It was a bit unfair of some Blades fans to ridicule and goad the Coventry City fans’ protests last Thursday.
Football supporters of all but the biggest clubs must always remember the saying “There but for the grace of God go I.”
So many clubs have been ruined by absentee or speculative owners, often from overseas but just as often they are home-grown property marketeers who know the price of something but not its value. When the haphazard but traditional city centre Highfield Road ground was sold, Coventry fans were told it would bring the club a wonderful new stadium and bags of money. They got neither.
The bags of money the fans were promised went on paying off debts and buying and paying vastly overpriced players. It resulted in inevitable relegation (twice) and a plunge towards oblivion, via Northampton. Just how on earth a hedge fund benefits from owing a struggling football club is beyond my comprehension, and probably beyond the comprehension of better financial minds than mine.
When BIFA was protesting against Reg Brealey’s ownership of the Blades in the mid 1990s we made a vow never to deliberately disrupt a match, restricting protests and demonstrations to the minutes immediately before kick-off, and to outside the ground. But however much we wanted rid of Reg, it was small fry compared with the goings on at Coventry, Charlton, Blackpool and many other clubs. It just shows how desperate these fans are to save their clubs in the face of what from the outside appear to be faceless, uncaring, money-grabbing owners.
Would Blades fans do the same in similar circumstances? Hopefully we will never find out, and whatever you think about the McCabe family, they are benevolent benefactors when compared with some. There are two morals to be learned from the straits of Coventry City: never sell your ground and be careful what you wish for.