These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Danger Everywhere

Published in the Ryman Premier league match v Fisher Athletic 11th March 2006

I was really looking forward to the Chelmsford game, a football club that has finally gone back to its hometown after eight years away, giving us homeless rebels something to hang onto. But what a disappointment. Terrible performance, freezing cold (which obviously weren’t Chelmsford’s fault) and the most officious stewards I’ve come across for a long time.

Chelmsford have moved into the council athletics stadium, one of their last options - so what to do? Their gates have been impressive. Three thousand plus for their first game back home against Billericay, and even as gates have fallen there are still twice as many going as when they were groundsharing. With such a big fanbase, along with the bar and café takings coming into the coffers, I expect them making a serious challenge for the Conference South next season.

But one of the reasons I enjoy non league footie is its laid back attitude. Not that any of this was in evidence at Chelmsford. Why did grumpy bouncers have to search my bag on the way in? They said it was because if I had a plastic bottle they would take the top to stop me throwing it on the pitch. They had bouncers with earpieces guarding the clubhouse, and when I tried to take some chips into the clubhouse I was told I couldn’t even tho it was freezing outside. When I went to get my beer to wash down the chips outside I was told that was also not allowed.

I was told that’d had problems with kids causing trouble, and the taxi driver told us the area was known locally as the Bronx - but you don’t make everyone feel like criminals and instead why not keep an eye on the kids? Not that the stewards did anything about the clowns on the balcony shouting foul and abusive language towards our players when they left the pitch.

I know the council are breathing down their necks but they need to sort out their stewards’ attitude. One Chelmsford fan told me he was he was told not to sell Chelmsford raffle tickets in the director’s bar because he was wearing jeans! And directors drinking beer on the balcony were told to stop by a council official.

Unlike the bunch of jokers that run Slough Council, Chelmsford’s councillors have been really supportive, with an interest free loan of £200,000, spending over £1 million on the grandstand and £160,000 on the pitch. The club also received £150,000 from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.

But the problem with council health and safety officers is they’ve lost all reasoning. One of my mates I used to live with became one, and sees danger everywhere. I took her to see Slough play Leyton Wingate a few seasons back and she was commenting on the unsafe terracing, unsafe posts - I half hoped a ball would fly into her face! One of the problems is that Councils are scared stiff of being sued, and what about that sign as you enter the Queensmere that told me ‘Danger Stairs’, as if people had never come across stairs.

I’m not against health and safety, but in the hands of the officious it spirals out of control. My mate Simon Jones was killed at work, sent to Shoreham docks, to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the country without any health and safety training. Within five minutes at work he was decapitated by a crane. In a campaign of direct action that temporarily closed down the port, the temp agency that sent him to his death, the Health and Safety executive, and the Crown Prosecution Service we found evidence that if a safety mechanism had been in place he would have lived. Except putting this in place costs £50 a go. Thanks to our campaign we eventually got the boss in court hoping he would get sent down for corporate manslaughter. Instead he was given just a £50,000 fine.

So while the world of work has been deregulated and you can kill someone at work and get away with a fine, eating chips in a bar – oh no; thinking of garrotting someone with that dangerous plastic bottle, well watch out.

As for Chelmsford, all our complaints to their officials just got them all defensive. But if they want to put their head in a bucket of sand and not listen to the concerns, well that’s their problem. I feel sorry for Chelmsford, met a few decent fans, and well done on getting back to your home town, but PLEASE let's not have a running pitch around the pitch or let the council have a stake in our ground. I go to non league football to enjoy myself, not be bossed around with ridiculous rules.

* Simon Jones Memorial Campaign http://www.simonjones.org.uk/

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