Another day, another hollow protest: Why #enoughisenough of pointless gestures.

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Whether it is Liverpool, Blackpool or anywhere else. Owners just aren't listening to are pointless protests.

Whether it is Liverpool, Blackpool or anywhere else, owners just aren’t listening to our pointless protests.

It seems to be the topic that I have come back to again and again recently, trying to explain what represents meaningful action when it comes to changing the game and what does not. We have had the BBC Price of Football report (here), we have had the Blackpool Supporters Trust ‘protest’ against their clubs owner (here) and today Liverpool Supporters Union, Spirit of Shankly, held their own protest.

The supporters held up various banners, “£nough is £nough” being one of them, along with black flags in the kop end and various other schemes designed to raise awareness of the issue. The Spirit of Shankly Twitter feed radically announced that “We won’t stand back and let it carry on. We will fight back” (here).

So, it is up to me to once again be the bearer of bad but obvious news and say to the Spirit of Shankly that the protest is hollow and pointless. The only argument in favour of the protest today would be that it raised publicity and awareness, including coverage by the Daily Mail (here).

However, it’s not like we didn’t know that football was incredibly expensive and overpriced, Spirit of Shankly have not done us a service be showing us the revelation that football is pricing out the traditional working class supporter or at least bleeding them dry. So there is really no need to raise awareness of a problem everyone is already aware of.

I have to point out, yet again, that giving someone your money is about as far away from protesting against them as you can get. It’s such a bloody obvious point but still it doesn’t seem to sink in. In what way does paying the extortionate price of a ticket at Liverpool represent a “fight back”? The answer is, it doesn’t. The fact is I did more to protest against the ticket pricing at Liverpool today by sitting on my arse then anyone who paid for a ticket did.

The only thing these people understand is money, they treat you like a customer so it’s about time you started acting like one. Now I am getting an increasing amount of stick off people on this which always end in “Well what would you do then?” or “What are you doing?” and I am more than happy, on top of being a member of my own Supporters Trust, to offer some suggestions.

The first one is simple. You all collectively stop buying the tickets, stop buying the shirts and stop buying anything else that funds the club. You boycott the club and you starve them of cash. Arguments against this are always the same and although I have sympathy with some, others can be dismissed.

Firstly, “I’m against the ownership, not the team” My answer to this is just fu*k off. The ownership is the team, if you give money to watch the team you give money to the owners, if you say anything else you are talking nonsense.

The second and third have more weight but can still be answered. Number two is “Look Ed, even if Liverpool fans boycott they will just be replaced by tourists. We aren’t a Blackpool or a Birmingham City, we’re a global club with a national and international fan base pal. So why don’t you fu*k off Ed?”

This may or may not be true and I’m certainly not convinced it would be anywhere near the numbers people think. Would 20,000 tourists be coming to watch Liverpool vs Hull in late October or Liverpool vs Stoke next month? I doubt it. Most of these fans are armchair fans and the desire to come and watch only exists because you make it for them.

The club is sold on it’s massive atmosphere, it’s Kop end and great experience. I imagine when all the tourists are taking photos, they are taking photos of you and tweeting to their mates “At Anfield, great atmosphere, blah blah blah.”

If you turned that place into a library by boycotting on mass and leaving only the tourists there, one of the main attractions of coming to watch Liverpool is taken away. It’s not as if you have a superstar team (sorry Liverpool fans) so less and less people would think paying £37 to sit in a silent library would be worth it.

My final point on this is even if you disagree, even if you think that it would still be rammed week in and week out if 10,000 or 15,000 Liverpool fans boycotted all you have is a theory, a hypothesis if you will. So why don’t we put that theory to the test? Let’s find out I’m right or your right because the fact you’ve never even tried counts against your argument.

The third and final point is probably the most effective. “Ok Ed, let’s say we’ve managed to get several thousand Liverpool fans to join the Spirit of Shankly and we boycott.  Let’s say we do have half empty stadiums week on week and we stop buying merchandise. None of that will matter because of the massive amount of cash clubs get from the TV deals for the Premier League. That’s why we can only raise awareness and nothing more.”

Two things here. The TV is selling a product and it links back to my point about the atmosphere in the grounds. Who are the clubs that are always on the Telly? It’s you, United and now Man City but they aren’t putting Stoke or Leicester regularly. The Premier League sells itself as “The best league in the world” and bangs on and on about the “great atmosphere”. That is their USP for the product they are selling and again we as fans are providing that for free, in fact they are making us pay to sell their product for them.

So again, I don’t think that a bunch of gawping Chinese tourists with camera phones is that much of a sell to TV companies and if fans organise to just turn these places into ghost stadiums or libraries they have nothing to sell. Example: Coventry played Cardiff in the League cup earlier in the season, whilst they were still at Northampton and the attendance was 1,382.

Those empty stands, the silence and the haunting echo’s from the one or two souls there was a far greater protest then what would have been displayed at Anfield today. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if any tourists there today weren’t taking a photo of your black flags and saying “great atmosphere in the Kop”.

There is another radical option which is just breakaway, ala FC United. Say you refuse to put up with this anymore and you are going to reclaim the game yourself, by getting a true Liverpool team through the leagues. Now before anyone says “Isn’t that what AFC Liverpool tried to do?”, I will just mention a few facts.

AFC Liverpool state that despite being against high ticket prices and fans priced out of the game they are not attacking the ownership of the club. So they are against rip off prices but not those at Liverpool, which essentially makes them a pointless B team with no real purpose or reason to exist.

FC United is not a “B” team, they are against the parasites who own Manchester United and they have carved out their own identity. That is why FC United get 1,900 in the seventh tier of English football despite being based in Bury for their existence and AFC Liverpool barely get three figures. That is why FC United will be moving into a ground of their own before Christmas and will be challenging to get in the Football League in the near future whilst AFC Liverpool ground-share, lingering on until they are finally put down.

A breakaway club is a serious option if done properly and it should not be dismissed. The softest but perhaps most tolerable option for the Spirit of Shankly and other groups is to say to the club, you want to buy tickets in bulk. You will guarantee 1,000 people and you will pay for them all together but you want a reduction in the price. Collective bargaining is the aim but this still rests on what are you going to do if the club says no?

Overall, I do want to see football fans fight-back against high ticket prices and local supporters, working class supporters being squeezed out of the game. However, until people understand what is serious action (and by the looks of the support for the protest by STAND and other supporters trusts we don’t yet), nothing will change.

Enoughisenough of the meaningless protests and pointless twitter messages to the clubs owners, it’s time to get serious.

@eddyman00

@spiritofshankly

 

Links

BBC Price of Football

Spirit of Shankly Twitter Message

Daily Mail – Liverpool Protest  

About AFC Liverpool

Spend it wisely- FA Cup money & how not to blow it.

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Dorch 1

When the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round draw was made I was praying for Dorchester to pull Bristol Rovers out of the hat and they got the team every smaller non-league side would’ve been clamouring for. The FA Cup is vital for clubs wishing to attract new sponsors, new fans and raise the profile of their clubs, for many clubs it can provide a much welcome boost to the clubs coffers in prize money or attendances. However, many clubs have great runs in Cup competitions only to end up going bust or in financial distress a season or so later.

