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, August 20, 2014

TOP FIELD NOT SHOP FIELD

Printed in the Southern Football League Premier Division match v Biggleswade Town Tuesday 19th August 2014. We drew 1-1 in front of 300 people. 

When Hitchin planners were scratching their heads wondering how they could improve their pleasant little market town, do you think someone jumped out of their seat, shouting 'how about we knock down our football club, destroy a nice part of the town and help damage our high street – all in one smart move? W e already have 3 supermarkets, but what we really need is four?' If the Tesco juggernaut gets it way, then Hitchin will have all this and more.

Hitchin Town' Top Field has got to be one of my favourite oldy-wordly higgledy-piggledy charming little grounds that make ground-hoppers go all weak at the knees – especially after you've visited a few local boozers on the way from the train station. It's surrounded by greenery and it's still called Top Field and not The Really Fast Pick and Click Stadium of Speed or some other such nonsense. However, the Canaries problem is that they rent the land from the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust. This is a charity 'for the benefit of the community through the provision of facilities for cricket, football or other sports or for other general purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Hitchin'. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, the Common Cows have decided to stick their noses in the trough, and try to flog the land while offering Hitchin a lovely new community sports facility elsewhere in the town.

So what's the problem? Well along with Hitchin Town fans, a number of other town organisations are again the plans with Chairman of Hitchin Forum, Mike Clarke, saying: “Tesco, the original suspect, has attracted opposition in other areas because of the impact it has had on local businesses. But whether it is Tesco, or another superstore, do we need a fourth large supermarket in town? Should a Hitchin charity be making a deal to do so? We think not.”

Football clubs should be at the heart of the communities, and non league clubs especially cannot expect to survive shoved out of the way on the outskirts of a town.

Supermarkets on the other hand are the opposite of community, despite all their social responsibility guff. They even expect governments to top up their workers low wages with tax credits. You won't catch Jeff Stelling crowing that they will be dancing down the Tesco aisles tonight. Your never hug complete strangers in a superstore - well, unless you want to be sectioned. Infact you'd be hard pressed to find someone smiling. You don't applaud cos some kids done some fancy footwork with the broccoli. There's no reminiscing of the old times on that fantastic 2-for-1 deal. And while you might shiver by the fridges, it's not the same as freezing on the terraces with a nice warm cup of tea moaning with your mates that the games bloody awful. But that's it. Mates, friends, colleagues, acquaintances – people. Human beings not bloody customers.

Bill Grimsey, former chief executive of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, who knows a thing or two about shopping habits reckons that we need to completely re-vamp our high streets as community hubs. With ever increasing home deliveries and on-line shopping, the way we shop is changing fast and even Tescos are starting to flog off all the land they have banked and know they will never use. So he says that people will need more good reasons merely than just than shopping to visit shops.

So let's hear it for our local pubs, micropubs, independent shops, community centres, cafes, art spaces and of course football clubs that will be at the forefront of regenerating town centres. Creating places where people can meet rather than encouraging more social isolation.

Destroying Top Field might be a short lived economic shot in the arm for Tesco shareholders but it will do long term economic, social and cultural harm to Hitchin and help send another much loved football club towards the dustbin of history. 

* For all your 24 hour a day campaigning needs against supermarkets go to Tescopoly http://www.tescopoly.org/




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