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.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Printed in the Southern League South and West League match v Newport Isle of Wight, Saturday 27th October. We beat the bottom team 2-0 in front of 211.

How much does it cost to run a football club at Slough Town’s level? Now Martyn Deaner has gone, so has his money, so who is paying the bills?

While we have a much better deal at Beaconsfield, it still costs £400 a game for hire and hospitality. And while are gates are hovering just over the 200 mark, 84 of those are season ticket holders who have paid up front and then there’s the complimentaries.

With a reduced wage bill this has meant younger players coming into the squad and most would agree that’s a very good thing. It’s great to see youth team coach and local lad Tony Thompson at games. They are the future of the club and anyone who says you can’t win anything with just local players should get a history lesson from the Terry Reardon side of the eighties.

So how can you help? As Alan Harding points out “On the finance front with the loss of Martyn Deaner and obviously with a groundshare agreement the Club has very limited resources in regards to income, and contrary to some popular belief, securing sponsorship from local companies is NOT an easy task, and never has been - even when we have been top of the Conference league! However the football management committee have put together a highly professional brochure, which in itself deserves a response.

“Hopefully if the new stadium gets planning approval, this might be the positive bandwagon that the Club needs for local business to jump onto. In the meantime however we have to rely on grass roots industry. In that respect you cannot underestimate the importance of supporter contributions on and above their admission fees. So far this season every match (bar one) has been sponsored by supporters, either as individuals or collectively (i.e The Barmy Army). Every supporter has his/her own financial restraints that has to be respected, but just small contributions can accumulate into decent revenue. i,e Kit sponsorship, as little as £10 for socks (a total of £2000 can be achieved from all kit items for players being sponsored).

Sponsor a Goal. In the event of a miracle that Slough score 100 goals this season, somebody pledging 10p a goal would only pay £10 over the entire season, but this scheme has brought in over a thousand in previous seasons. Fifty-Fifty Draw on matchdays for £1 per ticket, another way people can contribute with a chance of winning some money.”

While I don’t want to mention the C word, now is the time to start selling Christmas raffle tickets. Maybe you could help Alan and the gang to flog some before the game or help them with the 50/50 draw?

Then there’s the buy at scheme, where you can shop on line with a percentage going to the club. So far this has raised over £400.

Maybe you’ve got some old programmes lying around. Donate them to Sue at the clubshop so she can flog them and raise some cash. And if you get a complimentary ticket, well maybe stick it in the bin and pay at the gate!

If you’re not feeling financially flushed, why not help out on match days. If you read Alan Harding’s ‘Getting to Know’ piece in the programme you’ll see there’s always plenty of work that needs doing on matchdays (mind you i don’t think you’ll be seeing supporters moving sand onto the pitch at Beaconsfield like we did at Windsor last season).

Just how hard it is to get local companies on board can be seen by the fact that of 308 letters sent out, so far only there has been only five responses. Four of which said no while just one said they would consider it. Despite the offer of complimentary tickets for a match if they brought the letter, none have taken up that option either. So maybe you know a local company that you could approach as it’s much more likely to get support with a personal touch.

It’s our club and the more of us that get involved the stronger it becomes. With a new ground on the horizon there has never been a more important time to get involved and build a new, improved Slough Town community football club.

* If you want to get involved in match days speak to Alan Harding, Mike Lightfoot or Chris Sliski

* If you want to donate regularly to the Barmy Army see Roger behind the goal – a fiver for every home game you attend.

* If you want more information on the buy it scheme go to

Monday, October 22, 2007


Printed in the Southern League South and West League match v Bridgewater Town Saturday 20th October 2007. We lost again 2-0 in front of 207.

A book written by two economists about baseball and what they annoyingly call “soccer” wouldn’t usually be at the top of my ‘to read’ list. But with Americans queing up to buy Premiership clubs, this book is a timely read.

The owner of an American football team now controls Manchester United, while other Americans own Aston Villa and Liverpool. Then there’s a certain Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox Network holds the main national TV contract with Major League Baseball, while his regional sports networks cover 25 of the 30 Major league baseball teams. Until early 2004 he owned the Dodgers – which he admitted to buying in order to gain control over the regional sports network market in Southern California. Murdoch controls SKY and Aky Italia and he tried to get his grubby mits on Man United before Glazier was successful. Of course he would like nothing better than a European Superleague.

As the authors point out “Rather than abandon the design of sports leagues to the Murdochs and Glazers of the world, we think that a public airing of issues that arise from a cross-cultural interpretation of sports leagues might be part of a wider debate on the reform of baseball and soccer.”

While at times the number crunching and the baseball bits are of little interest to me, the book is more than this. The history chapter in particular is excellent.

