Premier League clubs give a harsh education to young fans

Since English Premier League clubs love their fans so much, and, like Whitney Houston, believe the children are our future, when kids write sweet letters to them, they reply, right? Probably throw in a few signed photos, some money-off coupons, to cement relations with fans who’re going to spend money on the club when they’re older, creating life-long supporters.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. A bunch of little people just tried this, and only seven clubs replied. And one of those replies was a generic response, so really, the success rate was 30%.

The project’s genesis was a letter from 10-year-old Owen Agar to his team, Arsenal, as part of a school English project. When they replied – and Arsenal have a reputation for being excellent at this kind of stuff – his entire class at their school near Middlesbrough got in on the scheme.

So they wrote to all 20 clubs, posing these burning questions: “What is the best thing about your manager? Which team are your main rivals? What game has been your favorite recently? What games are you looking forward to?”

Aw, cute, bless their little pen-pal hearts, etc.

But not so fast. These kids are sneaky. They created a fake identity to dupe these poor, innocent soccer clubs into wasting time and money on crafting a reply to their inane questions. No wonder so many didn’t reply. Perhaps they saw this for what it was – a cynical trap. A bid to eat into their transfer budgets by costing them a fortune in stamps.

“The children wrote to all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs with exactly the same letter as an experiment to see how well football clubs treat their young fans,” teacher Rachel Wills told the Middlesbrough Gazette.

“We made a fictitious character – Sam Fisher-McCoy – who could be male or female. Of all 20 Premier League clubs we wrote to, only Liverpool, West Ham United, Burnley, Stoke City, Southampton, Arsenal and Everton replied.”

As the article recounts, Stoke’s letter was kind and enthusiastic and perfectly-pitched for a ten-year-old audience. Liverpool’s letter was slightly less personal:

“Thank you for your recent letter to Liverpool Football Club.

“In an effort to improve and modernize our service to fans, we moved our supporter communications to an online system from the start of the 2013-14 Premier League season.

“If you would like to write to a Liverpool [player] or contact the fan mail team, please use our online form on the LFC website… You’ll never walk alone.”

No, you’ll never walk alone – as long as you use email.

Mrs. Wills reaches a sadly predictable conclusion: “Our class found out that generally, with the exception of Arsenal, the richer the club, the worse their replies. Out of all the clubs, Stoke and Burnley sent the most personal responses and we were impressed with them.”

All in all, great project. The kids now know the disappointment of waiting a long time for something exciting that will probably never arrive and have experienced the feeling of being badly let down by their club: a perfect education for the life of a soccer fan. Well done everyone.

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