With everyone who carries Fulham in their heart fervently hoping for another great year of progress under Mark Hughes, how close will we get to selling out the majority of our home games? I've been hearing rumours from early summer that a number of die-hards are succumbing to the travails of the economic slump and not renewing for 2010/11. If you've lost your job this year or found the family budget simply no longer stretches to a fortnightly trip to Craven Cottage, you have my sympathy and understanding.
Yes, I happily forked out for my own ad hoc travel arrangements to Hamburg last May plus the £75 UEFA levied to stand behind the goal, but when it came to joining my more flush mates on the Fulham Flyer excursions to Turin, Wolfsburg and Hamburg the first time, a night down the pub in front of the big screen was more than adequate, thanks anyway. If anyone out there made it to Perm, Donetsk or Lithuania last year, you deserve a medal! "We will follow the Fulham," sing the faithful - but at any price?
These are hard times, and I'm not suprised to see the club web-site still pushing season tickets hard. Here's one way round the problem, not liked by clubs, stewards or league authorities but very much a by-product of how society now lives and the simple laws of supply and demand. You purchase a season ticket that grants you the privelege of first call on supplementary tickets. Precisely the system used last Spring by the club to sell their allocation for the Europa League Final. For expediency and simplicity the club in its wisdom allowed up to SIX tickets per season ticket holder. It is not commonly known that UEFA were very unhappy with this arrangement and it resulted in some sharp questions being put to the club. Equally unhappy were thousands of bona fide Fulham fans who found our whole allocation GONE inside a day!
Why? Because this unfair top-heavy allocation - although greatly easing the issuing process for the ticket office, inevitably sees large numbers of tickets making their way to the black market at inflated prices. "We were overwhelmed by the scale of demand," was the club's lame response to the men at UEFA. Really? Fulham FC once organised 32 coaches for a trip to Old Trafford I seem to remember.
Now let's fess up here. You can apply for up to six tickets you know will be in high demand. You and the missus/son/brother/girlfriend are sorted, but all those clamouring workmates, long-lost friends and greedy agencies delighted to pay way over the odds for whatever you can spare? Are you gonna resist? You don't even have to stand outside the ground like the spivvy tout you really are, internet transactions make it all too simple and sanitised.
So to fund your season ticket at Fulham all you have to do is be prepared to miss the Big Four games at the ground. What the hell, there's every chance of catching them live on Sky or ESPN. Flog your spare tickets for the visits of Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea and you'll have your season ticket money back for the other 34 games.
But no true supporter would ever do this, and risk antagonising those friendly folk in his block I hear you cry? Think again. My father, a lifelong season ticket holder into old age, sat in the Johnny Haynes stand, and never once enjoyed the visits of Manchester United until his death. Why? Because interlopers leapt from their seats every time Scholes crossed halfway or Rio went up for a corner. A little slow to get to his feet once into his '80's, when my old man asked people to sit down he just got a mouthful of abuse, and not always with a northern accent.
Snarling, defiant, knuckle-dragging away fans - in Fulham areas - never to be seen again. It happens, and it seems there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Ever had this happen to mar your enjoyement of a Fulham home game? I'd love to hear about it.