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The 99p football match

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Paul Fletcher | 11:59 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Victoria Road, Dagenham

You don't get much for 99p these days. It won't get you anywhere near a pint in most pubs, a matchday pie at a ground, or even a lottery ticket, but that was the price of an adult terrace ticket at Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday. Juniors got in for 25p.

It was the second Daggers against Racism day and, not surprisingly, the enticing ticket prices resulted in a season-high attendance of 4,446 at Victoria Road.

The League One fixture was also non-segregation, with supporters of the Daggers shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts from MK Dons.

Always a sucker for a bargain, I travelled across London to see what it was all about, experience the atmosphere and find out what the east London club were hoping to achieve.

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The brainchild of chief executive Steve Thompson, the first Daggers against Racism day took place on 20 March 2010, with the home team defeating Macclesfield 3-1 in front of 3,721.

Thompson wanted to use the day to make a statement about the club's attitude towards racism; that racism was completely unacceptable and would not be tolerated it in any form.

It was an election year and Nick Griffin of the British National Party was standing for election in Barking & Dagenham. At the time the BNP had 12 seats on the Barking & Dagenham Council, all of which they lost in the election.

"People have said to me that we do not have a racism problem at the club but I think that doing these campaigns makes some supporters aware of what they are doing in everyday life," Thompson told me.

"Chances are that some of our supporters have voted BNP but they follow a multi-cultural football team. Sometimes they cannot see the connection."

Thompson chose the fixture against Macclesfield because he did not think it would be particularly well attended. Macc were not expected to bring more than 60-70 away fans, while the Daggers were not on a great run of form.

Another reason was that Keith Alexander was the boss of Macclesfield. Alexander was the first full-time professional black manager in the Football League and regarded as an inspirational figure by many in the game. Tragically, he died a few weeks prior to the fixture taking place.

Thompson regarded last year's game as a success. He always wanders around the terraces at the club for the first 30 minutes of a match and did so against during the home fixture after the Macclesfield fixture.

What struck him was not only the number of families he did not recognise but also a small but definite increase in people from ethnic minorities. Slowly but surely, he felt, the Daggers against Racism day could be used to build and diversify their fanbase.

Both last year's fixture and Saturday's match against MK Dons were endorsed by the Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out campaigns. The mayors of Barking and Dagenham and Milton Keynes were there on Saturday, as was the head of Barking & Dagenham Council and key figures from the Football League and the local NHS Trust.

"These people and bodies are our partners in other things and what we did on Saturday put the spotlight on the club," added Thompson. "For a small club it is difficult to get people talking about us but Saturday did that. It raises our profile."

It is clear how much importance Thompson places of reaching out to the local community and ensuring they have the opportunity to watch their local team.

"I went to school in Dagenham and know that it is one of the poorest boroughs in the country," he said. "There were people who watched us on Saturday who could not normally afford to do so even with our cheap £6 terrace ticket for people aged seven to 18.

"Saturday gave an awful lot of people, especially young kids, a great day out."

Several fans discussed the match on 606 on Radio 5 live, when the game was featured on Late Kick Off on Monday. A lot of the talk focused on the non-segregation aspect of the day.

Personally speaking, Saturday reminded me how much I used to enjoy watching football from a terrace; the proximity to other supporters, the simultaneous swaying of the crowd as they try to follow the action and the boisterous atmosphere that a relatively small group of people can create.

Nonetheless, the non-segregation aspect resulted in a slightly disorientating experience. Football fans are used to being able to see the opposition supporters in one specific section, chanting and singing in their direction. At times on Saturday, MK Dons forward Luke Chadwick had the ball close to the terrace and received abuse and support from the same area at the same time.

The visiting side struck the only goal of the game deep into injury-time, with Mark Carrington's long-range strike somehow eluding goalkeeper Tony Roberts.

With the Daggers battling for their League One survival - they are seven points from safety - it was a bitter blow and emotions ran high. Angry words were exchanged between supporters on the terrace, prompting stewards to intervene with the assistance of police.

It was a small blot on what I thought was a positive day for football.

"You cannot have segregation every week but in a cynical world it is nice to know that sometimes you can do these type of things," added Thompson.

As with last season's match against Macclesfield, Thompson had deliberately targeted the fixture against MK Dons. It was against a team with a small travelling support and there was no history of trouble from their support base.

Thompson tapped up the club's sponsors to help offset the financial shortfall caused by the reduced ticket prices, which, incidentally, were inspired by the cost of a burger at a well-known fast-food chain.

