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.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

WHITEHAWK OR BUST

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Leamington Saturday 20th February 2016. We lost 3-1 in front of 286 soaked supporters on a mud-bath of a pitch. Roll on 3

The first time I went to see Whitehawk Football Club play was in 2006 when I was served coffee in a proper mug and just 50 people watched the game, while the bar was bustling with locals more keen on the beer than the football. Not that it mattered and at the time I wrote 'currently top of the Sussex County League, players only get expenses so they are never going to attract players from too far away. One supporter told me, that not so long ago you had to live in the Whitehawk area to play for them. And on an estate with a bad reputation that has received millions in regeneration money, it’s more than just a football club but a proper community resource with plenty of football teams for all ages, young and old mixing, something community development workers can only dream of. The chairman was running the gate and his grandson selling raffle tickets. They’ve got plans to improve facilities, but I like the place, nestled next to the South Downs with the chalk hawk overlooking the ground. Former players still come to watch games with their sons in the squad, while the manager Ian Chapman made more than 300 appearances in ten years as a player with Brighton.'

Fast forward 10 years and Whitehawk are making headlines for all the right and wrong reasons. Fueled by large amounts of investment they have steamed up the leagues and are knocking on the Conference National League door; have a growing band of Ultras and a chairman who wants to change their name to Brighton City. This has put me off going, but with Sussex football once again falling to the foul weather, it was Whitehawk or sitting in the pub. And i've got to say I was pleasantly surprised. The Ultras might be a bit to right-on but at least they do it with a large dollop of humour. They have however not seen the funny side of the plans to ditch Whitehawk. Now has their former vice-chairman and son of co-founder Ron Powell recently wrote a great letter to the local paper.

Like many other clubs, it is the influx of inappropriate levels of money in the search for short-term glory that leads to situations such as those that now prevail with the Hawks. This leads to desperate measures such as a name change in an attempt to prop up an unsustainable business plan. The Hawks should keep their name just as it is and be as proud as I am of being associated with this community. It is an asset not a liability.
Johns (Summers the current chairman) approach has alienated fans past and present and also built unnecessary tensions with Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. He may well be a very successful local businessman but leading a football club, needs the ability to manage fans' hearts as well as their heads. Changing names is disrespectful by erasing its history and tradition as well as appearing to want to disassociate itself from the community in which it was born.
I would also like to pay tribute to the “real” heroes of Whitehawk, the small team of key officials led by John Rosenblatt who has served for the club for over 40 years and only its second secretary since 1945. These guys voluntarily dedicate so much time to the club and without them we would be not be having this debate today.
Finally, perhaps John Summers should in an attempt to regain some much needed trust now reassure all the fans he really is in this for the long term. That if his plan for a name change is not successful, he will not walk away, condemning the club to a completely unsustainable situation. If he chose to do so it would leave the real fans to pick up the pieces just as has happening at so many other clubs. Or would he graciously accept defeat but then carefully manage the club back to a totally self-sufficient level, no doubt some way below the National League but to a point where me and many other fans can look forward to following the fate of our team for many years to come.”

I don’t begrudge Whitehawk their success its just not the way I think small community football clubs should be run. We've all heard so much trumpet blowing from money men so many times before and it almost always ends in tears. The irony is that the success that the Chairman's money has brought has attracted a new generation of fans; fans that you feel would be more than capable of turning the Hawks into a supporters run club should the need arise. Fans who you know would respect the name Whitehawk Football Club.

Further reading - David Bauckham has done another of his top-notch in-depth articles, this time on Whitehawk 



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