What you also find out that in the US sports leagues are closed, meaning there is no relegation and promotion. Team owners carefully control the number of franchises and their locations, and generally each team is granted a monopoly over a certain area. Teams also get substantial public subsidies when building new grounds.

“Every US league adopts some or all of a litany of measures that supposedly promote competitive balance but in practice control costs. A number of measures have the effect of restraining economic competition. They include: restraints on players moving club, squad limits, rigid salary caps or 'luxury taxes' on teams that opt to break pay ceilings, rules controlling the drafting of college players, revenue sharing, collective selling of TV rights, joint merchandising deals and more. American sports leagues are essentially cartels that create profit by limiting competition for players, cutting costs, and restricting incentives to build a winning team, preventing an 'arms race' for talent.”

But while baseball makes a profit for the owners the same cannot be said of European football. Worse, relegation can bring financial ruin. This scramble to avoid relegation brings extra cost, as more players are bought; higher wages are paid – which of course all eats into owner’s profits. In the US, losing teams need not invest in talent because there is no penalty for failure which means that nearly everyone makes money.

As the authors point out “It is likely that American owners in the Premier League would want to see some of these measures adopted here, but to do that they would have to dispense with promotion and relegation. This would both destroy the incentive for losers to spend, and create an incentive for the rich clubs to share. The main obstacle to abolishing promotion and relegation is political: the European Commission has declared that it is a fundamental characteristic of the 'European model' of sport, while the European parliament has declared that we do not want to adopt the 'American model'. Confusingly, the commission is now working on a white paper that promises to promote cost control and revenue sharing in the interests of competitive balance while maintaining promotion and relegation, even though the latter undermines the former. The commission seems set on burying its head in the sand by granting a broad exemption from competition law to the governing bodies and hoping that will make the Americans go away.”

However, the big European clubs are already flexing their muscles at any attempts to 'tax the rich' and talk of a European superleague is never far away. A superleague that football owners and media moguls alike will be rubbing their hands with glee.

· National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer by Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist (Brookings 2006)

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Printed in the programme for the FA Trophy Preliminary Round game v Hillingdon Borough Saturday 6th October 2007. Good cup tie that ended 1-1 in front of 203 people.

With the exciting news of a ground in Slough, everyone at our club knows that too succeed in attracting new supporters and funders we have to be a community club. But what does that mean? Well a good example (or ‘best practice’ in the jargon filled world of today) is Exeter City, the supporters run club with a Trust membership of 2,271 who have just won an award thanks to their community work.

It’s worth remembering that when Exeter fell out of the league into the Conference, they had millions of debt and plonkers like spoon-bender Uri Geller backing them. This man claims all sorts of magical powers but somehow hasn’t the power to make himself a likeable human being. Their chairman and treasurer were eventually sent to gaol for fraud and supporters worked together to sort out the mess. A famous FA Cup draw with Manchester United helped wipe away their debts and the club go from strength to strength.

Away from the pitch they are through to the final of the National Business Corporate Social Responsibility Awards. They won the regional play-offs thanks to the club being owned by its supporters; run for the benefit of its community and the environment, and the way they deal with their customers, suppliers and employees.

So just what do they do? They continue to run their football centre of excellence despite the loss of funding after being relegated from the football league. They are committed to the trainees’ education and welfare through a partnership with Exeter College. They also received national recognition for their work in the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign. They are also committed to the football in the community scheme, with first team players having a contractual obligation to participate in community activities. They also run a ladies team and a centre of excellence for girls.

They have a partnership with Devon County Council, Stagecoach and Wessex Trains to develop a travel plan to encourage fans to attend fixtures using sustainable transport. It includes concessions and information for public transport services, a car share scheme and walk to the game promotions. The club are also working with the city council, the Environment Agency, EDF Energy and South West Water to reduce its carbon footprint and to investigate how it can be more environmentally friendly in all its actions, which also means reduced energy bills, trade waste and water usage. It also has an agreement with it suppliers M&A Environmental to have eco-friendly and bio-degradable materials wherever possible. All the above have since become club sponsors or increased advertising. Meanwhile much of the small scale maintenance and repair work is undertaken by a volunteer workforce of fans organised by the Trust, using resources donated by local businesses.

To offset the potential increased traffic that is caused by their increased gates (which have risen since relegation and the trust takeover), the club has adopted its local train station under the community rail scheme. The train station is right next to the ground and club volunteers help keep it tidy, new train services fit in with kick off times and the station railings have been painted in the red and white of Exeter's strip!

The club is also working with their local Primary Care Trust to help them target male
fans and educate them about testicular cancer and high blood pressure.

The club has also been recognized as being a good employer with low staff turnover, good job satisfaction levels and low absenteeism. The Trust is also keen to hear new ideas from members with a trust proposal form available. Members also get 10% off the clubshop and the bar!

