Short Changed? Why Do You Need An Autograph?


AUTHOR: – Bricki

Manchester United have played to full houses again on their tour of the USA and the players look fresh and sharp as they go through the usual tough pre season.

Just like any other tour that a Premier League team undertakes, the players have been interacting with the fans and sponsors to show a positive face of what is now a global giant of a club.

It appears some fans in England though are none too pleased about this and are feeling short changed about the ‘access’ that the club allows players on these tours.

Do these people have a point when it comes to player access?

When I was a child I used to stand outside the car park at Old Trafford and waited to catch a glimpse of the players as they arrived to either play or watch the game. It gave a child a thrill to see an Andy Cole, Ryan Giggs or Roy Keane go past and to cheer them up close so they could hear you.

Being lucky enough to live and play football in Greater Manchester meant that at presentation nights we would always get a United or City player to turn up, giving out trophies to excited kids. Even as a coach of a junior team I had the honour of facing Denis Irwin as opposition coach. I say it was an ‘honour’ but losing 10-0 didn’t feel such an honour afterwards…

The point i’m making is that as a child I loved being able to get close to the players who I saw as idols and stars. Yet as I’ve gotten older its not really had the same impact on me when these players have been up close and personal.

Today as a man in his mid to late 20s my feelings towards the footballers themselves have changed. I enjoy writing about the game, the details of the player development, how a team or player is performing or offering comment on the latest high profile story.

I would love to sit down with a player and get his opinions or thoughts but only in a writer’s sense. I no longer feel the urge to have to meet players at events, ask for an autograph or have my photo taken with the trophies we win.

It’s with frustration then I keep seeing complaints that the fans in America or wherever else the team tours gets access to the team that we don’t get here. Whilst on the current tour the team has been signing autographs and fans have had an opportunity to have their picture taken with the Premier League Trophy. On a tour that is designed to give the players the best conditions for pre season as well as spread the name of Manchester United as a club this is totally understandable and expected. The fans on this tour may only get to see the team on this one occasion for the next 5 years so to allow them a signature or a picture is surely a small thing for a fan that doesn’t get much else.

One argument given is that the players don’t stop outside the training ground and sign autographs for kids who wait there. Signing an autograph for a child is something I’ve seen most players do outside Old Trafford; however it is the grown men stood there with pictures, shirts and other memorabilia that cause the issue.

The vast majority of this memorabilia ends up being sold for profit or being placed on EBay. Is it any wonder then that the players are discouraged from spending large amounts of time signing all these pictures just for someone else to make money out of it?

Last season before the United and Spurs game at Old Trafford, I was passing the hotel the Spurs team stays at on the Friday night after I finished work. The team coach was pulling up and the players getting off one by one. A small crowd had gathered but at the front were two men who must have been in their 40s at least. One of the men had 50+ pictures of Gareth Bale on small pieces of card, which were then thrust in his face as he gets off the bus. The man expected Bale to stand there and sign each and every one of these identical pictures. It took Harry Redknapp pulling Bale away to stop him signing all these pictures for the man, yet it was obvious this was not a personal memento of meeting his ‘idol’.

The clubs provide functions and venues for the younger fans to get to meet players and get autographs or photos but it needs to be remembered that during a busy league and European campaign, chances for these events are limited already.

On a pre season tour the players will naturally be more relaxed and have more time to interact with fans, this is something the club can use to help Manchester United be viewed positively in other areas of the World.

If as an adult you are finding an issue with the fact that players don’t stop to sign piece after piece of memorabilia for you then it may need you looking closer to home as to why you are stood there rather then why they won’t do it.

If a fan wants memorabilia then there is a time and place to get it, gathering outside a training ground with piece after piece of ‘tat’ to sign is not the best way to go about it.

In my own view I don’t need a signature of a player or a shirt to remind me of the good times I’ve experienced with my club. I think of the moments I’ve had with other fans in the stands, pubs or on the street as we celebrate, not some shirt with a faded signature hanging on a wall or a rushed picture with a player as he leaves the ground/training.

