These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More Mascots Please

Published in the programme Slough v Staines Town Ryman Premier 11th October 2005

It’s not rocket science, but sometimes it’s worth pointing out the bleedin’ obvious: for most football clubs to thrive and prosper they have to be part of their community. While we have one hand seriously tied behind our back by not playing in Slough, there’s plenty the club and the fans can do to get more people through the turnstiles.

After disappointing crowds at the beginning of the season and complaints about no atmosphere (I won’t bore everyone with the ‘covered ends behind the goals please’ argument) the Oxford City FA Cup game was a great example of when the club got it right.

We had the Slough Juniors sponsored by the Trust in their snazzy Rebel kits, and staff from Barclays as guests who had sponsored the game.

But best for me, one of my nephews, Tyler was mascot for the day.

This meant that ten members of my family (eleven if you count the three month old baby in my girlfriend's belly) came to the game, including my dad who hasn’t been to a football match since he took me to my first ever game – Slough Youth v Liverpool Youth in the seventies when eight thousand somehow squeezed into Wexham Park.

He hates crowds which is probably why he drinks in the Alpha Arms, small enough to be your living room (and, well, it is his living room quite a lot of the time). I told him not to worry, that overcrowding hasn’t really been a problem this season.

My brother’s wife was worried about their four year running round, but we persuaded her to come along, pointing out that a pack of small children running up and down behind the goal was obligatory. Now he wants to be a mascot, and told my mum proudly “I know I’m only little, but I went to a football match.”

For £50 Tyler got free entrance, a Slough top, and three others got in free (although my cousin Mark did complain that the £50 he had to hand over on the gate for sponsoring Tyler wasn’t exactly getting in free for him!)

My brother paid for everyone else - £30 which he said was well cheap, compared to the four Fulham season tickets he has for him and three of his sons.

Even though he looked a bit shell shocked Tyler loved it and wants to do it again, and for his birthday will be getting the DVD of the game with his name being announced and him shaking hands with the captins and the officials. Four of us could have drunk in the directors bar afterwards, but that would have been a bit unfair, on the rest of the family waiting outside!

There should be a mascot for every game. One Rebel came up with the great idea of having a lucky dip draw at schools where the winner gets to be the mascot. We wouldn’t get the £50 but we’d get more people through the gate, people who wouldn’t normally come.

Slough is just another small community club which relies on its supporters to do a lot of the work themselves, but we should all help to sell its strengths. One mate who is a season ticket holder at Reading and comes to our bigger games, brings his two young daughters but would never take them to Reading. He told me “there was a lot to be said for non league football”.

To be fair a lot of our supporters do put a lot of voluntary hours keeping the club and the trust going, but if we want to see bigger crowds then we all have to do our bit. The least we can do is take a few posters of forthcoming matches and stick them up in our local pubs and shops. I’d also say to join the Trust. Then have a think about that football mad young relative who swears allegiance to a premiership club but probably would love to run out on any football pitch in front of a crowd. You could also take the more drastic of increasing our gates, by doing like I have, and getting your girlfriends and wives pregnant!