The Daggers did lose money on Saturday, although their takings were not much less than could have been expected for a low-key fixture in January against a team with a modest away support.

The main focus for everyone at Dagenham & Redbridge is staying up and the implications of doing so will be significant for a club that has never before competed so far up the Engllish football ladder.

But it is difficult to put a price on the lasting legacy generated by their 99p offer.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Well known fast foot chain is about right, thats mainly what goes in their Burgers haha!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Anyway on the rest of the blog its a bit of a shame that the non segregation of fans thing didn't quite work out as planned. I must admit my first thoughts on this were fair enough it works at Rugby etc.

    I then came to the conclusion that it might dampen the atmosphere somewhat during the game in that it might be difficult for the away fans to create the type of adversarial chants that we are used to. I must admit as a United fan I often find that it is the away games that I enjoy the most for this reason.

  • Comment number 3.

    ECHO ECho Echo echo

  • Comment number 4.

    Well done the Dags
    I watch rugby and also, fairly regularly, watch a football league side that I don't support from their end (my daughter's a member). I've no problem with unsegregated crowds.
    An issue is away games and membership. Allocations for away fans are small, when the home fand are not sold out. There are no away tickets on the day, and supporters who are not members cannot buy away tickets, and so get into the home end instead.
    I can see the reasoning for high profile and grudge matches, but the 'one size fits all' approach is too heavy handed IMO.

  • Comment number 5.

    Yawn... How boring is this subject. The world has gone mad.

  • Comment number 6.

    Good article.

    Not only is the match in aid of a good cause it provides a platform for Dagenham and Redbridge to showcase their football to a bigger audience and in return maybe gain a few extra viewers throughout the rest of the season.

    Football at the bottom of the Football league can be tough fiancially and any events may lead to an increase in attendance over the following weeks.

    I have read an article recently about Rushden and Diamonds and how life can be tough financially at the bottom of the game, have a read..
    http://upper90magazine.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/are-diamonds-forever/

  • Comment number 7.

    You will have to go to eastern europe to really experience the true racists in football. Whenever England, France et al play in places like former Yugoslavia, USSR, Turkey, Poland it sounds like an ape house because thats what their fans make noises like in front of black players. the biggest animals are the fans who do this attrocity.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good on them.

    But non-segregation is a non-starter at pretty much all 92 clubs as shown by the need for intervention by police-backed stewards.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice article - good on Thompson to raise awareness of racism in this way.

  • Comment number 10.

    Now then - thanks for your thoughts to far.

    I do not think the Daggers want non-segregation every week. They recognise that against certain teams it would not work. I think they just wanted to foster a sense of united purpose on Saturday.

    As for the idea that this is a boring subject (boomerang_shango) - well, if you think a club making a stand against racism and charging a 99p entrance fee is boring then so be it. We are all entitled to our opinions. Personally, I think it is a very important subject.

  • Comment number 11.

    What a great idea from the Daggers - would like to see it repeated in other clubs. Perhaps it should also be combined with an Anti Sexism day in the light of recent events!

  • Comment number 12.

    #5. Not as boring as your comment and lack of punctuation.

    Why do people bother commenting on things if they are going to be so pathetic?

    Have any other clubs done something similar? It's a good way of trying to get people, especially kids, to go to matches - hopefully a lot of them will go again.

  • Comment number 13.

    I very much like this idea - although I would have mixed emotions about going to see this particular match, for reasons not unconnected to franchises...

    But will keep an ear out for next time this happens and will take a short journey down into Dagenham :c)

  • Comment number 14.

    #7 TyrantVer. Could you please provide a recent example of football racism in Turkey? I lived, worked, and followed football in Turkey for 9 years and I cannot ever remember any such problem. Not to their own players nor to opposition players from any other league in Europe. Ever.

    You clearly have some sort of anti-Turkish agenda judging by your posts on the Goodbye to Hell blog. I think it's ironic for you to be commenting 'against' racism.

    Back to the topic, I cannot see non-segregation working in top-level football as it spoils the banter in the crowd. It becomes too friendly and sucks out the passion, the tension, and the enjoyment!

  • Comment number 15.

    What's not to like? Cheap as chips (or should I say fries?), and in a good cause. It's great to see a club making an effort by dropping prices like this and I hope they do pick up some more support as a result.