It’s interesting to note that after winning the league the Trophy was on display in the Nike shop on Market St in Manchester, free of charge to go and see. I wonder if the people complaining took a chance there to go and see it?

If you want to collect that sort of thing then go ahead but to lambast the club and players for spreading the name of Manchester United is self defeating. If the club can bring in new fans with these trips and show what the club is about, then they can increase the revenues of the club and make it more likely that we get that Sneijder/Modric type player who you can then see playing every week and for the ones who get to games, see him in the flesh.

If you actually want your pound of flesh from the players in an autograph then you might have your priorities wrong because I would rather he spent his time resting up or training, not signing a card for you

AUTHOR: – Bricki

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11 Responses to “Short Changed? Why Do You Need An Autograph?”

  1. TheMancunianRed says:

    I do think that when Fergie stopped the bus to allow the kids on it was for positive publicity after the TV Dispatches programme on Channel 4.

    Unfortunately United for getting on for a decade and a half may be longer have looked to the global market rather than its home market especially Manchester to promote themselves.

    Moreover Fergie is now so secure in his position he knows he can do whatever he wants. At one time the MEN and local reporters would be given scoops to curry favour in return for positive publicity. Fergie has not done this for a long time citing the poll they did when he sold Ince Kanchelskis and Hughes and asking should Fergie go.

    An anti Glazer demonstrator was greeted by a declaration from Fergie he should go and support Chelsea if he doesn’t like it.

    I think this is critical because there isn’t anyone from the club saying that the players should respect and treat local fans or match going fans in a set way. We are seen as people who pay to watch them play and that is it.

    TBH I have no interest in autographs and haven’t for well over 30 years but as a kid I used to get them and players used to feel it was part and parcel of their job.

    The modern day millionaire footballer with the outlook of selling anything they can for money is a product of our economic development. I don’t like it but do expect it to be slightly less so when a new manager comes in and he will have to build bridges and contacts and may do so by letting people speak to him and his players more readily.

    Whether this will mean autographs are easier to obtain and how much a club can now interfere or wants to interfere is questionable.

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  2. TheMancunianRed says:

    Just in terms of whether fans have a right to get autographs and some contact with players I say a resounding yes! The reason we love football and spend so much time energy and money on it isn’t just to watch it. We want to feel a part of the club we want that association and autographs mean we have that especially for the young. A player has taken the time to give you his signature and you asked him for it so he did something you asked him to do.

    For some that may be meaningless to others its a life long connection and for a youngster it is important. Youngsters will always be critical to the game they give us the youthful enthusiasm, the excitement and this transfers to the older generation such as myself.

    Footbasll isn’t based on rational behaviour but raw emotion and personal contact breeds that being treated unfairly breaks that.

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  3. Bricki says:

    i agree that interaction between fans and players is important definitely, however i do think there is a time and a place for it. Camping outside the training ground is not really the best idea and doesn’t really set up a genuine opportunity for interaction.

    The club would do very well to try and organise meet and greets over the season or something in a better environment for both sides. approaching players in bars, restuarants and on the street presents lots of risk in what is a different society than 20/30 years ago based around money/fame more and more

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  4. TheMancunianRed says:

    Comment by Bricki — July 25, 2011 @ 6:12 am

    I do think you are looking at it more from a players perspective than a young fan. And I’m not knocking that but for me just watching the excitement and jubilation of getting a player to do something they want is a wonderful experience. It doesn’t matter if its an expensive autograph book or their book or a bit of tatt it is that personal contact with their hero.

    Even if they don’t want to sign something spending a few seconds just chatting to a few fans here and there.

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  5. Bricki says:

    i think players should go above and beyond for the younger fans. i think most players would if approached by a young fan in the street, this is probably where the club should do more for young fans. i know they do the hospital visits etc but there doesnt seem to be as big a kids club like they used to have.

    Its more the money grabbing adults approach that has reduced the opportunity for the younger fans that frustrates me.

