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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

CHRIS SLISKI, THE FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS FEDERATION AND THE BRIGHTON CONNECTION

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.”

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