Perhaps the most consistent and luckiest example of this FA Cup bailout fund is Wrexham’s opponents in this round and upcoming replay, Macclesfield Town.  The club has had glorious runs in the cup for several seasons now and yet despite this, the only result has been that it’s been just enough to keep the club afloat.

In 2010/11 the club won their first round match and pocketed £18,000 plus gate receipts from their three games (one replay). In 2011/12, Macclesfield Town got all the way to the third round having beaten non-league East Thurrock then Chelmsford City in a second round game, which was televised, before beating them in a replay. They were then drawn against Bolton in the third round and took them to a replay. So the club made £45,000 in prize money, plus the money from TV coverage and then add gate receipts, etc.

It gets better in 2012/13, having been relegated to the Conference they enter at the 4th Qualifying Round. Despite this extra obstacle, the club still made it to the Fourth Round Proper having dumped out Swindon, Barrow and Cardiff before losing to eventual FA Cup winners Wigan. So they made £125,000 in prize money alone.

This season just gone and it was made quite public on fans forums and on the BBC Non-League show that the ability of Macclesfield Town to pay wages, perhaps it’s very survival, was dependant on yet another good cup run. Not to worry though because Macclesfield would get to the Third Round proper, having beaten Swindon again in the First Round before going out to Sheffield Wednesday.  Last season they only made £57,500 in prize money.

So the club that has made £245,500 in prize money (and I’d bet it’s more than £300,000 all together) over the last several seasons still had Assistant Manager Efe Sodje on the Non-League Show last season saying they needed to beat Swindon in the 2013/14 FA Cup just to keep the club floating. Where had all that money gone? I don’t think there is an better example of a club wasting it’s miracle FA Cup runs then Macclesfield.  As they have Wrexham this round, here’s hoping they don’t have another one.

Another example is Salisbury, who just three seasons ago got a big pay day when they went to Sheffield United in the FA Cup Third Round and got to split the gate money. They are without a league to play and are in administration for the second time in less than five seasons.

However, Dorchester do not have to look any further than the mirror to see how cup money can be wasted and fritted away. Just two seasons ago, the Dorch got a glorious win over Plymouth Argyle 1-0 at Dorchester, live on the telly. When I went to Dorch last season (here) drastic budget cuts had to come in to ensure the club survived and further cuts were needed when they were knocked out of the cup. Again, the boom and bust mentality meant that the huge sums of money raised by the cup run must had made little dent in the debt the club was building up.

This season, the club is on the way to transitioning to majority fan ownership and this cup game against Bristol Rovers represents a great chance to bring the feel good factor back to Dorchester and hopefully this descent down the leagues has levelled out.

You’ve been given the problems and some examples of the culprits, so what are the golden rules no club should break? They are: 1) Do not bank on any cup money at all 2) Pay off debts & 3) Invest in infrastructure.

Number One is pretty straightforward. If you are banking on cup money your club is already in trouble, no club has a divine right to win cup matches and depending on the luck of the draw, you could get horrible tough games year after year. Even moneybag teams can have an off day and this season big spenders dumped out of the cup prematurely include Salford, Margate and most shocking of all Barrow of the Conference North, who were beaten by Step 5 Runcorn Town. Cup runs should be seen as a bonus, anything else is putting your club in jeopardy.

The next two revolve around what to do if you get a good cup run. For most clubs, good cup runs don’t come around very often and seeing as how at the non-league level a relatively small amount of money owed can see a club put to the wall, it’s vital to take the chance to clean the slate and leave the club debt free. Far too many clubs will then throw it at the club to “take it to the next level” instead of doing the boring but sensible thing of making sure the club has good foundations.

My final point is about a word that a lot of people use without knowing what it actually means, that of “investing” in your club. When a little club wins a cup game on the telly, the stupid drone of a reporter almost always asks “will some of that money be going to the playing squad?” or “will you be investing on the field?”

An investment is something where the return is greater than the cost over a short or long term basis. Footballer’s transfers fees and wages, unless they fire your club to a promotion or are sold on for a bomb, tend not to be an investment in the correct sense of the word. Luckily for clubs at this level, there is an investment all of them can make which will provide a constant supply of income and that is a 3G pitch. Maidstone United were ahead of the game and fan owned Lewes have raised enough money to build one but a 3G pitch now can be the lifeline which saves non-league football clubs from oblivion.

Dorchester is moving to fan ownership and it’s vital for fan owned clubs to build their own revenue streams to ensure long term sustainability and on field success. Luckily, the FA has now allowed 3G pitches at all levels of the game Dorchester could play at. Matched funding and grants only available to community owned clubs could allow Dorchester to make a real investment in their club with a 3G pitch that can be rented out and used to train on by all their teams, plus it would allow their clubhouse to be used 7 days a week with ample parking available at Tesco just next door.

If Dorchester Town FC learn the lessons of their own past mistakes there is no reason, whatever the result on Saturday, why they can’t be the real winners .

@eddyman00

FA Cup Preview: 4th Qualifying Round

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wrexham-badge

So, we are at the final hurdle to get into the 1st Round proper but with the amount of former Football League teams entering, it wouldn’t be unfair to state that this is properly where some of the big sides enter, which can be perfectly demonstrated by who one of our fan owned clubs plucked out of the hat. We have four fan owned teams in the draw and none of them have got an ‘easy’ game. Still, a win here and each club can bank the £12,500 prize money plus have the chance of playing a Portsmouth or Sheffield United next round. Off we go then.

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Macclesfield (1) vs Wrexham (1)

A game that has been moved to tonight due to fellow fan owned club Chester pulling Stockport out of the hat, both clubs have enjoyed great runs in the competition over recent seasons, with Macclesfield only remaining in existence with their regular miracle runs in the FA Cup (more on that tomorrow).

The similarities continue with both clubs making an impressive start to life in an ultra-competitive Conference, sitting just two and three points below the play-offs respectively. However, Wrexham are without a win since September and are crucially without goal-scorer Louis Moult, who was sent off in the 150th anniversary Wrexham game vs Grimsby. Macclesfield on the other hand have gained eight points from their last four games and are unbeaten at home all season.

On paper, it looked like one of the worse draws Wrexham could have got and although they will by no means be walked over, I just think that with Macclesfield home form and their consistent FA Cup exploits it will be Macclesfield who get the result. A draw would be a solid result for Wrexham.

Prediction: Macclesfield win.

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Spennymoor Town (4) vs AFC Telford (1)

Before their win against Woking at the weekend, I really feared for Telford in this game but now I am a little bit more confident. Yes, there is three steps between these sides but winning and losing are habit forming, with Telford having done far too little of the former.

Spennymoor Town only opted to move up from the Northern League this season after winning the FA Vase in 2013 and then the Northern League in 2014. This season, they look a good bet for the playoffs in an Evo-Stik Div One North containing moneybags Salford and fallen giants Darlington FC. With an average attendance of 800 plus they have enough to survive comfortably at the Conference North and will be climbing the leagues in the near future.

 The start Telford have had to the season can be describe as a nightmare and before their surprise win against Woking it was tough to see where the next win was coming from. It may be harder still now that Mike Phenix, who scored two of Telford’s three goals on Saturday, has moved onto pastures new after terms were agreed with Barnsley but they should still have enough to beat Spennymoor.

