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.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Printed in the Southern Central Division One league game v Beaconsfield SYCOB on Monday 27th August. We drew 1-1 in front of 280 people.

We all know how much Chris Sliski did for his beloved Slough Town Football Club but Chris also knew the importance of football supporters getting together to fight for the rights and have a greater say in how their clubs are run. Chris was involved for nearly 30 years with the National Federation of Supporters' Clubs whose annual conferences Slough fans used to turn up ‘mob-handed’!

The National Federation became the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) in 2002 and represents more than 200,000 individual fans and members of local supporters’ organisations. Currently campaigning for safe standing areas at top league grounds they have regular meetings with the football authorities and Government, discussing a wide range of issues, many of them in response to concerns raised by supporters. As the FSF quite reasonably point out ‘We think it’s about time that the views of the major 'stakeholders' in the game (that’s us, the fans) were considered, and we work hard to draw attention to the lack of meaningful discussion that takes place on many of the game’s major issues.’

So why were two Brighton and Hove Albion fans at Chris’s funeral? Liz Costa vice chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters’ Club and Sarah Watts (Secretary of their supporters club and our delegate and former Secretary of FSF) drove up from the south coast to show their respects because as Liz put it “ we’ve known these people (Chris, Olly, Alan, Keith, Roy and of course Julie) and counted them amongst our friends for the past 28 years when they all came to the annual conferences - like the Brighton fans who always turned up 'mob-handed', so did the Slough boys and we developed a really close relationship with them because we were all 'doers', not hangers on.”

Slough Towns Alan Harding told me “I think my fondest memory of Chris and the Brighton supporters is the Supporters Federation Conference in 1987. This was special because it marked the 60th anniversary of the Federation. Along with Brighton and other clubs like Wimbledon. Slough Town were heavily involved in the organisation. Guests included ex Sports Minister Dennis Howe and the then current Sports Minister Colin Moynihan (now Lord), despite all the hard work involved it was very enjoyable weekend and was rated as one of the best organised conferences ever.”

I spoke to Liz in more depth about the Slough Town-Brighton connection and the fight Albion supporters had to finally get their new ground.

Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters’ Club celebrated its centenary this March but for the past 15 plus years have been working in a somewhat different environment to that of our worthy precedessors. 
“The early days of the Supporters Club saw many individuals working tirelessly as fund raisers for the football club [the club itself had no commercial department and fund raising for all sorts of things was left entirely to the supporters].  The current version of the Supporters’ Club operates totally independently from the club but is recognised by them for the very important work that we all do and have done over the past years to save the club.

“In 1995 our Chairman [Bill Archer, a wallpaper salesman from just outside Blackburn] was brought in by the board and one of his first actions was to go to the High Court to answer the tax authorities in one of a series of winding up orders and unbeknown to all of us SOLD the club!  His intention was to demolish the Goldstone Ground, our home, and ‘develop’ the site, largely with his own Focus DIY store.   Fortunately for us, we got to hear about this ‘crime’, but too late to save the Goldstone.  What it did do, however, was to galvanise our supporters to save the club.

“With the help of the football world of supporters we gained a momentum that is to some degree still going.  Clubs from Premier League to lower end of the conference pyramid still marvel at what was achieved for Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club – and it was largely through our membership of the FSF that we were able to publicise our problems and galvanise support throughout our campaigns, firstly to oust Archer, and by definition install a new chairman. Then we had to save the club from relegation from the Football League.  On 8th February 1997 an historic event took place known as Fans’ United [instigated by a 12 year old Plymouth fan who is still a very good friend] when hundreds of fans from other clubs came to the game against Hartlepool – we won 5-0 and it was those goals that actually kept us in the League and the start of the club’s recovery began.”

Warren: I was at the Fans United game in my Slough Town top handing out information about direct action not that Albion supporters needed any lecturing or encouragement from a bunch of anarchists about how to fight to save their club!

