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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DEBT COLLECTORS

Printed in the Southern League Midlands Division game v Leighton Town Tuesday 9th March 2010. We won 3-1 in front of 182.


How bad do things have to get that you want the football team you support to fold? Very bad, for the majority of Chester City supporters who were boycotting home games and praying the Conference would throw the club out of the league and into oblivion (which the Conference did). It was the only way they could get rid of their owners and run the club themselves even if it meant starting at the bottom of the pyramid pile.
What Chester fans actions make clear is that football clubs are not business in the same way that Woolworths or Northern Rock were businesses. People didn’t rally round to sort out those companies financial mess, not even the much loved Woolworths (people seemed to love the idea of Woolworths, but not the idea of shopping there). Football clubs should be run in a businesslike fashion (you know crazy things like just spending money they actually have) but no-one can pretend it’s a normal business. If a fan thinks their club charges too much or is rubbish on the pitch, they don’t go and support the club down the road.
Unfortunately such loyalty has a flip side that is ruthlessly exploited by owners as they know football fans put up with just about anything in their love for their club. Sometimes they get blinded by the good times, even though the good times can spell disaster. Just ask Portsmouth, who bbecame the 53 club to go into administration since the beginning of the Premiership.
Last weekend FC United of Manchester organized a Beyond the Debt rally. FC United formed after the Glazers took over Manchester United, are supporters owned and bill themselves as punk football. Speakers included respected journalist David Conn, of The Guardian, representatives from German Bundesliga club Schalke FC, and Supporters Direct, which represents football fans throughout the country. There was also delegations from Portsmouth, Chester City and Manchester United Supporters' Trust (Must). Must is campaigning for the removal of the Glazer family. Instead of red, expect to see green-and-gold scarves as supporters show their discontent with a family that has saddled one of the world’s most successful clubs with millions of debt. Meanwhile the Red Knights plan to buy Manchester United and in a very short space of time have over 120,000 members!
Speaking at the rally Andy Walsh, General Manager of FC United, said “Football is at a critical juncture, with the need for clear leadership and regulation never more evident. We aim to make the point that supporter ownership is the only way forward.”
The Glazers take a very different view. For them supporters are mere customers. In the small print of the recent bond issue, designed to temporarily alleviate the debt, they said ticket prices, could rise inexorably: the customers would always fork out whatever it took to see their heroes. That was the nature of football support.
And that’s where they have supporters by the balls. Unless Man United and other fans start boycotting clubs in their droves, will anything change? How would TV companies react if the protest groups from Liverpool and Man United manage to persuade the majority of supporters not to go to the next fixture but protest outside? An empty Anfield would send a powerful message to both the clubs owners and the football authorities.
Boycotting games is what Chester fans were driven too, with their lowest ever home gate in what eventually turned out to be their last ever match. They can take massive heart and encouragement from Aldershot, AFC Wimbledon, Newport County, Telford United, Leamington – all clubs that have risen from the ashes, and climbed up the pyramid.
It will be a lot of hard work, but it will put the football club back firmly where it belongs, run and owned by the supporters, and part of the community rather than some idiots plaything.

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