Overall, after the win against Woking this FA Cup match represents a great chance for Telford to build some momentum and bring in some much needed funds to perhaps bolster the squad for a serious push at survival. If Telford were to lose on Saturday though, it could become a very long and miserable season.

Prediction: Telford win

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Stockport County (2) vs Chester (1)

This game will probably have the highest attendance of the round and with Stockport getting a gate of 2562 in the last round this could be closer to, if not break, the 4000 barrier. Stockport and Chester perhaps best exemplify what good ownership and security over your ground can do for you and crucially, what lacking it does to your club.

Stockport County after a dramatic fall from grace seem to have stabilised on the field at least, with last season finishing 14th in the Conference North. This season, the club lie in 6th and look well placed to finish in the playoffs and battle it out against moneybags Barrow and AFC Fylde for the final promotion spot to the Conference Prem. The club still gates of 2400 on average and despite still relying on some generous people to keep the club afloat and still not owning their ground, it just shows how much potential there is at Stockport.

Chester have, after a unconvincing start, settled into mid-table and after this season will be seen as an established Conference team, joining the host of other former Football League teams battling for the Conference playoffs. With no real concern about being relegated this season there is no excuse for the FA Cup and the FA Trophy not to be taken seriously.

In a one off game this could go either way but I expect Chester to get the job done, even if it takes a replay.

Prediction: Chester win.

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Dorchester Town (3) vs Bristol Rovers (1)

So Dorchester got a dream tie in the shape of Bristol Rovers, by some way the biggest club in Non-League football. Yes, Dorchester may have got some tiny minnow but it’s just as likely they could have got Dartford away and been dumped out anyway.

Dorchester have had to cut their cloth quite significantly over the last season to make sure they don’t go bust and the Dorchester Supporters Trust, unlike so many other times where fans take over and rise back up through the leagues, saw the club relegated from the Conference South last season by a lot to spare.

This season they made a slow start and looked like they might struggle to stay up but six points from their last two games has seen them move six points clear of the drop and with their next league game against bottom of the table Histon in two weeks, they have a great chance to put some clear blue water between them and the bottom clubs.

Bristol Rovers made a dire start to life in the Conference but went nine games unbeaten before losing last weekend to Forest Green and lie one point outside the playoffs with an outside chance of catching Conference leaders Barnet for the single automatic promotion spot and anything less than a win for Bristol Rovers against Dorchester will be seen as a disaster.

  Now I know I have predicted Dorchester to lose every round (although one of them was in jest) but I can’t see past Bristol Rovers. Still, with the club announcing it’s intention to move to full community ownership what better way to bring in a new and exciting era for Dorchester than with a packed house against Bristol Rovers and if they could sneak a result, well even better.

Prediction: Bristol Rovers win but hopefully a 2000 plus crowd.

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@eddyman00

What my Trade Union should do but never will… Grow Up.

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Recently, I got two emails off my Trade Union ‘Unite’. One was for a Young Members survey, which due to the collapse in Union membership these days is probably anyone under 30, asking me what mattered to me. The other was from my dear Leader Len McCluskey (salary £140,281 as of June 2014) telling me all about another pointless march held last weekend in London, which have become  substitutes for genuine action.

Now before people start screeching, this isn’t going to be one of Tory “I support trade unions” (in the same way a noose supports a hanged man) or some nonsense about Unions being the far left strawman of Grant Shapps imagination. This is a criticism from someone who actually wants to see strong Unions, who are led, run and creating working class leaders to make long term improvements to their member’s lives.

This piece has three main criticisms of Trade Unions (we could go on forever otherwise) and they are: Number one, Trade Unions have become infected by middle class University Grads which brings us onto number two, Trade Unions being in favour of policies which actively hurt their members and potential working class members. Which leads onto number three, they have become obsessed with the state Fabianism which has destroyed the movement and is preventing Unions from being relevant in the 21st Century to the working class.

So number one. Now it is no secret to anyone who knows me that I despise middle class Fabians, they are the parasites who have leeched of the traditional labour movement to impose their snobbish statist failure on the rest of us. However, what has amazed me is the way they have so comfortably become the figureheads for the Union movement or been bankrolled by them.

Now I know from my experience of being in the Labour party (shudder) most of the young people who join Unions are doing it not because they need a Union (virtually all Young Labour members are middle class), nor is it even out of a sense of solidarity. No, the reason is that they see at as a good vehicle for funds or promotion within the Labour Party as they build their political careers.

I’m going to give more specific examples now before people state that these are unsubstantiated accusations by a bitter working class lad. Two examples come to mind of the sort of middle class preeners who have been given trade Union gigs in the past: Owen Jones and Dan Hodges. Both come from well off middle class backgrounds, both have glided through University and both ended up working at a Trade Union.

Dan Hodges is himself the son of Labour MP Glenda Jackson so not exactly from working class stock and Owen Jones… Well we will come back to him. The point I am trying to make here is that Trade Unions should be bringing through working class members to become the researchers, policy makers and leaders of the movement, not a bunch of preening middle class kids. This obsession with getting university grads is creating a chasm between prospective/current members and those who supposedly speak for them. As Maurice Glasman says, “I’m sick of hearing ‘a voice for the voiceless’, the poor have voices of their own.”

Moving on, there is no better way I can show Unions have become infected by the parasites then by the funding of the most pretentiously named think tank I have come across, that of ‘Class’ (here). Speakers at this years’ conference include the well-known borderline racist and private school supporter (but not for your kids) Diane Abbott, Polly Toynbee (whose family have been part of the intellectual landed gentry for many a generation) and the crown prince of middle class Guardian readers (as if any other class reads the Guardian), Owen Jones.

Owen Jones somehow came to prominence by writing a woeful book about working class people targeted at the middle class and anyone reading the book can tell it was done by someone who certainly is not working class. It is a book that manages to be patronising and dismissive of the working class in equal measure, in a way only middle class Fabians can.

Policy documents from this organisation have included the usual suspects including one being done by authors of the Spirit Level, a book which has not heard of the concept of outliers and all manner of policy documents demanding the state pass legislation, instead of ways which Unions can actually make changes themselves. The pièce de résistance, alongside ‘How immigration is good for all of us’ is the publication entitled: ‘How can the European left deal with the threat posed by xenophobia?’(Here)

Its 14 pages of the same nonsensical guff you hear all the time, I won’t go through all of it as it’s there to read should you wish to but I’ll go through some quick points which you’ve all heard before. Comparing UKIP to fascists? Check. Saying in the same breath we shouldn’t dismiss people’s concerns about immigration and then, in the very same breath, dismissing them? Thinking that the proles would be in favour of immigration if only those ghastly papers The Sun and The Daily Mail were shut down?

What stands out to me in all these things is just how much contempt those who write this guff show for traditional working class people. Take the comment from pg. 8 when describing ex Labour voters going over to UKIP having wondered why this phenomenon is occurring.

“They are Old Labour, the working class conservatives, and the ex-Tory working class. In summary, these voters are male, pale, stale and struggling.” Now I have heard this ‘male, pale and stale’ trotted out at nearly every Labour event and I can’t think a more derogatory way to dismiss the people you are supposed to care about.

