INTERVIEW WITH SLOUGH TOWN SECRETARY
Printed in the Southern South and West Division league match v
Bracknell Town. 0-0 in front of 218 spectators.
There’s been plenty of talk recently about a lack of younger people
coming along and giving their time for free to lower league football
teams. But one of the clubs to buck that trend is Slough Town. I
caught up with Gary Thomas, to ask him how he became a club secretary
in his twenties
How long have you been supporting Slough?
My first game was an FA Cup game, as I'm sure it is with many non
league supporters. Saturday 13th November 1993 against Torquay United.
Didn't manage to get to many games in the "good years" due to working
on Saturdays, but became a full home and away regular in 1999.
Were you involved in helping the club before you became secretary?
Yes, I was helping out on the website so occasionally would talk to
the manager, club personnel and players to get information. Perhaps
most famously, former manager Mr. Browne gave me a proper dressing
down for something I had nothing to do with! In addition, my wife Emma
agreed to run the club shop in the final years of Wexham Park and
again whilst we were at Windsor, so I had time helping out with that
also. In the years at Windsor, I did a lot of filming of matches which
was used to make two seasons review DVD's, something which we still do
occasionally now. I began to help Roy Merryweather out in the final
season at Windsor with some of the administrative work and took on the
role as football secretary for the start of our time at Beaconsfield
Why did you decide to become secretary?
Roy Merryweather had taken on the role originally and worked with kit
man Paul Lillywhite on a matchday to arrange everything for the
referee. I was happy to help out and wanted to get involved, so it was
a natural progression. It's been a great experience meeting other
admin staff at other clubs and talking to those in the Southern
League, the majority of whom have been exceptionally helpful as I
learn the ways of football rules and regulations. I enjoy all aspects
of football and felt I could add something to the club and wanted to
help the club get back on the right track and moving forwards again,
something which we are now able to do thanks to the dedication and
hard work of Roy and the chairman, Steve Easterbook in addition to the
other members of the clubs board.
It's also been great on the playing side to work with Darron
Wilkinson, Mark Betts and Derek Sweetman as you can see the amount of
extra hours they put into the football above and beyond matchdays and
training sessions. Whilst performances may not always have been to all
our liking, all three were more than happy to talk to anyone about the
game in the bar and after training. Most importantly, they are all
good people which makes the working relationship all that bit easier
and the role all the more enjoyable.
With the birth of my son Steven, it has become a little more difficult
as responsibilities change, but thanks to a very supportive wife I
have been able to continue to dedicate the required time to the role
that it requires and still enjoy every minute of it. I think it's
great to see Steven coming along to games and in some cases getting
into boardrooms at away clubs to enjoy hospitality!
My only regret in taking on the role is that I can no longer get in
behind the goal and get in with creating or joining in the atmosphere.
With an official role at the club, there are often things going on
which mean you cannot watch the game in its entirety, although this is
offset by having the pass for away games.
So what’s a typical match-day for you?
An average home match for me will see me notify the officials and
opponents at least seven days prior to the match, take delivery of the
programmes on a Friday afternoon and confirm with the officials that
they are all ok for the journey. On the Saturday, I aim to get to the
ground for between 1 and 1.30. Programmes are put out for the
officials, opponents, our players and into the boardroom. Then I can
afford myself a twenty minute break and usually some lunch from the
tea bar. Line ups have to be done and in to the officials by 2.15 so I
am often looking for Sweets at around 2pm to get the line up written
up. Once these are done and the papers exchanged with the officials,
the line ups need to be printed with the leagues logo and added into
the boardroom. We also print out a few extras for any press and one is
always pinned up for the supporters.
During half time we'll make sure the match officials expenses are done
and marked up and then after the game the result has to be rung
through to the press association and also to the league.
For away games, I will confirm our attendance at the game and also
send over details of pen pics, club history and expected line up to be
included in the home teams programme for the day. I will look to
arrive between 1.30 and 2pm to an away game as the line up will need
to be done and in to the referee by 2.15, but one this is done, I can
relax a bit and soak up a pre-match drink either in the bar or in the
boardroom and then enjoy the football on display.
So are you the youngest secretary in our league?
I’m certainly the youngest secretary and committee person I know of in
my season and a half of doing the job. The only one which comes close
is the secretary at Didcot who is in his thirties. Most of the
committees tend to be forties and above. We do of course have another
exception in Glen Riley (programme editor). I think between us, our
combined age totals less than some of the people I see in boardrooms
around the league!
I’m not quite sure why the trend is that way. There is obviously a lot
of time and dedication required to do any official role with a club at
this level and it is voluntary work as well, so there isn't the
financial benefit to spending the extra hours watching your club play
football. I say watching, but a lot of time for me is spent either
providing updates at away games for the website or chasing round after
my boy at the home games these days!
I think the workload involved can put people off, but we have been
blessed at Slough with a number of volunteers over the years and
people who continue to put in many hours of their own time into
helping out the club. We've also seen some of the "younger" supporters
begin to help out with the Supporters Trust raffle on a matchday and
have had previous instances of younger people running things such as
the Junior Rebels on behalf of the Trust and of course in our own
I think it comes down to the people available to you. The average
supporter will just want to come along and watch the side play
football which is fair enough. Once you become a regular though, if
you feel you can do more to help out and offer to do so, there will
always be something to help out with. Essentially, that's how I got
into the position I am in today and I don't regret a minute of it!