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, December 18, 2016

TV AND TRAINS V A FORCE FOR GOOD

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kettering Town on Saturday 17th December 2016. We won 3-2 in front of 588 to stay second in the league. 

The empty seats in the 'sell out' crowd and the flat atmosphere with people rushing in late said all you need to know about Friday night football. Aston Villa to be fair had turned up in their thousands, no doubt enjoying watching their team winning after season after season of treading water in the Premier League. A team that despite that failure are guaranteed millions in parachute payments giving them a seriously unfair financial advantage.

They came with a game plan, were proper strong and Brighton were lucky to get a draw. Not so lucky were those trying to get home on the train. At the last minute Southern Railway had told the club that because of a lack of staff they couldn't put on trains. So people waited for hours in the cold, some Villa fans missed connections and slept at Brighton station.

Southern often provide a worse service when there isn't a strike, because they don't have enough staff and rely on everyone doing overtime. When you continually threatening those very same staff its not surprising that they don't bend over backwards to help out. Clearly they should lose their franchise and the service should be taken back into public ownership; but despite a terrible track record, Govia were given the government contract to push thru 'reforms' and get into a punch-up with the unions.

Next up on the Friday was Leeds United. Then its Reading. Saturday football seems to be a distant memory for Albion fans, but when your £25 million in debt and £100,000 is on offer for each televised game, its too tempting. But its a funny old business that can piss off your most loyal customers for people who want to watch it on the tele.

The Villa train fiasco left the Albion hierarchy furious, but its not like it hasn't happened before and maybe some of the blame should go to the TV companies. On top of this Brighton get named as one of the most expensive clubs to watch and once again their chief executive said it was unfair as tickets include free travel but also this mythical match-day experience. Even my safe standing questionnaire came with the cravat - ok if you want it, who pays for it? But with such a flat atmosphere at the Villa game, can Brighton afford not to introduce it? That doesn't mean the club aren't well run they just have two feet tied behind their backs because of the Premier parachute payments.

What they can be really proud of it is their Albion in the Community (AITC) programme, which rightly wins awards for its work with the added bonus of hooking youngsters in for life.

AITC have 3 key objectives: to inspire and motivate young people and their families to be physically active and to lead healthy lifestyles; to provide opportunities for young people to play football whatever their ability or background; and to work with our local community, particularly those that are disadvantaged, to help raise aspirations and improve life chances.

My son and his mates has benefited from free coaching over the last few years and is now in one of their sponsored teams. The nominal fee of just £60 a season includes kit, lifts to training and games, trips out and the chance to meet the players. Listening to three 11 year olds talk about tactics or watching how they have sussed the offside rule you know this coaching is paying off.

You can use football to teach kids about everything from maths, English to healthy eating and they are always in my sons school. So its not surprising they have won a string of awards for their pioneering work such as encouraging more women and girls to play football. Their Premier League Kicks programme is now the second-largest in the country, providing free weekly football to more than 2,500 young people including my son and his friends. They working with 100 schools across Sussex, support people with disabilities and cancer, and have helped 550 young people to earn qualifications by working with their education and skills team. If that all sounds a bit po-faced it isn't and they really make a massive difference delivering 61 projects to more than 36,000 people over the last 12 months alone.

For this community work alone, Brighton deserve to reach the Premier League Promised Land – and maybe they should get their community arm to help run the trains as well.



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