It also surprises me why the Fabians are so shocked that the people they despise are not voting for them anymore, the question that needs to be asked is the reverse: Why do so many people continue to vote for a progressive clique that detests them in every conceivable way? Another example of this loony left nonsense is when the author states on pg. 7 (when talking about reasons the “fascist-lite” UKIP are gaining ground) that “This is firstly due to the fact that they privilege family, order, race and nation.”

Lumping in the family with connotations of racial superiority and privilege is up there for the most pathetic comment in this woeful pamphlet. Don’t worry though folks, a hell of a lot of working class people don’t have strong families anymore and their kids always turn out to be the really successful ones.

Have no fear though, because the author of this piece of trash identifies who the saviours are for the modern left on pg.13. “We should also recognise that there is a mirror image of xenophobes out there – young and internationally minded, liberal thinking and socially open individuals.” Basically, middle class ‘progressive’ people, people just like them.

 Now there are some sensible people on the ‘left’ that don’t dismiss and face up to the reality that immigration has been bad for the working class, David Goodhart of the think-tank Demos is one of them.

 Having wrote an excellent book on the issue and stated the rather obvious point, that mass immigration undermines the very bedrock of support on which social democracy & the welfare state lives off. This is a very similar point made by Robert Putnam donkeys ago about immigration reducing levels of social trust, which underpin our willingness to pool resources together.

Frank Field is another who has been banging on about this forever and a day and he highlighted the July 2014 Migration Advisory Committee report (here) which shows that migrants lower the pay of the working class as well as ramping up competition and the cost of other provisions. They also state what has been obvious for a long time: there is no minimum wage as it’s not enforced or “An employer can expect a visit from HMRC once every 250 years and a prosecution once in a million years.”

This follows on from the House of Lords report in 2008 (here) which found no evidence of economic benefit of mass immigration plus The Migration Observatory noting the reality that (here) “low-wage workers lose while medium and high-paid workers gain.” Bluntly, the working class lose.

The latest man who has tried to make a stand on this is Maurice Glasman and he has now become just as despised by the Guardian mob as David Goodhart, Frank Field and anyone else who dare mention what is a black and white reality: That mass, unskilled migration is bad for and unwanted by the working class.

So what is Unite’s policy on this? Have they been bravely championing the working man and screaming blue murder any time some progressive middle class Labour MP extolled the virtues of open borders? Well not exactly.

Apart from that god awful policy document about educating the stupid working class people in knowing what’s good for them, they fund a Labour party committed to open borders. They fund a political party actively committed to reducing the living standards of working class people.

I was going to say that I’m always amazed by this phenomenon of Unions actively pursuing a policy which is anti-working class but I’d be lying. Still, the next time a Trade Union releases a brief about stagnant wages or poor working conditions or the housing crisis they should have their progressive, pro unskilled immigration view thrown back in their face and told to shut up.

Although immigration is a massive issue it is not the only Trade Union failure worth noting or perhaps even their biggest one. Trade Unions biggest failure and cause of their own downfall is their  obsession with a Fabian statist creed, as a consequence Unions spend all their time and energy lobbying the government to change instead of doing what Unions used to do, which was create change themselves.

If you look at the campaigns listed on the Unite website they are on the NHS, the minimum wage, public service pay, local government workers, etc. It’s all about the state and this has created a situation where private sector workers, where the vast majority of working class people in this country work, see no reason to join a Union. Where are the campaigns for those who work in call centres, MacDonalds or William Hill?

Well guess what, they aren’t state owned so Unite aren’t interested. It has a lot to do with the philosophy the runs Unite, if you believe everything should be run by the state it’s no surprise you show little interest in changing the private sector.

It’s a terrible bastardisation of the Union movement beautifully detailed in The Intellectual Life of The British Working Class by Jonathan Rose. It self-organised, not expecting anyone else to do it for them. It built libraries and colleges, reading classes and developed its’ own leaders, organising from the shop floor up. Now it just begs the government to do it instead.

It shouldn’t be too hard to see why people wouldn’t join a Union in this case as if you think all meaningful action should be taken by middle class state employees then what possible role is there for working class people, bar pointless marches or signing crappy petitions? You are there to be seen, not heard and you certainly aren’t expected to take part in any meaningful action.

Notions of self-organisation and self-determination have been abandoned with disastrous consequences for the Union movement and the working class it should represent. Instead of a bristling confident working class movement, we have a passive poor whose self-proclaimed leader is Owen Jones. It’s enough to bring this working class lad to despair.

So I’ve given the criticism, what are the solutions? Well for the Trade Union movement, the past is the future. It’s time to reengage with the traditional values of self-determination, self-organisation and working class activism by dropping the Fabians progressive, middle class led statism.

What they could offer is also far more ambitious, far more radical than anything that is on the table and virtually none of it requires state control. It’s something that will thrive regardless of the election result and stops Unions being a vehicle to elect Labour MP’s, it would truly become a ‘movement’.

Firstly, if Unite believes (as I do) that workers on the shop floor aren’t paid enough, that salaries at the top have nothing to do with their actual value and owners pursue short term gains for themselves, regardless of the long term damage it does to the company, then how about we put our money where our mouth is?

That’s right, why don’t Unions actively target small and medium sized businesses to gain a stake and in the long run, take control of. Yes, I am talking about Unions running sustainable, profit making businesses. It would follow the exact same model a supporter’s trust has where it aims to buy shares in company and take control.

This would give people in the private sector workplace a reason to join a Union and a genuine goal to work towards. The more shares you get, the bigger your voice becomes. Instead of begging for change or striking for change you can just start throwing your shareholding weight around and get seats on the board.

It also will mean Unions have a vested interest in the company’s success and at the end game of full worker ownership will mean that the militancy often displayed when striking against the state would be avoided. That’s not to say their wouldn’t be strikes against private business, much in the same way supporters trusts boycott clubs but it would have a long term goal.

Unite would act like Supporters Direct in the sense that each Workers trust/co-operative runs its’ own affairs and builds its’ own leaders with Unite offering a supporting role. You can go so many places with this as many of the ‘big businesses’ are in fact franchises.

Why don’t Unite buy a franchise MacDonalds? Who would care as long as the food is the same? No-one, that’s who. We can then practise what we preach: We can cut out the zero contract conditions for the staff, give them fixed working hours so they know when they are in, not piss about with the rota, make sure staff have a good area to relax, reduce pay at the top of the franchise and raise it at the bottom.

What about housing for our members? Again, instead of waiting for the Government to build social housing (which could then be sold off at whenever they choose), let’s see Unite give funds to its’ members or people who join to set up housing co-operatives. That way money can be reinvested in the house and working members won’t be exploited by landlords, they would in fact be their own landlords and as a housing co-op is a membership club, being in the Darlington Unite housing co-op could be conditional on membership to the Union.

What about mutual welfare? Instead of leaving the job finding market to a crap Job Centre and agencies, why don’t Unions set one up themselves? It could build links with private employers as well as companies it already owns or has a stake in to find work for its’ members fast, in good workplaces. Plenty of those housing co-ops will need builders and those who have manual skills to fix up these houses we are buying. Again, a token £1 membership fee could be charged to use the agency and then on getting a job, joining the Union would be expected and culturally instilled.

