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.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

WAR AND PEACE AND SOCIAL COHESION

Printed in the Southern League South and West Division programme v Andover. 8th September 2007 Oh my god, we actually won a game 2-1 - first time since January. Attendance - 215 very happy people.

Just for a moment the people of Iraq were united in celebration. Iraq had won the Asia Cup in a team made up from Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turkomans. As he bounced with joy with friends outside his house in Baghdad, Taha Mahmoud, a 25-year-old computer programmer, said: "In 90 minutes, 11 men on a soccer pitch thousands of miles away have made millions of Iraqis happy while 250 MPs, our government, the mullahs, imams and warlords can't provide us with a single smile. I hope this is a turning point for our country." "It is the greatest gift since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and shows how Iraqis from all walks of life can work together to achieve success," said Hozam Mahmoud, a Kurdish policeman, who had abandoned his traffic duties to join noisy celebrations. "Football alone may not be able to heal the nation's deep wounds, but for the moment it has induced a sense of cohesion, and we can all build on that if we try."

While Iraqi’s were celebrating, fans of Edgware Town were reeling from the news that after winning an unprecedented treble of trophies during the most successful season in the club's 68 year history, the club looked doomed. Property developers who own their ground had given notice to quit just a few week before the season kicked off.

Being a small football club in London is becoming a precarious business. The pub that had given the ground its name, the White Lion, has already gone, pulled down ten years ago to make way for a faceless Premier Lodge hotel. Near neighbours Wealdstone have been homeless for 16 years (and spent ten years groundsharing at Edgware). Hendon have to vacate Claremont Road and Enfield Town are still looking for a home to call their own. At least for Wealdstone there is light at the end of the tunnel, but land in London is at a premium and small football clubs are easy pickings for circling property vultures. An unsympathetic council and you’ve had it.

So reading the internet forums, I was surprised to read that it wasn’t the council or faceless developers that were facing the wrath of supporters but immigrants.

No doubt Edgware has changed beyond all recognition since the club were set up at the start of World War II by construction and engineering workers. I don’t have the figures handy but I doubt Edgware Town have ever really pulled in big crowds. Despite their best season ever gates averaged just 73. Would it have been any different if the area had stayed the same since their formation? On my Slough travels to the very white commuter belt places like Epsom and Marlow these clubs are hardly packing in the punters. Football has a hell of a lot to contend with nowadays, not least an explosion of matches live on the TV. There’s tons more leisure pursuits available and people have a lot more cash in their pockets if they want to spend the day, god forbid, shopping!

One fan complained that all these immigrants ‘probably don’t even know we have a football team’ - but whose fault is that? Football is popular throughout the world, and as the Iraqi victory shows can bring people together and build bridges. It’s an extreme example, but if it can happen in a country rocked by civil war, then surely it’s within the capabilities of smaller clubs to come up with ways to reach out to the communities in their area and get them through the gates?

Football can be a force for good but losing community assets such as football grounds, pubs, allotments, community centres etc is one sure way of losing any kind of social cohesion. This isn’t just romantic old tosh, but having these places where people can meet makes our neighbourhoods better for everyone. After the longest and most expensive study in the history of criminology the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighbourhoods concluded that the most important influence on a neighbourhood’s crime rate is neighbours’ willingness to act for one another’s benefit. For example if your local park was full of rubbish and the local council removed it all, the rubbish would probably return in a few weeks. But if the local community organised a meeting to clean up the park, with a chance for people to meet, solve problems and work together, the benefits would most likely be much longer lasting and the park would probably remain cleaner for longer.

The research in the Chicago Neighbourhoods study shows that crime and anti social behaviour is most effectively fought not with more laws and more jails, but by building strong communities where people take control of their own lives.

But what the hell has that got to do with Edgware Town? In the melting pot of humanity that is London, it is clubs like Edgware, that play a game of football that can help bring different people together, that is priceless and worth fighting for.

For the time being the club are safe; playing back at their higgidiggly piggidly ground just off the High Street. But their future doesn’t look bright, unless they find ways of getting more people through the turnstiles, be they immigrants or people who have lived in the neighbourhood all their lives.


* Edgware Town blog http://www.gvshaw.blogspot.com


2 Comments:

Anonymous Gavin said...

Hi Warren,

Just a few points to pick up with you. I agree that the football club does need to do a lot more to promote itself to not just the local be they White/Black/Asian/whatever.

The influx of Eastern Europeans namely from Poland, probably dont know we exist, but who's fault is that, the blame is with the Football club not being able to promote itself to a wider audience then the 80 or so (or average gate was 82 not 73 as you mentioned (big difference NOT!) I am sure a number of people, whatever their colour or backgrounds dont know where the White Lion Ground and dont pick up a local paper to see how well the club are doing recently.

As you rightly said, last season was the best on record for the club, winning a treble of trophies, no matter that Edgware have played at a higher level (not much higher) then the step 5 Spartan South Midlands league, the achievement is nonetheless superb. We have started this season superbly as well, 4 wins from our first 5 matches sea's us occupy 3rd spot in the Ryman League Division 1, heady days indeed for a club of our size/support base/and with the off the field problems.

The days of Edgware getting average crowds of 3000+ like the club did back in the 40's are long gone, but there is no reason why with a sustained promotional push in the local area that the club could not at the very least add another 30-50+ on average gate, bringing it up to a respectable 130+ on a regular basis. The club have started to publicise games with posters for forthcoming matches, but this alone wont bring in those numbers of extra regular supporters.

I have some ideas to promote the club and intergrate the local coummunity into the club, regardless of colour religion or nationality.


Also our ground is not higglidy piggedly, well it may be, but its called character, not a faceless stadium like many around the country both league and non league.

Kind Regards Gavin

1:50 pm

 
Anonymous Deanna said...

Good words.

3:14 am

 

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