Published on October 15th, 2021 | by Ben Lockwood0
Open Letter to Barnsley FC and the Owners of Oakwell
Formed in 1887, Barnsley FC have enjoyed 134 years experiencing the trials and tribulations of being a football club and a cornerstone of the town and the community. Each one of those years has been played at Oakwell in front of an adoring and loyal Barnsley faithful.
These multiple generations of supporters, that have experienced an ever-developing Oakwell over the decades, are the lifeblood of the football club. Without them and their support the football club is nothing.
Players, managers, captains, and owners of the past, have spoken with passion and positivity about what being associated with Barnsley Football Club has meant to them and how the football club epitomises the values of the town: hard work, honesty, respect, and integrity.
Unfortunately, with the recent announcement of the closure of the West Stand, the values of honesty, respect and integrity appear to have been forgotten.
How have we found ourselves in a position where 1,000 season ticket holders are faced with the difficult decision of choosing between an inferior seat that will likely diminish their Oakwell experience, or ending their association with a football club they’ve supported for years, decades or a lifetime?
How, when Barnsley supporters have backed the club in its hour of need during a pandemic that threatened its future, are these same loyal supporters being disregarded so easily?
How have we managed, as it appears on the outside looking in, such an alarming fall from grace in less than six months regarding club and supporter relations?
6,000 supporters bought season tickets knowing that seeing any live football at Oakwell was unlikely in that season. We then had 10,000+ supporters buy season tickets for this season, despite the uncertainty around when capacity crowds would return to Oakwell. This was the Barnsley FC community showing support for the players and coaching staff who pulled off the unthinkable away at Brentford, went one better by coming close to achieving the impossible last season, but also to support the amazing staff behind the scenes that work tirelessly for the club on our behalf.
With this in mind we urge and plea with the different ownership groups involved with Barnsley FC and Oakwell to consider the below points:
- Supporters were initially told the West Stand was closed for safety reasons, but this was later changed to operational concerns. Could this be clarified in a full and transparent public update?
- For the Sheffield United fixture on 24th October the North Stand will accommodate its largest away following of the season at over 4,100 supporters. Can it be confirmed or denied that the closure of the West Stand was commercially motivated to increase match day revenue? If the motivation isn’t a commercial one, can you explain the sudden increase in the away team allocation for this particular game?
- Can we have complete transparency on what the issues with the West Stand are, what the plan is to rectify these issues, and when we can expect to see the stand re-open?
- Contradicting statements from different parties benefit nobody. Even if the Supporters’ Trust must act as a mediator, can ongoing communications be aligned, collaborative, and in the best interests of supporters from all those concerned?
- Whether one supporter or 100 supporters have decided to end their season ticket association with the football club, can we see a clear strategy to appease these people? Also, considering that many supporters will be moving seats under duress, and non-West Stand supporters are equally upset about how this has been communicated and managed, what do we plan to do as a football club to rectify this and bring the community feeling back to Oakwell?
- We encourage all parties to regularly consult with BFCST on matters that will directly impact on supporters. We’re here to be a support function for advice and supporter consideration prior to decisions and announcements being made. We appreciate difficult decisions are sometimes inevitable, even more so during a pandemic, but our means for existence is solely to ensure supporters feel heard in times like these. At present, they don’t.
We welcome and praise the plan for the various fan and media engagement forums over the coming weeks as a really positive step that shouldn’t be downplayed. However, these will be almost a month after the initial West Stand announcement, and as a result we feel that immediate action is needed to bring clarity to such an emotional and disruptive issue, at a time when all energy needs to be focused on improving performances on the pitch.
Barnsley FC Supporters’ Trust has always had an excellent relationship with Barnsley FC, working in the interest of supporters with various owners since 8th October 1994. We’ve achieved many positive results in collaboration with the club to improve the matchday experience, optimise existing plans and announcements for the greater good, improvements for disabled supporters, and supporting the recruitment of the younger generation through various schemes and initiatives.
We firmly believe this relationship can continue in a positive manner if all parties work as one and look forward to a change in stance that brings everyone together to focus on one thing: the supporter.