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

Supermarket Sweep

Published in the Ryman Premier League match v Redbridge 6th September 2005

I know I was day dreaming but had I really got off at the wrong station? In front of me, in all its ugliness was Terminal Five. Oh hang on, this was the brand new Tescos super store. A giant lego box dominating the landscape compelling us to shop till we dropped.

I'll level with you - I hate supermarkets. Especially Tesco's. Especially this one. Years ago when I was involved in Slough Urban Wildlife Group we tried to meet with Tescos when they decided to move in and demolish the old Licensed Victuallers School. We wanted to see what trees we could save, including the impressive old cedar tree. They ignored us. Sound familiar? Then the Slough Express did a front page saying Tescos were running scared and they decided it was bad PR and invited us to their non descript HQ to listen to drivel and stare at hundreds of photos of idenkit Tescos across the country. I was not impressed, but we managed to save some of the trees.

Years ago Slough Station and the surrounding area must have been impressive. Not any more. The station is run down with hundreds of train guards ready to pounce if you haven't got a ticket, but massive queues if you want to buy a bloody ticket cos theres only one person ever behind the counter. The Royal Hotel was a beautiful old listed building greeting you as you left the station. It was "mysteriously" demolished one Sunday morning, the owners paid a small fine then no doubt made a packet getting it redeveloped. Now you've greeted with non descript offices, the ugliest, coldest bus station in the world and now Terminal Six. Welcome to Slough - where grottiness has reached art form levels of distinction. Oh well, at least we've still got Station Jim in all his stuffedness to cheer me up.

So, what's this got to do with football? Well I reckon supermarkets are a lot like Premiership clubs. How so?

1) They won't be satisfied until they grabbed everyone's cash. £1 out of every £8 spent in the UK high street finds its way into Tesco's pockets. The Premiership hogs all the TV cash.

2) They go on about choice while muscling out all the competition.Between 1995 and 2000 we lost about a fifth of our local shops and services. In the end the only place you will be able shop is at the supermarket. If it weren't for the dedication of fans, we'd have lost dozens of football clubs over the past few years. Premiership big guns resent smaller clubs - take Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd "The big fight will be for the Premier League to take over the running of the other leagues. The others cannot hold us back, the time will come, I think, when it is the Premier League running the whole show. When we have got 52,000 fans at each home game, the last thing we are worried about is clubs in the third division"

3) They put themselves in positions of power so they are never challenged. Tescos top management sit on numerous government task forces. The premiership bosses have got themselves embedded in the FA.

4) They both cry foul when anyone tries to impose a semblance of fairness and a level playing field (helped by getting themselves into positions of power).

5) They are both full of fancy goods and foreign imports which often don’t live up to the expectations.

Thankfully it's not just me who reckons that Big isn't Best. Slough supporter Ian Lathey helpfully pointed me in the direction of a brilliant article on a Watford FC website

"It must be true. Small bank branches are closing. Their business is now handled by Small Post Offices who, by virtue of the fact that they are small, are also closing, replaced by plastic cubicles in BIG Supermarkets. Which also sells the meat that used to be sold by small butchers, the veg that was once the livelihood of small green grocers, the bread which was once baked by small bakers, the newspapers no longer supplied by small newsagents ....Because small is bad, we need BIG things.

But some people like small. The lovers of BIG don't understand it. If you're not BIG, then you are no good, and if you are BIG you must become BIGGER.

I don't like BIG, I like small. I like the old one screen cinemas - after all, I can only watch one film at a time, I don't need ten screens. I like the pub that has always been a pub, and not an exact replica of 350 others scattered around every High Street in the country. I like to walk to the shops, not drive forty miles to a "Mall" by the murky Thames.

And I like my Football Club. It is small, it will always be small, it needs to be small. Many will never understand it, will mock me for my love of something that is not BIG. But, like Barclays Bank, BIG has become ugly, BIG is detached, BIG now only exists to keep growing, keep changing identity, keep consuming, never giving, never feeling. I can't love BIG. BIG needs to be always at the top, no matter the price. BIG cares not for people. I love Watford for being small. It is, in a BIG world, a special thing. Pundits, failed politicians, journalists, TV presenters and lovers of BIG still won't get it. That only makes it all the more special, all the more personal"

When I was in the Green Party one of their slogans used to be "Small is Beautiful." Well I don't know if many women would agree with those sentiments, but when it comes to football clubs and your local shop then those sentiments are spot on.

*To read the full Watford article Click Here
If you think I'm making it all up about supermarkets read Joanna Blythman "Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets" published by Perennial books.
* Or go here