I started to fall out of love with football about three years ago. A general apathy would wash over me after games, even when my team won. Beating Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool (away), and Manchester City (this all happened in one season) had started to feel no different to when we used to draw with Plymouth. My team is Wolves, by the way.
It was firstly about the cost, which made me feel detached from the game, but it was more about value. Football made me feel ripped off more often than not.
But now, I'm genuinely starting to dislike the game that gave me my first heroes, the game that I spent so much time playing, watching and talking about it. The news that Wonga, the loan company with the outrageous interest rates, had bought the naming rights to Newcastle United's Sports Direct Arena has probably sealed the deal for me. I think I'm done with football for a while.
As of next season, Wonga will be Newcastle's official shirt sponsor, as well as holding the naming rights to the stadium. Millionaires wearing shirts emblazoned with the logo of a short term lender charging 4,214% APR just doesn't seem right, whichever team it is (Blackpool and Hearts are also sponsored by Wonga). Wonga renaming the Sports Direct Arena as "St James' Park" also rankles with me. That was a lovely stick to beat Newcastle fans with.
Goal Celebration Music
The single most embarrassing moment of my Wolves supporting life was when Arsenal beat us 4-1 at home in our first Premier League season under Mick McCarthy. It wasn't the result, or a woeful performance (we were actually a bit unlucky with the first two) that made me cringe, it was when Jody Craddock scored a late consolation for Wolves.
Polite applause and a few ironic cheers seeped from the stands for a few seconds and then it happened. The P.A system crackled and Tom Hark boomed out for a good 30 seconds as the Wolves players trotted nonchalantly back to the centre circle to see out the rest of the defeat. Wolves have stopped this now after a fan backlash, but it still happens elsewhere.
Ticket Booking Fees
I'm not taking the "average man being priced out of the game" angle here. I'm looking at match day prices from a value-for-money perspective. You get 90 minutes of sometimes thrilling entertainment, a chance to watch (if you're lucky) a collection of elite athletes doing what they do best, plus 20 minutes of nonsense half way through. Whether the ticket is worth it or not is down to the individual, but I can't make peace with the concept of booking fees.
Dwindling attendances, especially in The Championship and Leagues 1 and 2, mean that it's no longer always necessary to buy tickets in advance. Since most clubs charge a booking fee per ticket, not per transaction, a family of four can end up paying as much as £6 on top of the ticket price just to get the tickets in advance.
But only a few teams are selling out week on week, so there's every chance fans can turn up and pay on the gate. Especially away fans.
Half Time Entertainment and "Family Fun"
I've seen some awful, contrived stuff in my time and have even enjoyed some of it, (Wolves fans who sit in the Stan Cullis might remember the time when a well-upholstered Portsmouth fan in slip-on shoes tried to dribble the ball from the half way line with hilarious consequences) but it's the assumption that football fans need constant hand-holding and entertaining that puts me off. Especially when people use the "it's for the kids" defence.
I went to my first game when I was eight (Wolves 5 - 2 Fulham, old Division 3). I remember very clearly the choice language, stench of cigars and the general sense that I was in a non-child friendly environment. That's why it was exciting. Flags and face painting rob children of the thrill that going to a football match should offer. Just read out the half time scores, please.
Trite, pointless and a complete distraction from the actual values the Respect Campaign exists to promote. When speculation over whether Anton Ferdinand will shake John Terry's hand makes the news, the whole ritual is rendered pointless. Cancelling the pre-match handshakes out of fear that the players won't pretend to like each other, as the FA did when Chelsea and QPR met in January and April, proves this.
"Magic of the Cup"
I expect I'm in the minority on this one, but every year I find myself scanning the draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup, looking for this year's "plucky minnow." This is the non-league or lower league team that has been drawn against a big top flight team. The "potential banana skin."
I always find myself rooting for the big boys, hoping they'll play a weakened side who under-perform for 85 minutes, then get awarded a dubious penalty in the last five, which sneaks under the keeper and seals their underserved victory.
Football Focus normally does a feature about the minnow. The feature will no doubt include the local baker, who has knocked up some special cakes in the shape of an FA Cup, two old ladies in a bunting strewn town centre who've never been to a game claiming to be lifelong fans and a load of children in brand new scarves shouting the team's nickname. Other tropes include the manager making tea, wide-angle shots of the tiny dressing rooms and a chat with the director at his week day place of work.
Rooting for the minnow isn't an option for me. Not because of the thousands of new fans that turn out for the glamour tie, nor the ones that boo that bigger team's one or two established players. It's because of the hypocrisy. Every year, people who couldn't care less about a little club playing in a 4,000 capacity tumble-down shack of a ground, suddenly turn out to cheer them on.