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, February 24, 2008


Printed in the league match v Fleet Town Saturday 23rd February 2008. After the last two weeks of abject performances, we beat the league leaders 2-1 in front of 221 people. After the game we were also introduced to our new chairman and told of plans for a new ground in Slough which are political parties in Slough are backing. A good week for the club after two seasons of crap!

I can't say I was that surprised to hear the latest plans from the Premiership planning a game a season abroad. Exporting the brand across the globe to millions of grateful fans who can't make it to our wind swept shores is a football club chairman's wet dream. Anyone opposing it is portrayed like some old fuddy-duddy; patronisingly patted on the head and told that unfortunately in a globalised world, football has too love with the times - play abroad of just watch the Premiership brand wither.

But anyone with half a brain cell knows that this is a load of bollocks. The idea is just another way of increasing profits; flogging more merchandise, getting some people hooked on the Premiership – oh and getting some more pay-per-view subscriptions for any of those actual supporters (remember them?) who pay good money to go to games but won’t be able to afford that trip abroad but will pay to watch it on TV. For any chance of getting the go ahead they have had to include every club in the Premiership but asked about the proposal an insider at one of the smaller clubs told it how it was. "It's being pushed by the big clubs. They have commitments to sponsors and to owners."

The last thing the Premiership clubs needs is more money, but Man United and Liverpool have landed themselves with such massive debt they need to squeeze every penny out of any fan across the world whose ever cheered them on. Accountancy firm Deloitte believes their revenues will only increase if they maximise their money-making potential abroad. "Manchester United have 300 million overseas supporters but do not make as much money from them as possible," said Deloitte's Alan Switzer. "Even £2 extra from each fan would make an enormous difference. That is something all the big English clubs are now focusing on. The idea of a 39th game is part of that strategy."

But do the big clubs really need more cash? How about this for a crazy, Robin Hood style plan - re-distribution of wealth? While these proposals were being announced AFC Bournemouth nearly went out of business. They are now in receivership with debts of £4 million, have been deducted ten points and are almost certainties for relegation. They join Luton Town and Leeds United in League One who have both had points docked this season for going into administration. Still, who cares as long as Man United can “maximise their revenue expenditure.”

The new American owners no doubt want to mould the Premier League along US lines. No matter how bad your season in the NFL you wont suffer the financial calamity of relegation. Wouldn’t it be swell if that could happen in the Premiership? And if Liverpool and Man United get drawn together in Miami, both sets of owners might actually get to watch their team play.

Thankfully there has been a massive back-lash for the idea. From Sepp Blather saying it would threaten England’s bid for the World Cup, to the Australian and the Asian football federation saying no; to supporters groups threatening to target sponsorships to proposals for a breakaway club AFC Liverpool.

I’ve argued countless times football clubs are not business in any proper sense of the word but are community assets. That’s as true for Liverpool as it is for Slough Town. Football is able to cross many boundaries and barriers and get people working together who wouldn’t normally mix and become part of the social glue that binds communities together. In such a transient town like Slough with so many different people and cultures that is something to be cherished. As Norwich City fan Delia Smith put it “Football is the best kind of community you’re likely to be exposed to in the twenty-first century. And community is where we flourish and become human. Football can be wonderful, life-enhancing.” One of the hurdles Slough Town had to pass to be given the initial go ahead for our new stadium was the councils 'well-being' criteria. Mind you the past few seasons haven’t exactly helped with any of our supporters well being! But if we are run as a proper community club involving all ages playing football and bringing in lots of other sports such as the boxing club then we will tick all the council boxes and help create a buzz around the club that will bring in the crowds.

In its desperation to chase new markets, the top level of football long ago gave up worrying about silly things like heritage and tradition. This is another opportunity for non league clubs to go out and attract those fed up fans of top level clubs to come and watch football on the terraces once again.

* The Football Supporters Federation are planning a day of action at forthcoming Premier League fixtures

* To find out about AFC Liverpool

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Published in the Southern League south and west division one game v AFC Hayes 9th February 2008. A dismal game where we lost 3-0 in front of 220 pissed off fans.

While those playing for high stakes on the financial markets stuff their pockets with as much cash as they and in doing so have taken the world to the brink of a major recession, it’s no surprise that some of these ‘bankers’ have moved into the Premiership.

US tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks bought Liverpool nearly a year ago with Hicks boasting that buying Liverpool was just like buying another one of his purchases - Weetabix. But you don’t find thousands of people cheering on Weetabix every week. Despite buying the club, not one penny of the cash was either Hicks or Gilletts! Instead they borrowed £298m and a couple of weeks back entered a new £350m refinancing deal, making Liverpool even more tied in debt; the club will have to find an additional £30 million a year just to pay back the annual interest payments on the loan! Even better for the new owners, switching ownership to a holding company also means that while they can take any profit for themselves, they will not be liable for any debt. So just like the collapse of Northern Rock which has cost taxpayers a thousand pounds each, if Liverpool goes to the dogs it will be its supporters who would pick up any bad debt.