 Unions have the cash to start this: all they have to do is not hand over another penny to any Labour MP’s, candidates, think tanks or organisations in favour of mass immigration. They would do far more good building up these trusts and co-op’s than spending money on these people and the never ending lobbying, where so much money is wasted.

 Overall, Trade Unions in this country can have a future. They can revert to their traditions and become the radical working class, self-organising institutions who seek to give their members the power to take control of their own lives. They can thrive and grow to be not only active in the private sector as the workers but an employer of people, by taking ownership and becoming the management. There is a brighter future for Unions like Unite if they find within themselves the courage and determination to seize the opportunities that are presented.

Or they can watch their hollow protests grow smaller, their petitions go unsigned until all that’s left is Owen Jones sitting in a darkened room, demanding a revolution from the people Unions long since abandoned.

Update

As suspected, Len McCluskey on QT did absolutely bugger all to show why Trade Unions are relevant  or even worth joining. He just demanded the state the do it all instead, so why bother to join a Union? If we get more Leaders like him, there won’t be any Trade Unions left in fifty years. When is the next Unite leadership election?

@eddyman00

 Links

Class Publication: How the European left can deal with the threat of xenophobia?

Migration Advisory Committee July 2014

House of Lords: The economic impact of immigration

The Migration Observatory Briefing 2014

Unite campaigns

Committing Heresy -Why I am against Labour plans for a fans stake in Football Clubs

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Today, the Labour Party has outlined proposals to give fans greater say in the running of their clubs. Regular readers of this site will know (and surprisingly, there’s a fair few of you) that I am puritanical about fan ownership. So I won’t be going through why increased ownership is a good thing. No, I am going to outline why I am against Labour proposals on fan ownership.

Firstly, I expect to be one of the few (if not the only) person who is in favour of fan ownership but is against these proposals.  FC United head honcho and propagandist (in a good way) Andy Walsh was at the launch of the plans with FC United supportive. The Cardiff City Supporters Trust has welcomed the plans (here) with Chair Tim Hartley stating: “I welcome Labour’s commitment to ensuring fans have a real role in owning and running their clubs.” Blackpool Supporters Trust has also linked to the plans on Twitter, which I suspect is a sign of support.

Supporters Direct have naturally come out in favour too, which is understandable when it was set up by the Labour Party under Andy Burnham MP. Regardless of my view on the proposals, both Supporters Direct and Andy Burnham deserve respect for having moved the debate this far.

However, I have no problem being a lone wolf on this one and saying I am against it. My main reason for being against these proposals is that they fundamentally take away the responsibility of fans to force change and give it over to the state.

I am going to go through the little criticism before the big one. Firstly, in many cases what would Supporters Trusts be getting 10% of? Would HUST benefit from getting 10% of a now bankrupt club, would there be anything to stop the club being separated from the ground and if that happens the fans would own 10% of bugger all really.

Most of the clubs that become fan owned are ones that died or the fans killed themselves so they could reform.  A far greater proposal would be a simple law banning owners from putting debt on football clubs, so if an owner wants to piss his money up a wall then fine but he would have zero legal right to ask for any of it back.

The other quick proposal is that in the proposal is something which would drive a clear wedge between the members of the Trust and those who sit on the board. An example from Labour plans illustrates this: “The right to obtain (under an obligation of confidentiality) financial and commercial information about the business and affairs of a football club”.

The whole point about Trusts is they are open and transparent, this rule would immediately bind the Trust board members hands. We should be getting onto boards to force them to be more transparent, not bind our hands by accepting the status quo.

Secondly, “Supporters would not be able to block takeovers or change corporate strategy.” Now does that mean they cannot use their shareholding to stop proposals or their board members can’t vote on certain issues? If so, due to the fact that they will also have to sign confidentiality agreements, it would lead to the greater involvement of the two fans on the board and nobody else.

Like I suspected, Labour are jumping on a bandwagon which is already growing in strength and is something wonderful. It is a movement which is showing people that you don’t have to wait for others to change our lives, that we can do it ourselves. Crucially, it means anyone can stand for the board and it’s not seen as the preserve of the middle class, plenty of people can bring their skills and be put in a position of leadership.

At a stroke, this will slowly demise. Labour is proposing that the Umbrella body (which I guess would be Supporters Direct) will be “required to offer training to supporters before taking up positions on Boards.”

Knowing the way Labour works I can guess that certain people put up for seats on the board will be vetted for their appropriateness (shortlisted if you will) for their suitability. Basically only nice middle class people will put their hat in the ring due to the way changes are constructed and if any binman or cleaner put their name forward they wouldn’t be deemed suitable. I accept that this is a slippery slope argument but knowing the Labour Party and its middle class tendency, it’s a fair one.

Onto the main criticism then and the main proposal which is that Labour are promising that when a club is sold to a new owner, the fans are automatically offered ten percent. It is perfectly possible at the vast majority of football clubs for fans to raise enough cash to get 10% of their clubs. These proposals seemed designed really for just the biggest clubs in the pyramid: Man Utd, Arsenal etc.

10% of Birmingham City wouldn’t be such a massive amount of money in the current circumstances compared with what fans put into the club now for no return (tickets, shirts, etc). Again, fans are already raising money at much larger clubs such as Rangers to put into a share scheme where they gradually build up their stake over a long period of time and we will return to a great tactic of Rangers fans to force the owners hand later.

It was interesting to note the Head of Cardiff City Supporters Trust mention clubs like Swansea. Merthyr, Wrexham as great examples. I can’t help but note that in all these cases the fans did the hard work themselves, they collectively organised together to save their clubs. Merthyr reformed and now are in a great position with a 3G pitch and look like going up this season to Step 3 of non-league, back where they were before they went bust. Swansea City has now a well-known story which has been made into a film but my favourite, even if I am a Shrewsbury Town Supporters Trust member, is the heroes at Wrexham.

They raised £100,000 in less than a day to get a bond to stay in the Conference before finally removing asset strippers Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts from the club (here). The previous owner Alex Hamilton ended up with the fans organising a protest right outside his house, guarding the exit and entrance. You can catch this by watching Stand Your Ground, a BBC documentary about the man filmed years ago but available on YouTube (here).

Now you could say they never should’ve had to go through any of this but the crucial point here is that fans of these three clubs, all of them, did fight. They did organise to get money to buy the club or reform it, the fact that it was the fans that did it themselves can only have given them a motivation to continue to improve the club and make it a success. All three clubs have gone on to have real success.

Now the question that comes up here is what to do if the owners won’t sell a stake? I was told this at a Shrews Trust meeting that setting up a share scheme would be pointless as the Chairman won’t sell.  Or Blackpool, where many fans appear to want ‘Oyston Out’ and have paid him money to enter the ground to wave a poster, showing just how displeased they are with him.

Well actually, there is something you can do to force change if the owners aren’t listening: You can stop giving them your bloody money. Now I have already shown how much Blackpool fans could hurt seriously hurt Oyston if the Blackpool Supporters Trust organise a boycott and get fans to follow.

