News & Star column 18.03.21

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It is now a year ago since football felt the first devastating effects of the Covid pandemic.

And if there is one thing we have learned in that time it is that supporters are crucial to the spectacle and survival of the game.

Despite not being able to attend games and suffering the consequences of a global recession fans have consistently backed their clubs throughout the crisis – both financially and otherwise.

At Carlisle many season ticket holders didn’t seek refunds while fans have enthusiastically logged into iFollow to watch the Blues in action.

It has earned United income of around £225,000 from the first 30 games, peaking when 1798 watched the away match at Harrogate.

But physical absence of supporters has been keenly felt, not just at Carlisle, but by everybody within the game.

That’s why it is important that fans are given a voice in future reforms to the structure of the game. Ultimately, they will determine whether any new proposals succeed or not.

In recent weeks the prospect of a European Super League has raised its head again. However, it appears the most likely outcome is an expanded UEFA Champions League, possibly with some elite clubs qualifying regardless of where they finish in the table.

It matters to Carlisle because what it means is the rich will get richer and, down the scale, there will be less money to go around.

The Football Supporters Association, of which CUOSC is a member, is rallying against these changes and wants to see ‘meaningful reform’ instead. They believe domestic football should come first and that the ‘pyramid’ and cup competitions should be protected.

This is a principle that is backed by supporters groups in 16 nations throughout Europe. For all our sakes let’s hope they are listened to.

There was plenty to be positive about as the Blues continued to put their recent poor run behind them to gain a hard-earned point at Mansfield in midweek.

Striker Ozzy Zanzala underlined his credentials as a goal poacher by grabbing his fourth goal in three games in the 1-1 draw. Despite a slow start to his time at Brunton Park it looks like he could turn into real fans favourite – when we are eventually allowed back in.

Next up is a trip to Stevenage on Saturday. A good result there and fans will be looking closely at the League Two play-off places once again.