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

Political Footballs

Published in the Ryman Premier League match v Windsor and Eton 17th April 2006

What's football got to do with politics?

Quite a lot when it comes to Slough Town, where the end of season safe from relegation feeling has been given a bit more of a buzz with the Bravo cameras and the announcement that the Supporters Trust are fielding five candidates in the coming local elections.

Politics is certainly what the leader of the Council Richard Stokes was playing when he announced that hopes of Slough going back to the former Dolphin site had been dashed, because Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had granted planning permission for five retail outlets there instead. Apparently some fans had contacted him about going back to a ground we last played 25 years ago and whose land value alone would be well out of the clubs reach. But this was a complete non-story, like announcing that the Windsor swans haven't yet got bird flu or that people buy more things at Christmas. But this is the sort of politics Stokes does best. He did the same thing when he threw out the Britwell proposals, handing out a sheet out of paper to everyone announcing amongst other things just how many OAPS would lose their home help if the football club instead got the cash; not that the club was ever asking for money from the council, but like the Dolphin story a good way of mudding the waters and misleading the public.

In an ideal world football clubs should be in the middle of towns, but no one I know has ever mentioned the old Dolphin stadium as a serious alternative to going back to Slough. What Stokes was doing was a bit of pre-electioneering, on the back of the announcement that the Supporters Trust were standing five candidates in the election, and the stir that the Bravo TV cameras caused. The Supporters Trust know they won't win their seats they are contesting - they even say so on their election leaflets! But what they will do is raise the issue again - why the hell in a town like Slough are the club in exile? Charlton fans used this same election ploy to get a return to the Valley, and Brentford even have a councillor and thanks to that a much more supportive council.

Raising the issue was certainty what our manager-for-a-week did in his interview with Star FM. I know it raised a few hackles, but when I walked off the train and into the newsagents to hear Star FM announcing the game on its regular bulletins I felt it was worth it. And while the Bravo programme will no doubt be a chance for TV programmers to have another pop at the town, it put us back into the spotlight.

True, fans didn't come flooding to the game, but Stokes and other politicians will be on the backfoot and have to come out with more weasel words to pretend they are doing something. Manager Eddie Denton got it spot on about Bravo when he said "I have got one motivation and that's to highlight the fact that Slough Town are not playing in Slough. If we can get some more exposure that's what I'm after."

Bravo and fighting the election are publicity stunts, just like the Walsall red card protest was, with the intention of influencing the political mood in the borough in the build up to an election. As one of the candidates Chris Silski put it "Since the public announcement that we would be running candidates we have already seen Cllr Stokes suddenly raise the issue of the football club again. He hasn't mentioned us for at least a year - so we have already had some impact."

Now it's up to Slough supporters to lend a hand delivering leaflets through peoples door and asking their candidates where they stand on the issue of getting the club back home.