What have the majority of Cardiff fans done when the clubs owner changed the colours and the badge? They kept giving him their money. What have Blackpool fans done in protest against the owner? That’s right, they give him money.

The only thing that matters is if you take away their money and to be honest, I don’t see why fans of Chester, Wrexham, AFC Telford, 1874 Northwich, Portsmouth, and Swansea (and on the list goes) who battled and fought should have to watch others get it handed to them on a plate.

There is something fans at all these clubs can do and that’s boycott the clubs, stop giving them your money. Back to a great idea from Rangers fans that had set up a fund for season ticket money which would only be released if certain conditions were met, namely the security of the ground was handed over.

What is to stop Blackpool Supporters Trust, Cardiff Supporters Trust, Leeds fans organising the same thing? Nothing. The criticism that at big clubs like Liverpool or United means tourists would take their seats can be dismissed for the simple fact it has never been tried. Why don’t you put it to the test and find out? If the Kop became packed with Chinese tourists then I think sponsors and TV companies may well have a bit more difficulty selling it.

The last objection to my argument is that fans aren’t prepared to boycott, that it is too difficult to organise the fans of a Blackpool or a Cardiff to take the long term action necessary so it must be done by the state. Well if this argument is correct, and in fact people are not prepared to collectively organise themselves or will only demand that others (in this case the state) take action for them, then they don’t deserve a change.

They can join the champagne socialists who have overrun the Labour Party, the people who say I am against private schools but not for my kids, I’m against tax avoidance schemes but not for me. Now we can add football fans who are against bad owners but give them money anyway.

Really, if the people who say they care the most are those who are the least prepared to make a difference then why do they deserve support? The paradox of my trip around all these fan owned clubs is it has given me less and less sympathy for those who choose to prop up their regimes.

I just don’t understand how working class tradition (and at most of the clubs in football it is still working class support) has gone from a resilient, self-organising groups who didn’t wait for others to change our lives but aggressively did it our bloody selves, to a such a passive, spineless and fatalistic group who see the state as our only saviour.

The only reason to be in favour of these proposals is because of the usual suspects who are against it (not including myself). The Prem, the Football League management and everyone else who are leeching off the game will be against this. Luckily for them this legislation probably won’t get through.

Let’s stop putting our faith in a party led by a man who bunked off an NHS protest (here), to go and get wined and dined by the man who said “fans can die whenever they want.”

This growing movement shouldn’t live or die on who can lobby to get the most favourable laws, it should be led by us on the ground, fighting the good fight with boycotts, share schemes and season ticket money withheld. Yes, this will mean hard work, sacrifice and in some cases defeats but it will be a purer and stronger movement for the fact the fight involves every fan and not just people who can afford to get gigs working for the Labour party or lobbyists.

As the Hold Steady say, “We are our only saviours” so please, I implore us to be our own saviours and not wait for the Labour Party to do it for us.

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On Twitter @eddyman00

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Links

Labour Plans

Supporters Direct Welcomes Plans

Cardiff City Supporters Trust Statement

Stand Your Ground (Wrexham) Part 1/ Part 2

Ed Miliband with Hull City owner

Postscript

I must admit, in the interests of full disclosure, an hypocrisy in which although I am in favour of workers on boards via legislation in certain companies, I am for the reasons outlined above against it for fan ownership. I have yet to square that intellectual circle but I’m going to give it a go in the future.

Why Karl Oyston is right… On hollow protests.

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Recently, Karl Oyston came out and dismissed the Blackpool protests at the last home game vs Cardiff (here), stating they “will never have any impact”. The protests involved fans letting off balloons, waving banners and taking part in a funeral procession like walkout. This may not be a popular thing to say but I’ll say it: Karl Oyston is right. The reason: Because they are hollow protests. The only place to hit these people is in the pocket, to put it bluntly, you need to starve the bastards out.

It was interesting that the game was against Cardiff, whose fans set the standard for hollow and meaningless protests after their clubs colours were change and the badge switched. Maybe the fans saw the allure of the Premier League and swallowed it but the club seems no better off now than before Tan came in except now it doesn’t even look like Cardiff anymore. There is something rewarding about seeing Swansea, a club with a smaller supporter base and part owned by the fans having continued success whilst Cardiff may struggle to make the playoffs this season.

Anyway, back to Blackpool. Where do I get off saying that the effort put into organising the protest, the banners and the walkout are hollow? Didn’t Blackpool get national coverage of their plight on live TV? Well here’s the problem.

A protest where you pay out money to those you are actively against is actually worse than doing nothing. It strikes me as the sort of middle class student protests that I despise with its’ pointless gesture politics. You gave the owner more cash but didn’t you stick it to the man with your poster? If you are against something, stop funding it with your own cash.

One thing irritates me more than anything at the moment which comes from those who are against genuine action. The line “it’s my club” / “support the team, not the owners” or “it’s your club, you need to support it”. I still struggle to understand why so many people can’t get it through their skull so I will try to explain this clearly:

If you don’t own it, it is not your club.

It’s a really simple point but so many fans seem to delude themselves into believing the PR about it being “your team, your community” in all the Club programs and press releases. Clubs only say this when they are in the sh*t and it’s another simple fact: When the club is doing badly then you are a fan and it’s your club. When they succeed, you are a customer and if you can’t afford the product or don’t like it you can get stuffed.

Now, I accept the argument about fans being the moral owners of the club and that the traditions and heritage should not be the property of one man to be traded like any commodity. However, the reality is that is exactly what happens under private ownership and the only way to prevent this is for the fans to actual take control of the clubs, so that they truly are their clubs.

We have seen that the reality is owners will do what they please in most cases. Examples include: Changing the badge, changing the name, changing the kit, calling your ground the Sports Direct Arena and generally using a proud football club as an advertising vehicle for your business. These are some of the offences to history and heritage which are the minor ones compared to the routine asset stripping that has happened at many clubs and the financial ruin other clubs were led into. Almost every club on my fan owned list is now fan owned because after the so called businessmen ran it into the ground, the fans have picked up the pieces.

The difference here is that the fans took genuine action, rather than meaningless protests. Fans at Northwich made the link between being the moral owners of their club and the need to protect their heritage by taking the radical step of breaking away from the cancer that runs Northwich Vics to create 1874 Northwich. Due to the fact the vast majority of Vics fans followed them to the reincarnation, 1874 Northwich can rightly claim to be the true owners of the heritage and tradition of Northwich football.

I am not suggesting in the case of Blackpool you breakaway but I do suggest you start with meaningful action as the fans of Coventry and at a more extreme level Hereford have taken. You are treated like a consumer to be bled dry, well why don’t you act like a consumer?

Coventry fans boycotted (or just couldn’t be arsed to travel all the way to Northampton). They were told it would make no difference; they should “get behind the team” and “support your club”. They didn’t buy into any of it and eventually forced SISU back to Coventry. The saga at Coventry continues now with Wasps buying the ground but this only shows the importance of truly owning your own club. How little of a toss did the owners of Wasps give about the fans when they moved it to Coventry?