Liz “We were in constant contact with all our friends from the Southern Division of the Football Supporters' Federation for advice and help. Because our friendships had been long standing it was not hard to find clever brains to pick for advice, ideas, and sometimes manpower, particularly Chris who was often an inspiration to us, being totally detached but involved because he cared.

“The Supporters’ were wonderful.  If anyone truly wants to know how to save a football club from unscrupulous owners the book that was published once we had saved the club and got back to Brighton is called “Build a Bonfire” which is basically written by the fans who were involved and edited by Steve North [actor from London’s Burning and fanatical Brighton fan] and Paul Hodson.

“Once we had got the club saved we played for two years up at the Priestfield Stadium in Gillingham where the ‘away’ fans were treated better than us by the local Gestapo – sorry, Kent police!  We couldn’t wait to get home and ‘Bring Home the Albion’ was the next campaign, which after 2 years ended in a successful return to Brighton where we played at a converted athletics track that had once been the local zoo, a venue for the Davis Cup Tennis Tournament and various other spurious activities.  This was meant to be for a couple of years while we identified the venue and built a brand new stadium which still seemed to most a pipe dream.

“That was in 1999!  Once Falmer was designated as the chosen site, the campaign was to gain planning permission, firstly from the local council then the Secretary of State. One of our campaigns involved the setting up of a new political party to fight the Lib Dems in the Lewes constituency who were the main instigators of the opposition for Falmer – it was a very successful campaign. The five candidates didn’t win but the council leader and a couple of other key members were beaten!  This was one of the suggestions that we gave to Chris when Slough was fighting the local council to return Slough Town to its rightful roots. 
“The Falmer for All Campaign worked long hours and tirelessly [there’s another book here but read the other one first!!] to achieve what has recently been voted as the Best New Venue in the World!  It beat the two new stadia that were built for the recent Euro 2012 matches, and a huge new development in China.  We are so proud, not only of the current Board of Directors who funded [by loan] and built the thing but of our supporters and those from other clubs who helped with petitions, bucket collections etc.  WE as fans have earned our theatre of dreams and it is a demonstration to all fans, everywhere that if you want something enough and are prepared to fight for it, good things do happen.”

“Fans United will never be defeated was our motto in 1997 and it is still an all inclusive phrase.  We are all very special people, part of an international community and it is wonderful to see all the kids in the parks and on the beach wearing Brighton shirts instead of Liverpool, Arsenal and Man U – they are the reason we fought for a new stadium and they have embraced it with open arms.

“We will forever be grateful, however, to all those fans who do not wear the blue and white stripes of the Albion but who helped us have a future where we can.”


FA Cup preliminary round  Saturday 25th August 2012 
Eastbourne Town 2 Chessington and Hook United 0