Of course, not all of these practices are relevant to us. But it’s worth taking a look at other clubs to see how they have done it, to steal some of their best ideas, and to help make Slough Town a well supported, well run, successful community football club again!

* The latest issue of the Supporters Direct magazine is always worth taking a look for clubs working in their communities. You can read it on-line at or ask in the Trust shop if they have any spare copies.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


This appeared in the Slough Town programme v Bracknell Town 2nd October 2007. Thankfully we won 3-1 against a very poor side. 165 for a Southern League match in the drizzle.

I must be mad I thought as I got on the 9am train from Brighton to Slough. We hadn’t won a game since January and the bickering on the forum was doing my head in. But as usual a couple of emails and texts and I started to get that Saturday football feeling. I just had to go to Slough v Andover!

It helps that we have swapped Swamp Meadow for Beaconsfield. I can pop in and see my dad, who hasn’t been paying attention to the governments five a day advice. A drink with him in the smallest pub in the world - the Alpha Arms - then off to Touch of Class for a fry up. It’s weird; i spend more time in Slough High Street than i do in Brighton town centre and feel like I live this two-towns double life. Is this what having a second home is like? Anyway, off to Herschel to meet some fellow suffering supporters then a taxi to the ground for some pre match pints. No work, no baby and watching Slough means drinking a few beers beforehand is definetly part of my football ritual.

I’m of the opinion that you try and get behind your team no matter what (well maybe not if they are taken over by a crazed billionaire human rights abuser) but it has been hard since the beginning of the season. Slough have always been a relatively successful non league club, so the past few years have been a bit of a shock – a bit like when you go camping as a youngster with your school; it rains all night, you, your clothes and sleeping bag are soaked, you want to go back home and then some clever clog teacher tells you it’s character building. So let’s put the last couple of seasons down as ‘character building.’

Then out comes research that playing football is good for your mental health! Italian psychiatrist Mauro Raffaeli has been organising competitive football matches for his patients since 1993. Of the 80 who have passed through the ranks over half have cut down their drug intake, but more importantly, more than half have returned to work. "Drugs you can often never get rid of, but reintegrating into society is as important," he said.

So if playing football is good for you what about watching it?

I had a mate called Pete Shaughnessy. He was a bus conducter who got attacked with an iron bar that left him with bouts of severe depression. But when Pete was feeling well he was an inspiration.

If people were proud to be black or gay why not be proud to be mad? So he came up with Mad Pride! They held their first demo outside Bedlem, which was celebrating 750 years. The history of Bedlam isn’t much to celebrate and Pete threw himself into campaigning. “Initially, I entered the non-league scene because I needed to pursue a hobby away from campaigning and find a way of chilling out. I was seeing a ‘shrink’ one day when she turned round and said to me, ‘You do realise before there were drugs, people used to be depressed for up to two years.’ “That’s funny”, I replied. “I’ve taken all the drugs that can be thrown at me with all the side effects and I’m still depressed over two years later, but then again, I do support Crystal Palace!!” ‘Change your team,’ cracked the shrink.

A chance meeting with an old school mate and Pete was persuaded to go along to see Dulwich Hamlet and was hooked. “Non-league football is ethical: you’re supporting a local community and you can have fun while you’re at it. When I’d just started going out with my present partner, I talked her into going to a totally, meaningless friendly, Moseley versus Dulwich. After a night with the “Rabble”, we ended up stranded in Hampton Court, no train or night bus. After a bit of bartering, I managed to get us the honeymoon suite at Hampton Court Palace. She was totally in awe. “This is what you get when you follow Dulwich Hamlet,” I explained!

When he married and moved to Worthing we often went along to non league games, dragging various friends along to the delights of Lewes and Burgess Hill. Pete rekindled my love of football and eventually my long time affair with Slough Town was back on.

Fast forward and here we are facing Andover. Players get used to losing and so do supporters. Confidence is everything in football and when that second goal went in, you could see it come flooding back and we started to play really decent football. When did you last here ‘O Lah’ from Slough supporters? The atmosphere in the second half was great and when that final whistle went; well I had almost forgotten what that winning feeling was like. Matt Miller said the same, and how different it was being in a dressing room that’s just celebrated victory.

With fantastic prospects of a new ground it’s imperative that we don’t drop another league. We’ve got the team and supporters to turn it around. For me the victory mean’t a pleasant train journey home surrounded by happy England supporters who just watched us demolish Israel. I’m sure most of them thought I must be crazy to travel all that way to watch Slough, but I would have been a whole lot bloody madder if I haven’t made the trip and missed our first victory of the season!


* Football as therapy