Going to Stoke matches is an important part of my life. Like all fans I have firm views on all aspects of the club, especially on the team, transfer policy, management and tactics.
There will be football supporters across the land reading this, recognising like me, the critical part they play in the fabric of their club. To you, a question: does your club consult you on transfer policy, wage or bonus structure for the players, team selection and hiring on the manager? Thought not.
No business exists without customers and in the pub trade we have the biggest consumer group in Europe, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). I am a member myself and applaud their passion.
To some they are seen as the “experts” in brewing beer and running pubs, when in reality they do neither.
In the aftermath of the historic vote to break the beer tie it became clear the role CAMRA played in influencing MPs. The voice of the beer drinker spoke to give Government unprecedented control over the running of a sector that employs one million people and pays billions a year in taxes.
Democracy in action, say some. Cheap beer for all, they claim.
But before we get too carried away, let’s reflect on previous CAMRA interventions into pubs.
I was Nottingham’s freetrade rep for Bass in 1989, the year CAMRA successfully lobbied for the now universally maligned Beer Orders. Local brewers in the city at that time celebrated what they thought would be a new era. Home Ales, Mansfield Brewery, Shipstones and Kimberley Ales were their names. Remember them?
A decade later CAMRA leadership reflected they had been “naïve” as they saw the unintended consequences of their actions unfold before their eyes.
CAMRA had also predicted a new dawn for pubs in the aftermath of the smoking ban. The one million non-pubgoers would be attracted back. Result? Thousands of pubs shut as drinking habits changed to in-home consumption as supermarkets saw an opportunity to drive footfall with cheap prices.
So, what of the vote? Will it be third time lucky for CAMRA as we face a new dawn for pubs across the UK?
For pub customers and the one million pub employees I hope so. But if CAMRA are right then Government economists, British real ale brewers of all sizes, property experts, pub investors and industry pundits will all be wrong.
History will ultimately be the judge but if they’ve got it wrong on pubs again, at least St Albans may be kept busy on another campaign in a few years’ time.
Look out for me at Anfield on Saturday for Liverpool v Stoke City, though not in the dug out.
Andy Slee is external affairs and central operations director at Punch Taverns