And so after the glow of the Olympics it’s back to the dirty world of football. A hot date with the FA Cup preliminary round and a train trip to the grandiose seaside resort of Eastbourne.
Now Eastbourne might be the retirement dream of many but it’s also a non league hot spot, home to not one but three non league sides.
We are off to see the oldest one in Sussex who are waking from a very deep sleep.
A short walk from the station and we are greeted with an historic turnstile block. 1914 shows this isn’t some young Langney Sport upstart but the home of Eastbourne Town.
The ground is known as The Saffrons named after the variety of crocus which had originally been cultivated on the site for medicine. Now it’s a Mecca to the round ball. Cricket, bowls and crocket fields surround the football ground while church bells sound every 15 minutes just to remind you not to swear in the presence of God when you miss kick a ball.
In the immediate post war years the club averaged attendances of 3,000 a far cry from today’s 120. Over the following decade’s fires, hurricanes and falling crowds saw the club plummet as low as the Sussex County League Division Two and talk of a merger with Eastbournes third club EastbourneUnited (who eventually merged with Eastbournes fourth non league club Shinewater Association). But with ground improvements including memorial park benches behind one goal and promotion to the Ryman League the club are on the up and would love to challenge Eastbourne Borough.
Their opponents are from a league below and play in the Combined Counties Premier Division. If you want to go all Seb Coe Olympic legacy, then look no further than clubs like Chessington and Hook United who have been doing Big Society since 1921. Their ground has been developed almost entirely by volunteers and the club prides itself on the fact that is is run on a totally voluntary basis. All the committee members, trainers, managers, ground staff and adult helpers give their time for free. In an age of unsustainable wages for even lower league players, donning the Chessington jersey will earn you precisely zilch. Infact it will cost you, as all players, from youth to seniors have to pay a membership to play. They have a strong youth set up with 19 teams involving up to 250 youngsters and also host women's football, archery and netball.
Eastbourne Town themselves have an impressive 25 teams under their belt and there are a few youngsters walking round with the regulation tracksuits.
As the counties theme tune ‘Sussex by the Sea’ belts out, so does the rain that has the cricketers running for the clubhouse while the bowls brigade just don their waterproofs. Even the floodlights put in a day time August appearance.
After a pre match pint we head for some chips and before they've been drowned in ketch-up Eastbourne are 1-0 up. A cross into Danny Curd who scores after just two minutes. But for the next eighty three minutes despite flowing attacking football and endless crosses into the box Town can’t put the ball in the back of the net thanks to a combination of resolute defending especially from Hooks no.6 and poor finishing. Chessington have a few chances to level but have seriously left their shooting boots at home.
Eventually Eastbournes Matt Geard sealed the tie in the 86 minute from an improbable angle and its £1,750 prize money in the bank.
And next up a trip to the more down at heel kiss-me-quick seaside town of Littlehampton in the first qualifying round. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Printed in the Southern Division One Central League programme v Northwood Saturday 18th August 2012. We won 5-0 in front of 266. Not a bad way to start the season.

They were just too big to fail and if they did it would be the end of Scottish football. Clubs were warned that if they voted to relegate the new Rangers FC to Scottish Division 3 their whole footballing world would unravel. Masters of that universe, or SKY as they like to be known, would take their tainted cash elsewhere. And they would all suffer. But Scottish football isn't dying because Rangers have folded and the new team is starting in the lowest division. It has been suffering a slow death ever since the founders of the Scottish Premier League allowed Rangers and Celtic to hive off the vast majority of the extra cash that came into the game. As a result no one else can compete. 

In the end most clubs told the Scottish FA to get stuffed and most Rangers fans agreed. Forget Champions League it’s off to East Stirlingshire (average attendance 321) instead. Surely it will be a massive financial shot in the arm for clubs ‘lucky’ to be welcoming Rangers. Or at least as comedian Frankie Boyle tweeted ‘Every other Saturday one of Scotland's smaller towns will get to learn what life was like in the time of the Vikings.’
This is also a great opportunity for Scottish clubs to come up with a more sustainable model, negotiate a fairer distribution of the gate and TV revenues and hopefully restore some balance to the league. But don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile last week Manchester United PLC were floated on the New York stock exchange. Why New York? Because US rules give shareholders less rights than they would have had in London and their owners have altered the clubs constitution to block any future hostile takeovers. They will also be based in the Cayman Islands and not because they like the beaches their. Since the Glazers bought United seven years ago, the club have paid around 550 million just for the privilege of having them as owners.  Football investigator David Conn wrote "The 231-page registration document is the latest Glazer candidate for the most depressing document ever produced containing the word football. It features an introductory 'reorganisation' map, so potential investors can navigate themselves through the tax havens within which Manchester United is to be harboured."

Then there’s George Rolls-Royce who has been doing the rounds of various non league clubs like Cambridge United and Weymouth. But he’d hardly stepped through the door at the financial car crash that is Kettering Town before he was suspended from all footballing activity for five years. He was fined ten grand by the FA for over three thousand betting charges and a couple of misdemeanors. Rolls defence was that he didn’t know you couldn’t bet on a club or competition your club was involved in. Well hello, if you don’t understand such basic footballing rules you shouldn’t be in charge of the raffle tickets let alone be in the boardroom. As one Weymouth fan put it "Rolls is the Ebola virus of non-league football and the FA have, for once, stuck the needle in just where it needs to be stuck." 

