with the premier club.
It is hard to find a club who now still use fencing as an accepted control measure and this type of device seems to be unsuitable in the view of clubs like Manchester Utd, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham , Birmingham City , Cardiff or Leeds . They simply employ sterile areas [see graphic image]. It is accepted that supporters did climb on the fence V Plymouth but surely with City's cctv the offenders were removed and later banned and this could in no way be construed as serious hooliganism warranting closure of the entire stand.
Missiles being thrown
A appropriate measure could be a simple netting suspended from the roof allied to thirty metres of segregation. This netting would be a practical solution, along with banning offenders and would be less unsightly and obtrusive than the tunnel between the Williams stand and East End. Other clubs manage to cope with thousands of away fans sat only metres away from the home fans so a competent Bristol City Football Club surely should be able to deal with the away followings at the Gate e.g. one hundred and fifty away fans from Bradford City last season.
WHERE WOULD AWAY FANS BE LOCATED IF THE EAST END IS RE-OPENED?
Many Fans bought bricks for the new stand. We were told away fans would be located at the bottom of the Williams stand in block F, close to the police block. Why cannot this be done now and vocal Home fans allowed in the East End, so that there is considerable distance between the two groups of fans? This simple remedy would hardly meet with any concerns from the present supporters occupying the Williams as many of those occupying seats in E block are in favour of the idea and would return to the East End.
Retaining the loyal fans you already have at Bristol City & attracting fans back - Some ways forward?
More than one ex player has signed the petition including one ex seventies legendary warrior like centre forward who stated "it makes a difference" who are we to argue!
Opening the East End could go some way to bridging what Mr lansdown is aware of as being a disconnect between the club and parts of it's support.. There are hundreds of fans who feel they are no longer respected by Bristol City Football Club and that the club seems to be oblivious of what they would like from their match day experience, worse still some feel that the club no longer even wants them. Many supporters can simply look towards the premier club as being evidence that Bristol City is prepared to remove season ticket holders in the Williams stand some of many decades to pander towards a more middle class fan. It is hard to feel empathy with those actions when BCFC ignore the wishes of those who want to retain parts of what has been accepted as the norm at Ashton Gate since they started supporting the club by returning to a stand. Mr Lansdown has an opportunity here as custodian of Bristol City to advocate on behalf of City supporters instead of talking about how bad some are. The club can draw a line under everything that has been said and give supporters a chance here to show they really still are part of the club's future.
Virtually every single supporter entering a newly opened East End would be highly aware of the efforts put into opening this End again to its traditional support.
Those efforts would go towards ensuring that the stand opened by the stand for the fans stays open and any fan of the mindset that misbehaving will be tolerated by those around him would be greatly mistaken. If the East End is reopened it will be because of of the fans and that will create a culture of "you come in here to take part and nobody has the right to mess this up for others"!
There are a numerous possibilities which can be considered for the reopening the East End. The sterile area on the above graphic is larger than would be considered at most premiership clubs e.g Manchester Utd or Spurs but could be a reality at Ashton Gate.
The large sterile area would be netted but could also be used to house flags on top of the netting. These flags would provide even more security as no fan would consider stepping on a thirty foot wide banner designed by fans and paid for by fellow fans. It would hardly be a Latin style end but City fans could create a feeling of their own identity by making that thirty metre gap a bit more colourful.
No membership scheme should ever be considered for supporters wishing to access the East End. In 2006 membership schemes have no place at football and hark back to an era when hooliganism was rife at football. Lord Justice Taylor's report firmly consigned ideas such as these firmly into histories waste bin. No City fan should have
to be maligned by having a special hooligan card and this would do nothing to entice absent support back.
Unreserved seating should be included in the East End as part of this stand's traditional attraction is Its communal feel and being able to choose who you sit next to was an important part of the East End match day experience for decades.
At present only those using the premier club in the Williams stand have access to bar facilities. Any fan switching from the Williams to the East end could quite easily use the facilities in the Dolman via the small gate dividing both stands.
Transferring supporters from other stands who are season ticket holders would not expect to receive any recompense for cheaper seats as it must be accepted that monies already received by BCFC have been already allocated in the clubs budget.
The smoking ban in the East End should be lifted as it would be unnecessary in a stand with unreserved seating [?] and those who have used this stand realise that smoking is an accepted part of attending football for many. It is all about having a laugh, a joke and of course a smoke with no one being treated as a second class fan when the majority of tolerant East Enders simply could not care less, if the stand has unreserved seating people can simply move if they find fellow fans smoking a problem.
Concessions for those on income support, job seekers allowance and those receiving state pensions should be lowered as the East End has always been used by the less well off and too many fans are now priced out of attending Bristol City games altogether. Those on disability allowance should be allowed admission to the East End at greatly reduced rates as City's current ticket price of £15 for the Atyeo is a huge sum of money for many with disabilities. The East End should be about including all walks of life regardless of how large their disposable income is and proving that "Bristol your City" really means "your".
Why the East End?
Quite simply despite the Dolman A&B Blocks and the old terraced enclosure corner both attracting large numbers of noisy supporters in the past no other stand at Ashton Gate can create a similar atmosphere at the Gate now. Looking at the ground rationally any large influx of vocal support seeking to gather together would necessitate the removal of hundreds of often long standing season ticket holders to make way for them. The Atyeo by accident or design is now a stand for families often with young children many of whom would not want to be surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of fans singing at the tops of their voices and that one works both ways. The Dolman already has thousands of season ticket holders only really leaving G block and despite the efforts of fans there they do not manage to make much of impact compared to yep the East End. As for the Williams a large swathe is taken up by the premier club cutting the stand in two leaving block E and despite the efforts of fans there they really do not manage to make much of an impact compared to the err…….. East End.
The East End is where so many of the clubs current fans started their life long support of Bristol City. This stand with its songs and that communal feel is where the traditions attached to Bristol City have been handed down through generations and Bristol City fc should do everything in their power to ensure this continues to happen.
No other stand other than the East End still possesses the feel of football as it used to be and while no fan seriously believes football can still be the same as the seventies, eighties and early nineties part of that passion so lacking now can still be within Bristol City fans grasp if Mr Lansdown would allow it.
No other Stand at our ground possess such a low slung roof which amplifies the sound within or as the football ground guide puts it "The acoustics of this stand are excellent, so even a small number of away fans can generate some noise" which is all too evident every two weeks in comparison to the rest of Ashton Gate.
At the recent Q and A session, Mr Lansdown stated that home fans at Ashton Gate may not be aware of the size of vocal support in different parts of the stadium. However he is mistaken. We can tell where most sound comes from visiting many grounds over the years. It is obvious to new fans and experienced supporters, who attend away and home matches week in, week out that other away grounds generate more vocal support amongst their home followers eg, at Nottingham Forest and Swansea. Bristol City has the 3rd or 4th largest attendances in League 1 but has nowhere near the 3rd or 4th loudest vocal support. Even Rovers with half the attendance figures of City make more sound, according to a recent survey which is something no true fan of Bristol City should be comfortable with.
To add insult to injury we regularly hear a few hundred away supporters in a brilliant acoustic setting (namely our home end, the East End) making more sound than 11,000 or 12,000 of us because they are all in one place. Our stadium management cannot manage this for us If the chairman is tired of hearing this argument, we are tired of putting what we consider to be an obvious argument to him.
So if the Chairman can bring himself to say that noise, passion, vibrancy and a feeling of joy de vivre still have a place at Ashton Gate it is time to open the East End back up.