These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Printed in the National League South game v Weston-super-Mare on Tuesday 14th August 2018. We won 2-1 in front of 651 happy people (well apart from the 4 WSM fans)

It not a good sign when you have to crowdfund to help pay for your travel costs to games, but that's the situation Fleet Town find themselves in through no fault of their own. The FA suddenly switched the league they were meant to play in at the last minute from Isthmian to Southern League West Division – tripling their travel costs in an instant. 
As Fleet pointed out “We were provisionally allocated to the Isthmian League which is centred around Middlesex. We recruited a management team, players and sponsors within the M25. The FA told us 18 hours before finalising the league structure that we had been moved to the Southern League which plays most of its games centred around Bristol with some even in Devon. This will triple our travel costs not to mention travel time. Our management team and all of the players have resigned and some of our sponsors withdrew including our major ground sponsor. We are told if we resign from the league we will face a 2 division drop and a fine of between £9,500 and £76,000. Being a ‘not for profit’ club run by a handful of unpaid volunteers we can’t afford to do that either.”
The switch was caused by the demise of Shaw Lane from Barnsley who had powered up the pyramid in the blink of an eye thanks to their chairman's deep pockets. Blaming everyone from the local council to Barnsley FC who objected to them changing their name to AFC Barnsley, the fact is that the club didn't attract the support it needed, both financially and through the gates. When he couldn't find anyone to take over he pulled the plug, leaving a number of clubs like Fleet high and dry. To add to Fleets woes their latest manager lasted less than a month, leaving before their season even began. The FA's vision is that by the 2020-21 season there will be a symmetrical Pyramid in place. I'm all for this, which rather ironically was done in part to decrease travelling times. As Head of the National League System Laurence Jones pointed out 'There are 1,641 clubs in the National League System and we’ve had 34 appeals from clubs. That’s 34 more than we’d want but we have to put that in context.' Slough really clocked up the miles last season in the Southern Premier with trips from Somerset to Norfolk and I get that there will always going to anomalies. But this is no way to treat Fleet. Would it really been the end of the world to have the Southern League West Division a team short rather than force a club formed in 1890 into financial ruin?  
I've nothing against cubs being ambitious and moving forward but too many dreams are built on sand. Slough's slow climb back up the pyramid has been painful at times, but if you look back those small steps forward and odd stumble back, its been essential to our sustainable growth. Not once will you have heard our chairman boast at the bar of his 10 year plan to have Slough challenging Arsenal for the Premier League title (yeah I know we probably got as much chance of winning the Premier League as Arsenal). In fact you are more likely to find him behind the bar serving drinks, sweeping the floor or putting up gazebos. 
One of our lowest points as a football club was losing to Fleet Town in the last game of the 2007/8 season. The defeat left us second from bottom which should have seen us relegated for the second season running; this time to the Dog and Duck Doughnut Division and playing in the FA Vase for the first time ever. Yet as the Fleet players huddled in the middle to celebrate a play off place, it was the Slough players who were cheered off by at least 200 Rebels in attendance, fifteen of them who had walked 26 sponsored miles to get there. However, because of another badly run club Halifax Town going bust we were given a reprieve. That defeat was just over 10 years ago and the beginning of the reign of Sir Steve of Easterbrook. The rest as they say is history.  
We seriously need more checks and balances on lower league finances so the Billericay Dickies can't splash the cash and put clubs in jeopardy. Not only does this create a financial space-race as other clubs try and keep up, but when it inevitably goes belly up and the chairman walks out the turnstile after a hissy fit, it's the supporters that have to pick up the pieces. And for those caught in the cross-fire? I suppose it's asking a bit too much of the FA to have been a bit more fleet of foot and not punish clubs who have done nothing wrong and try and live within their means. Let's hope Fleet Town survive the season.


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