Moving onto Hereford, who are now owned by “purchaser of distressed debts” Alpha Choice Finance, with the man who is trying to seize control of Edgar Street to asset strip the club (Tommy Agombar), widely assumed to still be involved despite failing the Ownership and Directors Test. The Hereford fans led by HUST (Hereford United Supporters Trust) have been boycotting the club on mass and a club that was averaging 1500 in the Conference , which itself is a collapse on their Football League attendances, is now struggling to get 300 in the Southern Prem.

Hereford are back in court on Monday with a winding up order and thanks to the boycott, the owners have no real way of showing how they are going to pay creditors. It could mean the zombie club dies and the fans are free to start again, ensuring the club is never run into the ground again. No speculators, no asset strippers and no leeches. Just fans.

So we can see that real protests make a real difference but the only protest is to hit the owners in the pocket. The days when working class people could strike for better conditions are dead but there is no reason why you can’t strike for better run football clubs. Let’s take a look at the numbers for a club like Blackpool.

Last season, Blackpool averaged 14,231 (Football League Average attendances). This season it is currently 10,955 (here). Now having looked at your ticket prices for 2014/15 it is pretty pricey, so we will say each person not going is costing Oyston £20 a game. Currently, he is losing £65,520 a game on what he was making last year. That over 23 games is a not small sum of £1,506,960 a season. This is what he is losing on just apathy and not having to face any organised boycott and of course we aren’t including drinks, merchandise etc which will all add up. The question is how much can you cost him? Well let’s have some fun with this.

If the Blackpool Supporters Trust calls people out on strike (for a boycott is a strike by a consumer) and just 10% of the current average joins the strike, the crowd drops to 9895 and you cost Oyston £1,994,330 a season. 25% and you are costing him £2,752,985. Let’s say the trust managed to get 50% out on strike, the crowd drops to 5497 and you cost him £4,017,410. Again we are not including the amount of merchandise lost and the sponsors who have no desire to be associated with a failing football club.

Would it cost the club in the short term? Of course. You would certainly see (not in person, you would be boycotting) Blackpool be relegated from the Championship and probably struggle in League 1, perhaps getting relegated into League 2. You however are not obliged to give your money to anyone and the person at fault is the owner of the business who is running it into the ground, not you. If you believe that the club would be better with Oyston out well you are going to have to prove it and if faced by this protest, Oyston suddenly stops taking money out and puts it back into the club, then you win anyway.

The problem you would have is who would replace him. Now anyone reading this doesn’t have to guess too much who I would suggest but there are other options where you take 25% of the club and then ask for “investors” in the club such as what has happened at Swansea.

Those are the choices though folks. If you say you want to see change at your football clubs, you are the only ones who are able to deliver it. The question for you to answer is: Strikes or Useless Slogans? It’s the difference between serious action and hollow protest but there is no third option.

I have less and less sympathy for fans who are against something but are not prepared to take action to see it through or wish for someone else to do it for them. So, fans of Blackpool: If you are prepared to make a real stand then join your supporters trust and mobilise it to call for a boycott. You will find a hell of a lot of respect and give courage to other fans to take action. However, if you will confine yourself only to hollow protests then it’s probably best that you sit down and shut up.

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On Twitter @eddyman00

 The photo used is under a creative commons license and can be seen here.

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Links

Oyston Comments

Football League Average Attendances 13/14

Championship Average Attendances 14/15

Blackpool Supporters Trust @BlackpoolST

Hereford United Supporters Trust @hufctrust

Mind the Gap: The FL’s ‘League 3’

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So we are over a third of the way through the Conference and it is hard not to notice a phenomenon that has been growing in recent years but now appears to be reaching breaking point. We are now reaching a point where traditional non-league teams aren’t going to get a look in anywhere near the top of the conference and we have in effect, a two tier league.

Let’s just take a look at some of the names that grace the Conference now. We have: Bristol Rovers and Torquay (relegated last season) Wrexham, Grimsby, Kidderminster, FC Halifax Town, Chester, Macclesfield and Lincoln. All former established Football League teams and once you add in Barnet (the closest non-league has to a yo- yo team) and Aldershot who were in the Football League just two seasons ago, then you can clearly see that from the top of the Conference all the way down to 16th, it is effectively League 3 of the Football League. Those cut adrift at the bottom: Dartford, Nuneaton, Alty, Southport etc., they are all traditional non-league teams.

Now I admit there are some outliers in this spectrum but not many. Braintree made a good start but are now falling back, Gateshead were themselves an ex- football league team (although a while ago) moneybags Forest Green Rovers and Eastleigh are in the mix but as I said they are heavily backed. At the other end Chester FC are not performing as well as their stature would suggest but as they only found out very late they would still be in the Conference after the demise of Hereford United, they can be forgiven for this season at least. Only Woking looks out of step with where they ‘should’ be and yet even here, it should be noted that 5 of their 9 wins have come against traditional non-league opposition.

If we look into our tea leaves we can make sure reasonable predictions on what the Conference will look like in a couple of years and how this will cement itself as a de facto Football League Division. Moneybags Barrow who will average over 1,500 plus in the Conference looks well placed to be promoted this season and Stockport County (another former Football League club who have fallen far below their stature) look like they have now stabilised and will be back in the Conference either this season or next.

Further down, FC United when they move to their shiny new stadium should finally be able to push on through to the top of the non-league within the next two to three season. Although they are not an ex-football league team, their support is drawn from a very successful top tier club and an average 2000 plus attendance they will get from being based in Manchester will put them in the top 10 supported clubs in non-league football.

At the same down in the Ryman Premier, another ex- Football League side in Maidstone United have begun their ascent back to the top. Sitting top of the Ryman Prem with moneybags Margate as their only threat, a promotion this season via the play-offs or as Champions looks likely. Averaging 1500 at Step 3, combined with their money spinning 3G pitch and Maidstone look very likely to join FC United in the Conference by 2017/18 at the latest.

One level down and we have Darlington FC, a former Football League team who like FC United will be returning to their roots by moving back to Darlo before the end of the season, which will see their average attendance rise to 1700 if not 2000 plus. They currently sit atop the Evo-Stik Div One North (Step 4) and are looking good bets to be in the playoffs come seasons end.

The club who look like walking the league this season are Salford, who had the ‘Class of 92’ came in and said they were in it for the long haul before selling 50% to Singapore billionaire Peter Lim. Still, they look set to be a very successful Man United B team with no soul or identity of their own.

There is a clear pattern here and you may have spotted it. All the teams set to rise to the top of the non-league pyramid are either former Football League teams  like Stockport, Darlo and Maidstone or money bags like Barrow, Salford and Margate (until the owners get bored).

Due to the extent of competition in the Conference now even the moneybag teams of Forest Green and Eastleigh are struggling to make a big impact. That’s not to say a smaller team with money can’t get up but that the days of a Crawley or Fleetwood buying the league and winning by a country mile is now over.

So what makes this a problem and what are the solutions? Well it is a problem for the effect it has on a clubs ambitions and the subsequent risk it takes to achieve them. The fact that only two teams can go up and there are so many big clubs able to make the step up is creating a bottle neck which can lead to teams stagnating, losing crowds as fans starts to believe future mobility and progress will never arrive.

