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.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Written for Slough Town v Merthyr Town FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round game Saturday 19th October. We lost 2-1

I never managed to get to Merthyr Tydfil during the brief period that Slough and the team from South Wales played each other in the Conference. In those days, we seemed to be permanently camped up North, leaving too late, driving too fast to away games where we would often lose not just the game but our marbles. Oh, to be young, free, single and drunk again.

Now I'm always a bit confused by Welsh football. It has shown a startling Renaissance with Swansea, Cardiff and Newport, while the Welsh National league seems to operate in a parallel universe. Where the biggest force is a team called The New Saints (which is slightly more bearable than their previous name of Total Network Solutions) who are based in England.

Merthyr are yet another club who have endured some rough times. Now supporters run, Martyrs to the Cause campaigned to get rid of their old chairman who at one point seemed to be offering to sell their Southern league place to another club! After they were liquidated, the fans began again as Merthyr Town in the Toolstation Western League Division One playing home games 20 miles away in Taffs Well. But it took them just three seasons to regain their Southern League status. A league they have won more than any other club in its history. Now thanks to a £500,000 grant they have installed a 3G pitch and are doing up their ground. Company secretary John Strand said: "The club sees this development as a springboard for the club to become a hub for football development in Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding areas." More matches on the pitch, more income, more people involved in the club. I know I sound like the pub bore with my support for artificial pitches, but they just make so much economic sense.

This is something that is going to come to a non-league head if Maidstone United win promotion to the Conference South. Their artificial pitch saw just one of their games called off last year, where grounds either resembled the Somme or Narnia. They won promotion with average crowds of 1,500 and are now flying high in the Ryman Premier. Their clued-up co-owner recently penned a very sensible letter to the Greg Dyke, the new FA chairman. “Although we took the risk of putting in 3G, other clubs don’t. One major reason is that leagues from the Conference upwards do not currently allow 3G pitches in their league competitions. We understand that the FA is unable and/or unwilling to push the cause of 3G to them because of the Premier League’s influence in your committees. Faced with this strange barrier to what could be a hugely positive business option for many football clubs, we decided to set up 3G4US, a group of 50 football clubs from Football League, Scottish League and non-league who are all in favour of 3G pitches. The Football League don’t want to take any action because they might upset the Premier League, who are against 3G and the Football Conference don’t want to take action because they don’t want to upset the Football League.
And the FA can’t show an example by giving the green light to clubs to play on 3G in the FA Cup because the PREMIER LEAGUE WON’T ALLOW IT! It’s madness and a metaphor for how football is being run in this country.”
To me Merthyr Town and Maidstone United are taking an important lead and are where Slough want to be. Playing at Arbour Vale, offering more than just football and bringing the most multi-cultural town in the country together, by cheering on the Rebels. It makes sense for it be on an artificial pitch. But I would also like us to grow the lettuces for the free range meat burgers, have compost bins and compost loos. And a club-shop that sells programmes just to annoy Sue.

Clubs need to think outside the box, if they are to build a sustainable future for themselves. And with more wet and wild weather thanks to climate change, it's those that adapt that will decide whether they either sink or swim. 





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