Pre-season Friendly – 23rd July 2011
Question: Which League One Club can afford to sell their rights of match day photography for such a large amount they can afford a helipad, yet not justify making enamel badges of their new crest?
If you answered “Oldham Athletic”, then you’d be correct (and smart, because this post is about Boundary Park).
The game arose because I was desperate for some football. I sawplay against Connah’s Quay Nomads over two weeks before, so was due a game. Seeing Blackpool had been a small ambition of mine since their amazing first season in the Premier League, so finding out they were playing Oldham – a bus ride from my front door – I thought it was a good way to spend an afternoon.
I arrived in Oldham relatively early, and had a look around the vicinity of the ground. It’s hard to believe that Oldham used to be a Premier League side. Located in the north east of the town, it’s not the greatest ground in terms of access, but that’s what makes it beautiful. One thing that does has great access is the helipad next to the ground. I say helipad, it is instead a field behind one of the stands which is a field. But it was a designated area for landing a helicopter. One can hope that should Chelsea play against Oldham, that his helicopter will land on that field, in the style of the old ITV Game Show Interceptor.
After a couple of drinks in the Brewers Fayre pub near the ground, I headed up to purchase my usual purchase at a new ground – a badge. Unfortunately, the club has decided not to release badges with the new crest, registering the new logo (a terrifying looking owl) for use “only on hats, scarves and shirts”. A plucky fan has picked up on this loophole, and is getting unofficial crest badges made. With an exchange of an email address, I headed to the ground.
I liked Boundary Park. I was sat in the main stand (which was £10 – bargain!), and the ground had character. The newest stands appeared to be the home and away stands, with the more traditional fold down seats you see at football matches. The home stand seats looked a lot older, and and was a little cramped. However, as it was a glorious day, I didn’t mind, as opposite was some makeshift terracing that was empty bar a corporate box and a rickety camera tower. Above that you got a glorious view over some suburban Oldham and countryside.
Blackpool got the game kicked off on the hour, and dominated the early posession, however when Oldham finally got a touch of the ball on the third minute, they pressed forward in numbers and took an early (if slightly surprising) lead on the third minute when Matt Smith headed in from within the six yard box from a brilliant cross from the left wing by Paul Black. Oldham pressured for most of the half, with Blackpool resulting in a switch ball to the right wing (which never worked) as their main focus of the attack. They also did some decidedly unfriendly tackling, which incensed Paul Dickov who made Blackpool’s manager Ian Holloway seem as threatening as Mort Greenwald from Family Guy. At the half time break, it was 1-0 to the League 1 side.
I moved seats in the second half to where Blackpool were attacking, but moved again on the 70th minute (more on that later) when Oldham made wholesale changes to their side. It worked, as 4 minutes later Carl Winchester broke free from the midfield and was fouled on the edge of the box. David Mellor took the free kick and it rifled past the Blackpool keeper. Blackpool pulled back a goal seven minutes from time when Billy Clarke scored from inside the area to give the travelling contingent of 300 or so Blackpool Fans something to cheer about. After minimum injury time, Oldham run out the deserved winners, winning 2 – 1.
The game was soured on the aforementioned 70 minute mark. A steward came over and shouted “Oi! You can’t take photos, it’s illegal!”. I wasn’t in the mood for fighting, but did stand by ground briefly. “Illegal?” I answered back. “Yes!”, he replied, “Illegal! Football Rights Society have the rights and have sold it to all the people taking photos here except yourself! You have stolen from them and you have stolen from the club!”.
I may have paraphrased the last sentence, but it was something like that. Either way, I wasn’t particularly in the mood for fighting, so I put my camera away, and then moved seat when the wholesale changes took place. I wasn’t happy, because I didn’t know it was illegal. There’s something in the ground regulations which does state it though:-
16 No person (other than a person who holds an appropriate licence) may bring into the Ground or use within the Ground any equipment, which is capable of recording or transmitting (by digital or other means) any audio, visual or audio-visual material or any information or data in relation to the Match or the Ground. Copyright in any unauthorised recording or transmission is assigned (by way of present assignment of future copyright pursuant to section 91 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) to the Club.
I imagine most football clubs have this, but as somebody who has seen nearly 200 football matches, from International & Champions League Matches down to North West Counties Leagues, I’ve never ever been asked to stop taking photos. I didn’t expect it at Oldham. Not Oldham, and not in a friendly.
It’s crap, because it strikes me as counter-productive for many football clubs, who struggle to get people in through the door, to give a fan a reason not to go back is foolish. Also, for such a silly reason too! It was a small camera, not a massive SLR.
Anyway, I will put it down to a plain jobsworth steward, not the policy of the whole club (I had snapped plenty of photos in the first half with the steward a row behind me). The rest of the staff of the club as well as the fans were great. Just the day was soured by somebody who was a completely over-reactive to what I was doing.