    I've only been there the once and found it a real homely club, still with a Non-League feel about it (in a good way, plenty of banter, kids wandering around in safety etc etc) and enjoyed myself. There are many so-called 'bigger' clubs that could take a leaf out of the Daggers' book in my opinion. They have achieved quite astonishing success over the past few seasons without getting above themselves, they seem to be a real community club and I wish them well for the future.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    An interesting read. Thank you!

    Any attempt by any club at stamping out racism must be applauded, especially one that loses money at an already financially struggling club. I know it may lead to future growth but it is good to see both long-term vision and vision of the world outside football in the increasingly short-term insular world of football. I particularly admire Thompson's comment that "[p]eople have said to me that we do not have a racism problem at the club but I think that doing these campaigns makes some supporters aware of what they are doing in everyday life." I concur absolutely.

    The issue of non-segregation is one that also interests me. I often feel that segregation increases problems at football as it creates a "them and us" attitude, but the fact that there are problems at a low-key fixture like this where there is no rivalry proves that football fans can't cope with it unlike rugby and cricket fans. Mixed segregation works fine if the home side is winning but when things go awry, as they did in this case, it seems that football fans lack the maturity to behave in a reasonable manner.

  • Comment number 18.

    5. At 7:47pm on 25 Jan 2011, boomerang_shango wrote:
    Yawn... How boring is this subject. The world has gone mad.
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Please explain

  • Comment number 19.

    As a Dagger, I'm immensely proud of the club for their stance on anti-racism and the initiatives they are trying to increase our support. Being in the shadows of much bigger clubs is a hard place to be, as many clubs will be aware of, and anything to poach a few supporters here and there can only be a good thing.

    I was in the terrace on Saturday close to the main group of Dons fans and I must say the banter was excellent between the 2 sets of fans with both trying to outsold eachother. It was gutting when we conceded so late in the game but I don't think there was any real trouble and both sets of fans should be applauded for that.

    Paul, thank you for writing such a positive piece on us, I appreciate it. I just hope our support will increase as a result and a few kids will become Daggers where they might have been Hammers. You couldn't ask for a more friendly and local club to support.

  • Comment number 20.

    Morning all.

    I'll be honest with you, I did not realise it was non-segregation. When I pitched up on the terrace I immediately looked for the away section - I guess it is part of a football fans DNA. Only over a period of time did it dawn on me that it was a non-segregation fixture.

    I guess the point of this is that there was not an 'atmopshere' or suchlike that made it obvious both sets of fans were together.

    It was only when I heard noises from very different perspectives coming from the same area, followed by a brief visual inspection, that the penny finally dropped.

  • Comment number 21.

    Excellent initiative and well done Daggers.

    Shame it was against the franchise and their supermarket property development's lack of concern about Wimbledon's community.

  • Comment number 22.

    Paul,

    I guess the big question is did you enjoy and even prefer the experience of a non-segregated crowd?

    I often prefer the non-segregated atmosphere of two groups of jovial banter you get at the cricket to the vitriolic abuse frequently experienced at football. That could be because of the quantity of alcohol consumed at cricket but it's also because I enjoy the terrace humour more than the terrace noise you get. I credit the Ipswich fans yesterday for twice making me laugh with their "one nil to the rugby team" chant and rendition of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". It was a rare bit of creativity to the bland and vacuous chants you get at the Arsenal these days.

  • Comment number 23.

    Paul - as a (hopefully) neutral spectator, how did you see the game?

    We're seriously lacking a goalscorer which showed in the first half as we had the lions share of the game but no shots of note. Second period was a lot more even with Dons threatening. Through my biassed eyes, I thought a draw would have been a fair result although we edged it on points.

    Apologies as this blog is not about the game but more about the day but it's always good to get an outsiders view on things.

    P.s. Glad to see you enjoying the terrace and not the 'comfort' of a seat.

  • Comment number 24.

    A brave initative and perhaps something for other football league clubs to follow ? A good scheme which should get more people in the community to watch their local team.

    Sometimes I think that in some League 1 & 2 matches must have hardly any people paying on the gate, once you take out the season ticket and complementary tickets. I follow Villa but also my local team Cheltenham Town. Town's crowds are way down this season, a lot less than the 3,000 break even the board want. Perhaps this the way to go with occasional cut price matches to get new people watching the teams ?

    re segreation, again perhaps a good idea. By having away fans hived off perhaps it promotes the OTT aggresive behaviour in football ? As mentioned, rugby does not have these rules, and back in the day neither did footy. Obviously bigger teams it would be a no-no, but perhaps it could be tried elsewhere.

  • Comment number 25.