Faced with these economies of the mad house, the Share Liverpool FC Group wants to use a Barcelona style, "member-share" scheme, aimed at raising £500m to buy the club from its US owners. Those behind the plan include football business lecturer and Liverpool fan Rogan Taylor and lawyer Kevin Jacquiss - an expert in launching co-operatives. "The time is right to offer a different solution to the rising concerns that football fans have about the patterns of ownership developing at our major football clubs" said Taylor. "Large amounts of debt often devolves onto clubs newly purchased, but the fans know that in the end, it will be they themselves who will have to pay it off through increased ticket prices and other schemes. In such a case, why not simply buy the club yourselves?"

As Taylor pointed out, in Germany and Spain most top-level football clubs are not for sale as they were owned by many thousands of "member fans". The Champions League has been won on six occasions in the last 15 years by these member only clubs.

Maybe Liverpool supporters could ask Cambridge City fans for advice on taking on the rich and powerful. It was a bolt out of the blue when City supporters learnt that their ground had been sold and they would merge with rivals United. However a relentless campaign by supporters eventually led to the sale being challenged in the high court where judges said that former directors had misled the club, undersold the ground and that the actions of their former chief executive amounted to bribery. This has meant that the land deal has been cancelled and the club given another opportunity to achieve a fair value for its ground.

One of those supporters Rab Crangle said "People said I was a conspiracy theorist when we began, but the judgment says it: the club was the victim of fraudulent misrepresentation on behalf of a property development company with whom we were supposed to be in partnership. Fans of clubs in financial trouble, but sitting on valuable land, should understand this, and be very careful about the deals directors do in their name."

The Liverpool refinancing package is the economics of Never Never Land; part of an economic system that has led to tax avoidance by the super-rich costing Britain £13bn a year. Where dealing in what is called the futures market – predicting the future of the cost of commodities to make a profit is acceptable. This second guessing is what led to a French Bank investor making bets so big he managed to lose his bank £3.6 billion! But betting on the high stakes futures market is exactly what the owners of Liverpool and Man United are doing. But what happens if Liverpool don’t win the Premier League? Don’t even come fourth and don’t qualify for the Champions League? What happens if the football bubble bursts?

Just look at Manchester United were Glazier has also saddled the club with massive debts. Were making money has become the be-and-end-all where even a 50th anniversary memorial of the Munich air disaster bears a large logo for AIG. The memorial has already been vandalised by fans angry with the advertisement – which the club has condemned as 'mindless idiots'. But since when has it become ok to put sponsorship on memorials? Since when has it become acceptable to buy something with someone elses money where you take the profit, but none of the debt if things go wrong? It’s no surprise this economic madness has come to football, its just about bloody time Liverpool supporters made the first moves to take back their football club away from the clutches of people who don’t care for the club, back to where it rightfully belongs – with the fans.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Printed in the Southern League South and West match v Farnborough Tuesday 5th February 2008. We lost 3-2 to a last minute goal with our best performance of the season. Best crowd of the season as well 279.

You’ve got to hand it to Sir Alex, when it comes to moaning the bloke is Premiership class. This time he’s having a go at his teams own supporters, bemoaning the fact that 75,000 people could be so quiet at a recent game against Birmingham. Well what do you bloody expect when you call the place Theatre of Dreams? What do you expect when you get thrown out by stewards for standing up and singing, with season ticket holders having their cards confiscated if they are ejected? What do you expect when a
significant proportion of any United home crowd does not speak English as a first language and is visiting the ground for the first time, filling their faces with prawn sandwiches and merchandise from the licence-to-print-money megastore.

The same week Ferguson was complaining, breakaway club FC United of Manchester were boycotting their league game away to Curzon Athletic because it had been moved to a 12.30 kick-off. While both clubs were against the move, the league and a small internet company insisted, and so instead of a bumper crowd and pay day Curzon got a paltry
£400 from the company – and of course the joy that you could watch some crappy images on a computer screen.

While the kick-off switch might seem a minor inconvenience it was a matter of principle for supporters of FC United. Although the takeover by Glazier led to the breakaway club being set up, it was rising ticket prices, over zealous stewarding, all seater stadium and the fact that a 3pm kick off was a rarity that had been stoking the fuels of discontent for years.

Since there formation just 3 seasons ago, FCUM have risen up the pyramid, breaking attendance records wherever they have gone, and done much to promote themselves as a community club helping attracting thousands of new converts to non league footie. But the FC united board felt the moving of the kick off time was the thin end of the wedge – and rightly so. Go back five years and people would have said you were insane if you had predicted regular Conference games live on the TV. Of course the Blue Square Premier and Setanta have hailed its success, although frankly watching Woking v Kidderminster on a Thursday night doesn’t really do it for me. But look at what’s already happened. Setanta have been busy mucking around with the football schedules. I’m sure Torquay fans were overjoyed of having a round trip of over 600 miles to watch their game against York which Setanta had moved from a Saturday to a Tuesday before finally deciding 7pm on a Sunday night would be just perfect.