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  6. TheMancunianRed says:

    Comment by Bricki — July 25, 2011 @ 6:37 am

    Agreed I have no time for money grabbing adults as they spoil it for everyone.

    But contact with players at a young age can stay with with for life and help create that life long bond as well as make you feel 10ft tall at the time.

    I can understand the anger when United are seen to be so approachable on tour yet for the home fans they are often treated for granted it must hurt.

    I bet their were plenty of mums and dads and kids who saw that coach stop and Fergie and the players get memorabilia and autographs and say why cannot our children get treated like that.

    I know its a publicity stunt but if it backfires who is to blame? We aren’t all going to say isn’t that great.

    To be fair and I hate to say this but City have had better contact over the years with their young fans drilling it in to players this is critical and they haven’t put as much emphasis on the global side of the game, no doubt this is changing though.

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  7. Bricki says:

    100% it will be changing but you can see why.

    We have lost the balance between the home grown and the foreign fans. i do think its something they will definitely need to address now City are a viable ‘option’ for kids now. We’ve had a generation of one team in manchester and that is well and truly over so the club needs to address how they keep the young fans and fill Old Trafford in future.

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  8. TheMancunianRed says:

    Comment by Bricki — July 25, 2011 @ 6:52 am

    good chat original article well done!

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  9. Philip Gatt says:

    Excellent thoughts and a well written article.

    I used to take my brothers to watch games in Malta and they used to love getting autographs of international players they met (Suker, Keith Gillespie, Ketsbaia, Robbie Keane to name a few). I was just happy to see their faces while also having a quick chat with most of the players.

    I also remember talking to Martin Ferguson, who said that United tell all players to never say no to an autograph, especially if it was a kid asking, and how Cantona was the best player at the club for it.

    Those were different times though, when people used to hunt autographs just for a keepsake rather than to make profit from them.

    Personally, I’m happy to see the players close by, as I was when sitting at Rosso restaurant after Blackpool game and Van Der Sar was sitting there with his family. My brother was ecstatic to get his autograph, I was excited by the fact that a United player was sitting just a few tables away from us enjoying himself, with a Premier league medal around his neck (actually, his daughter was wearing it for most of the evening).

    Well done on a very good post, and keep up the good work.

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  10. M14UF says:

    I for one have seen my boy for the last 4 years get into OT as the turnstile in the Family Stand opens just so he can get down to the tunnel with his pen and his program to collect autographs. He has seen all mine on photos, shirts and programs from when I was a lad and he wants his own!

    For 4 years (aged 7-11) the only Utd autograph he has is SAF. He has loads from visiting teams but not one from any Utd player! It frustrates me so much to see him try each week knowing full well he will get blanked each time!

    He even brought it up the other morning watching MUTV how the players are signing everything put in front of them in America! It’s certainly not been lost on him!

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  11. Parky says:

    There is also a yesterday and today perspective with autographs. In the 1940′s, 1950′s etc the only way for many to ‘connect’ with their clubs was via the matchday programme and obtaining an autograph. There was no TV, no radio phone-ins, no internet blogs, no official website, no MUTV player interviews and special documentaries…you get the gist. As a consequence, fans of all ages would collect autographs as souvenirs. In today’s world with so much visual access to players and information the modern fan rarely needs to collect autographs except for young kids and profiteers. But what about the supporter who has been collecting autographs for decades? What about the memorabilia collector who has every players autograph since the 1930′s…who has spent most of their life collecting Manchester United memorabilia? Do they just stop? Why is it that adults are labelled negatively when requesting an autograph? I would suggest that every supporter has the right to enjoy supporting the club in whichever way they choose, without condescension from other fans (as long as it is morally and ethically appropriate of course). The easy solution would be for players to dedicate a % of time to signing autographs and then the club sell them over the internet of via the megastore. The funds could go to charity and everyone wins. Kids can get them, adults can get them, the profiteers would be unable to make money because the supply would be continual…and any sensitive supporter who gets upset by watching people ask for them doesn’t have to worry either.

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