    Unfortunately #5 is someone who has created innumerable login's on the BBC website and spammed the Ashes blogs of Tom Fordyce with dozens of emails day after day. He basically takes the anti-line of everything for the sake of it.

    It is good to see teams like this taking the initiative to think of different ideas to increase their profile, and deal with an important subject at the same time, as well as trying to allow people with less money to be able to still come along and watch a match.

  • Comment number 26.

    Nice little article, did not know about any of this beforehand.

    Just a quick note about segregation to say that the lack of segregation can and does work even as high up as the Premier League.
    Fulham do not have any segregation, although they will reserve up to 3 blocks of the stand for away fans to buy up (depending upon the opposition) and then the rest of the stand is for anyone who wants a ticket, the remainder of the away allocation that is not taken up is made available to anyone who wants one. But there is no barrier, no stewards in between, and relatively little police presence before and after the game.

    In my 20+ years of attending Fulham, there has been no trouble in my memory apart from a pitch invasion after beating our nearest rivals Chelsea about 5 or 6 years ago.

    So it certainly can work, but in most cases it ill-advised to do so. I saw parts of the Blackpool Manchester United game and I imagine one of the biggest games of the season for the former, it struck me how there was such a huge empty part of the stand used to segregate the fans. I would think that the management at Bloomfield Road would be fairly annoyed at the lost revenue.

  • Comment number 27.

    Good on dagenham, its always a good thing to raise public awareness of issues such as racism, which is still at play in our society. Great PR for the club too, so good luck to them.

    Shame the segregation thing didn't work out, soccer is one of the very very few sports in which this happens due to obvious security problems. I don't think failure to create an atmosphere is sufficient reason to segregate fans, instead it causes an 'us v them' mentality between fans which provokes hostile behaviour. Its about breaking this mindset of fans in the firstplace, though that is easier said than done. I wouldn't be 'intergrating' Cardiff and Leeds fans together any time soon haha. Might be a while before fans can all sit together and enjoy football and a friendly rivalry without worrying about hooliganism.

  • Comment number 28.

    sportaddick64 - I'm not sure that they would say it did not work out. Yes, there was a verbal exchange at the end but I think they regard the non-segregation as a broad success, just not something that will happen every week.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm confused.

    99p games I like

    Anti-racism I like

    But what have hey got to do with each other? Does someone think that minorities are only going to come if the game is cheap or something?

    As for segregation, it's little to do with the clubs, the local police decide.

  • Comment number 30.

    Excellent idea and well done the Daggers for doing it, especially with how prevelant the BNP was in the area before the first fixture.

    I'm still undecided on the non-segregation idea but fair play to them for giving it a go.

  • Comment number 31.

    A big congratulations to the BBC - for publishing this 4 days AFTER the event took place !!!

  • Comment number 32.

    As a Watford fan, I really appreciate the financial difficulties that a small club like D&R have when they reduce ticket prices in the hope of increasing fans. We have many 'Family' days at WFC and let kid in for £1, this creates an even more family friendly atmosphere around the ground than is already there as you have parents taking advantage of the prices to take very young kids to the game so they can experience a live game.

    We have also had a few games were away fans have openly mixed with the home support (although there was designated 'home' and 'away' sections). I seem to remember watching WFC vs Chelsea in 06-07 season where I sat in the Lower Rous and had Chelsea fans sitting mixed with WFC fans, all proudly displaying their respective colours. This didn't cause any trouble and in fact lead to both home and away fans talking to each other in a civil manner on the way out of the ground. I seem to remember that WFC weren't victorious on that occasion and yet there was still no trouble.

    Another example of where both sets of fans can mix together without trouble is last season's FA Cup 3rd Round game between Chelsea & Watford (again!) where we were able to mix with Chelsea fans in pubs before the game and were allowed into the Chelsea Megastore (they have stewards on the entrance and exit of the shop) just to see what a big clubs shop is like and had plenty of light hearted banter with the Chelsea fans.

    Games like these show that non-segregation can work. It's just a few idiots that spoil it for the rest of us, so once we can kick those idiots out of the game, then we will all be able to enjoy the game without racism like our great grandfathers did back in the early 1900's.

  • Comment number 33.

    29. At 1:32pm on 26 Jan 2011, hackerjack wrote:
    I'm confused.

    99p games I like

    Anti-racism I like

    But what have hey got to do with each other? Does someone think that minorities are only going to come if the game is cheap or something?