All of this is just two fingers up to the rest of us. They didn’t know they were doing anything wrong. Paying tax is for suckers. If we don’t let them bend the rules they threaten to go elsewhere. But when it goes wrong, just like the bankers we have to bail them out. Because we must remember they are too big too fail.

But fail they must. And a new way of running things such as more supporters owned football clubs that are a real benefit to the community rather than lining someone’s pocket or stroking their ego must become the norm.

Fantastic websites on football economics 

Monday, August 13, 2012


Printed in the Slough Town FA Cup preliminary round game v Corinthians
Saturday 26th August 2012. We won 4-2

A beautiful sunny day in Brighton. But this wasn’t the time to join the hoards on the beach but instead board the FA Cup fever train to Shoreham for an extra preliminary round tie against Colliers Wood United. Five of us did a quick tour of Shoreham boozers before heading to Middle Road to see if the Musselmen could pocket a grand and get a plum away trip to Maidstone United’s new ground in the next round.
There are fourteen more rounds before the final and it’s probably safe to say that none of the 370 teams that play at this round will get to the first round proper let alone the final but that doesn’t mean the cup doesn’t mean as much for the minnows.
Shoreham are in the Sussex County League Division One and to say their league has got itself in a bit of a pre season pickle is a bit of an understatement.
Under threat from re-organisation plans by the FA the Sussex County League were looking at losing all their top clubs. Eventually the FA plans were shelved but the league has decided to fight their corner by increasing Division One to twenty two teams. This meant despite finishing in the relegation zone for the second consecutive season Shoreham didn’t face the drop. Infact no one was relegated in the whole three divisions including Chichester City United who finished bottom and didn’t turn up for three games but rather cheekily appealed their relegation and won! So did Dorking Wanderers who won their ground grading appeal. This meant Littlehampton who had been promoted were told ten days before the season started they were back in Division Two.
Meanwhile in Division Three two clubs pulled out leaving just 12 teams to compete for the season!
Over in north London some people have been losing the plot at Budweiser’s cup plans. Terry Venables became Wembley FC technical director while ex-pros Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, Graeme Le Saux, Claudio Caniggia and Brian McBride were given one last shot at competing in order to get the Combined Counties Premier Division side into the first round proper. The game also made football broadcasting history, being the first extra preliminary round game ever to be shown live on TV.  This has sent some people into anaphylactic shock but I’m sorry but I can’t see how Wembley could turn this down. The cash and the profile will keep them afloat for quite a few seasons and you never know they even grab a few extra regular supporters along the way. As the Wembley FC manager pointed out "A year ago we were playing in front of an empty grandstand and the club house was falling down." 
Yes we would like all our clubs to be run on goodwill and magic fairy dust but with a crowd of 71 for the Shoreham game clubs need to grab any opportunities to help them survive.
Survive and prosper is something Colliers Wood United have been doing for 136 years and are one of the oldest teams in the country. With a move to a new ground in 1991 they have risen up the pyramid and are now in the Combined Counties Premier League. They only entered the FA Cup for the first time in 2006/7.
Shoreham aren’t wet behind the ears either being 120 years old.
As for the game, in the first half Shoreham keep getting caught on the break and it was no surprise when Colliers Wood scored. When the Wood got a second there looked no way back for the Mussels who piled on the pressure but with little effect. Then in the 82 minute they pulled a goal back and it was game on. And with five minutes of inquiry time and the last kick of the game Shoreham’s Callaghan equalized and the Musselmen earnt themselves another crack of the cup whip on Wednesday. 

GOAL! Thanks to official Shoreham photographer Mike Dinsdale for letting me reproduce his photos