TV schedules are controlling the game to such an extent that kick-off times are barely recognisable anymore – and now this is filtering down to the non league game.
I’m not saying we should be dogmatic about all this, but really it’s not exactly the level of footballing skill that attracts us to non league is it? Being on the terraces, having a drink, meeting friends is part and parcel of the match day experience. I think Friday night games in the lead up to Christmas would be good, and an eye on the Champions league to try to avoid clashing with those dates might help shore up support. But 7pm Sunday night – do me a favour.

As one FC United fan put it “It is a worry that if we climb the pyramid we will be increasingly made to jump through commercial hoops, comply with TV deals etc. And this is the crux of the problem with the Curzon game. We are trying not to make the same mistakes again. If back in the early nineties we had organised ourselves and bought shares in the Man Utd flotation then Glazer would never have stood a chance. If, as TV deals began to have more and more influence over the fixture list, fans had stood up and rebelled, then Saturdays may have remained the chosen day for Premiership football. We turned our back on this rubbish... and here we are again... the first Saturday game to be moved for Northern Premier League TV and it’s a FCUM match. Coincidence? Ironic? Inevitable? You choose.”

Of course just like AFC Wimbledon, FCUM have their detractors. But what would you do? We all like a moan and cry into our beer, but at least their fans decided enough was enough and fought back. Call me old fashioned but the core principle is that footballing matters ought to be decided by footballing organizations for the principal benefit of the clubs and their supporters - with sponsors and TV companies having to work with them rather than dictate.

As their board statement put it “FC United came into existence in direct response to the disregard shown for football supporters by those who put profit before the fans who support the game week in week out.”

The speed at which the media revolution is happening, how long before 12 men and a dog watching Slough are replaced by 12 men and a goldfish watching us slug it out on a computer? That might sound ridiculous now, but with ever increasing channels and they need to fill them how long before the British Gas South and West Divison Match of the Day. I can’t bloody wait.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Published in the Southern League South and West Game v Uxbridge Saturday 2nd Feb 2008. A well earned 1-1 draw in front of 233 people. We are now only 4th from bottom!

After Yeovil Steve missed the local bus and had to hitch the last 20 miles to get to see us play Taunton it got me wondering of other stories of journies to matches that didn't quite go to plan.

For a time my cousin Mark and fellow fanzine editor Pleb used to make our way across the country watching Slough play the Conference. My cousins driving was erratic to say the least and in the days long before Sat Navs we never seemed to bother with a map either. I remember us being caught in a blizzard realising that there’s no way the game would be on; losing a wheel on the motorway doing about 100mph; getting stuck behind tractors and a wedding party as we zig-zagged through the country roads to get to Boston. I remember us heading towards Wales when we were meant to be going to Telford and not getting there till half-time. But the best was running out of petrol on the motorway on the way back from a game. We sat in the dark waiting for the breakdown services, only for them to point out that if we had only had the brain power to get out of the car and look behind a tree we would have seen a petrol station just five minutes away!

Anyway Chris Sliski recalls when Slough played Winsford in Cheshire. “We lost the match and the team returned to the train station to pick up the night service back to Euston. Well it was a freezing night and the train broke down just outside Rugby as the overhead power lines had fallen onto the train. We froze and finally after being rescued the train arrived in Euston at 7am. I remember going straight to work frozen, lack of sleep and also knowing we got beaten ...”

Hayes Rebel remembers “Travelling to Ashington for an Amateur Cup replay in the final year of the competition. Whilst Slough lost 1-0, the locals did us proud before and after the match buying all our beers, crisps etc. I think I still had 4 pints left at kick off time. After the match everyone stopped to ask the score. Rather better experience than some other 'big' matches. My brother was in regular touch for many years after with one local fan. The coach left Slough on Friday evening and we got back during the early hours of Sunday. We were not allowed to stop at any Little Chef outlets because they did not allow coaches and we only wanted chips!”

One supporter told of a long trip up north “Most disappointed trip was to West Auckland in the Amateur Cup we won 3-1 and they invited us to spend the evening in their local club (that was in the days when folk raved about the northern clubs and the entertainment in them) but a few old foggies on our coach said "no lets get home " - what a wasted opportunity that was!”

Chris remembers his trip to Horsham last season “I went from Slough to watch us play Horsham, only for it to pour down and get called off. I then needed to travel to Bournemouth to meet my friends to celebrate the New Year, only to get my car stuck in mud in the Horsham car park. I was covered in mud and soaked through!”

Marcus remembers an away trip to Dagenham and Redbridge which finished 4-4 “The coach got flashed by some 'ladies of the night' which ended up with 40 blokes running to the back of the coach to get a better look!”

While Richie Rebel recalls “My favourite was driving all the way to Merthyr the night before an FA Trophy game in terrible weather conditions; the Severn Bridge was closed for a period it was that bad. We went out in Merthyr and got blind drunk and slept in our cars overnight only to find in the morning the game had been called off!”

As for Yeovil Steve he did manage to get to Taunton by the power of his thumb, to catch our first away victory in 11 months!