    As for segregation, it's little to do with the clubs, the local police decide.
    ------------
    Dagenham has a higher proportion of ethnic minorities than most places in the UK however the demographics of the crowd show that a very small percentage of those attending are non-white. Making tickets so cheap may persuade some people, whatever their race or colour, to attend where they might not of done otherwise.

    It was not specifically a promotion because it was an anti-racism day but to combine that with an initiative to attract more fans of all types. Maybe if the ethnic minorities can see the club as being anti-racist, they may be more inclined to come more often.

  • Comment number 34.

    Nice comments Paul and some others towards a very nice and inclusive football club.
    I too was there on Saturday with my son and friends and found it a refreshing change to my usual matchday, (Spurs supporter).

    Firstly, on the non segregation. We were in the area of the terracing just by the half way line where the MK fans had congregated. I thought it was a fabulous atmosphere, and certainly not one of intimidation, just good banter. I must congratulate the MK fans on their behaviour, they were exemplary. The final couple of minutes saw a bit of "handbags", but that's all it was. Youngsters and a few plastic gangsters squaring up. But to be honest it was hardly worth mentioning, and I never felt the slightest concern for my sons safety even though we were yards from the "action".

    With regards to the reasons behind the day, I'd like to say that whatever the reason, whether it be to highlight a cause or just to entice more attendance, positives must be taken from it. Yes, the anti racism message gets accross, (and I agree entirely with Thompson's sentiments), but also you can't measure the effect it will have on future following. I have been to D&R a few times, and Saturday was by far the best atmosphere I've witnessed. My son is also a regular at Spurs, but in some ways he much prefers to go to D&R because I think he feels more a part of the experience.

    Well done Daggers, a win-win all round.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm sure that if someone actually made a few phonecalls and got a few clubs on board, the media would jump on the story and we could have a 99p or £1.99 anti-racism day accross the whole football league before the season ends.

    I've no doubt many clubs would be against the idea; but being shamed into something because the majority is in favour works 9 times out of 10; attendance records could be broken, new fans could be made, but most importantly, football could genuinely claim to care about getting a message accross to as wide a range of people as possible, that racism isn't an acceptable part of life.

  • Comment number 36.

    not much to say on the subject tho i don't think that football is the kind of sport where non-segragation can happen.

    However, I just fancied putting forward that I went to Dundee FC's Dens Park last Saturday and they were asking £3.30 for a pie!!!

    Is it just me or is that compelete robbery.

  • Comment number 37.

    PC brigade are out in force. Free speech but only when the lefty liberals agree... And we wonder why our country is in a state.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hey, 37, we let you have your say, we're just telling you how stupid it was.

  • Comment number 39.

    Good article Paul. Great initiative by Dagenham given the problems they have had in their local politics. It would be nice to see clubs like Burnley, Bradford and Millwall taking similar initiatives given the history of problems in their areas/clubs.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    #37.... why not tell us why you think it was boring? Looking at your previous posts it would appear that you are an internet troll just trying to get a reaction and we were all daft enough to fall for it. BRAVO!

    One of the reasons our country is in a state is due to mindless morons trying to get a reaction from behind a keyboard and stirring up trouble where none should exist.

  • Comment number 42.

    #37 is someone known where I'm from as an Internet Gangster.

    Anyway well done the Daggers, if only more local teams could come up with such ideas.

  • Comment number 43.

    Yeah lad x

  • Comment number 44.

    Yeah right love! Sorry wrong blog. Richard Keys (now booking as an after dinner speaker).

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    As a Dagger myself I was in the pack of Dagenham fans involved in the chanting (not the handbags though I might add!). I feel though the handbags were more as a result of when MK scored and how, with us Daggers left feeling very aggrieved at getting nothing from the game.
    On the racism subject I agree completely with Cheese and Biscuits on the cultural makeup of the local area and demographics of those in general attendance at the club.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    That's an amazing price for a game - puts the price of my Manchester City season ticket into perspective!

    The lower league clubs need to do all they can to bring people into the grounds, and this sounds like a great initiative, even if it's unlikely to be too much of a regular thing.

    Great post as always Paul - would love to know what you think of the Premier League infographic we posted recently, a comment would be greatly appreciated!

    http://www.designbysoap.co.uk/premier-league-statistics-for-the-season-so-far-infographic/

    Thanks Paul

  • Comment number 49.

    Living away from London right now has made me pine for home when I find articles like these that give us a bit of spotlight for once.

    Although it is a well publicised issue in the area anyway, so if it had to happen, it would have been there, I feel proud my club have at least seized the inititative.

 

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