The results of this can be diminishing crowds and not being able to attract younger supporters who make up the future lifeblood of football clubs. Clubs can deal with the bottleneck in two ways. They can throw all their money at getting up (a policy which is favoured by clubs that have just come down despite the evidence that you will stay in this league longer than one season) and when it doesn’t work, they are screwed.

Hereford are the latest example of this and when they didn’t go straight back up; the owner ran the club into the ground. A club trying to break through coming from the other end have also hit the wall for the nth time, that of Salisbury City. The one season wonder syndrome leaves many clubs financially on the brink.

However the alternative of financial prudence isn’t hugely alternative under the current system either. If we take two fan owned clubs (for whom the two-up two- down system is going to be the biggest obstacle) we can see the problem.

After their survival last season Chester FC now seem to be the marker in the Conference between League 3 and the traditional non-league teams. Now as we already mentioned this year they have been put at a disadvantage not knowing which division they would be in, so I expect them to be stronger next season but at what cost?

Well £18 for your average working adult is the cost and for a fan owned club it strikes me as a bit galling. However, the price of not having any big money benefactors and being sustainable whilst trying to compete means the way it will be funded is from the fans. The long term damage in terms of not getting fans through the gates and younger fans involved is going to be a big problem.

It is perhaps not surprising that the club propping up the Conference (although it is shocking how far off the pace they are) is fan owned AFC Telford. Now Telford are not a small team for non-league standards, averaging  over 1500 but in this ultra-competitive league, running the club within its means comes at a cost.

Managing Director of AFC Telford Lee Carter has already started to raise questions about whether the model will have to be changed (here) if Telford is to have success. But what model apart from the benefactor model is there and last time I checked no one wanted to buy Telford. Also, what happened to the last benefactor who came into Telford?

The reality is Lee Carter should save his breath because the fact is that Telford, under the current set up of the leagues, will not have a chance of getting into the Football League or even the playoffs. Good part time teams that start well quickly find their best players and managers pinched, look no further then Wrexham raiding Nuneaton of their Manager and striker Louis Moult for the proof.

This is a big problem for fan owned clubs that find their sensible model of living within their means harshly punished by a system which rewards the biggest teams and those that commit financial doping or as I call it, cheating. How many more fan owned clubs will have the conversation that Telford are having now, about whether to knock fan ownership on the head?

So there is the problem, what is the solution? Well I’ll offer two. Number one is to increase the amount of teams promoted to League 2 to four. This immediately keeps Conference clubs seasons alive longer and means they don’t have to go for broke to get that one guaranteed promotion spot. Would teams like Bristol Rovers, Wrexham and Grimsby really be cut adrift at the bottom of League 2 the same way Dover, Alfreton and AFC Telford are in the Conference?

It also will prevent relegation from the Football League being such a massive disaster for the clubs involved and may lead to more sensible budgeting and when they come down, instead of going for broke and going bust the year after, clubs may see the Conference as somewhere to rebuild. This story about Torquay financial problems, (here) makes me think that this season they have gone for the do or die approach.

The second solution is a bit more radical but perhaps is a better long term solution. It is to accept the reality that the Conference is League 3 and put it into the Football League by merging League 2 and The Conference into League 2 North and South, with the joint top tiers of non-league being the Conference North & South, with two up two down maintained.

This would at a stroke remove the oncoming farce where Conference games are regularly getting higher attendances than the Football League, it would stop the bottleneck at the top of non-league but crucially, it would still give a chance for traditional non-league teams like Telford to make it to the Football League.

Now both of these rely of the Football League sanctioning  the change which is why four up four down is perhaps less likely than regionalisation (Football League clubs being more happy in making sure only 2 clubs from each league can drop through the trap door into a weakened non-league rather than four into the nightmare that is the Conference).

Perhaps this is a long way off (4 up, 4 down that is) but I doubt it. How long do Accrington and Dag & Redbridge think they can keep their heads above water? Having spoken to people at AFC Wimbledon before, they are supportive of making it easier for mobility between the Conference & League 2.

So I think we are approaching a new settlement between the top of non-league and the Football League if only because sponsors and TV companies will rather show big conference games than League 2 fixtures. Ask yourself: Wrexham vs Chester or Accrington vs Dagenham? FC United vs Stockport or Morecambe vs Cheltenham? These are the questions sponsors will be asking themselves.

Change is coming. Hopefully for fan owned clubs like Chester, Darlo and FC United it will be sooner rather than later.

On Twitter @eddyman00

Coventry Fans Stung Again

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 Today, it looks set to be confirmed/ has been confirmed that London Wasps, although they removed London from their name last year (and now we can all see why) are to purchase the Ricoh Arena and plant their club franchise in a place where it has no history or right to be there.

Others have already extensively covered the Coventry saga up to now and the role of SISU in bringing the Coventry City FC to its knees, none of us should forget that what is happening has a lot to do with the way they have run the club into the ground. However, we are going to discuss where we are now and what this means for Coventry City FC, the Rugby Clubs affected and how it destroys Rugby as a professional sport.

Firstly, the Football League has a requirement that clubs are given priority over other clubs playing in another sport. Now if anyone thinks that Wasps are going to give another team who doesn’t even own the ground priority over their ground they must be insane. If SISU thought the rent they were charged before was steep, just wait until they see what Wasps do to them. SISU will find out what distressing really means and they only have to look at what Sale have done to Stockport for clues.

When this deals go through I expect SISU to dump the club pretty quickly, there is now no asset to strip and no possible reason to linger on anymore. In all of this you have to feel for the fans of Coventry, who starved the club back to Coventry to now see that work set to be undone just a month since their success.

However, I still do not understand the logic of the boycott to get the club back to Coventry but then fund the very people who, by the looks of today’s events, have led the club to ruin. 27,306 people funded SISU when they watched Coventry vs Gillingham on 5th September and I am struggling to see why. I will get onto what should happen to the Cllrs who vote this through if / when they do but no-one should forgot what SISU have done to Coventry and  The Sky Blues Trust may want to think of copying the Hereford United Trusts lead, of starving out morally bankrupt regimes.

Although this is primarily a football blog I admit to being a lover of most sports and also a supporter of community ownership for all sports teams. I think there is scope for more teams like Rochdale Hornets (fan owned rugby league team) and it could protect further chaos such as has been seen at Bradford Bulls and London Broncos in Rugby League.

The case of London Wasps shows it is not only possible for fan ownership in Rugby Union but vital. The Wasps Blog on twitter and any Wasp fan I have spoken with are all rightly disgusted about what is happening. They have found out what everyone should already know: When your club is in trouble the owners say you’re a fan, it’s your club. Then, when they don’t need you, you’re a customer and it’s not your club but a brand. Wasps fans have been completely betrayed and I am yet to see anything from the Rugby authorities speaking out against this. They should, because they are about to destroy the integrity of their own competitions.

The question will be: If Wasps can do it, why can’t others?   

Let us take Bristol Rugby club, who can easily compete in the Premiership with average attendances that match Newcastle Falcons or London Welsh, who beat them in the promotion play off final to go up to the Premiership last season. Why shouldn’t they just buy London Welsh, move them to Bristol and buy their place back in the league? It would be no different to Wasps moving to Coventry.

Or another example, that of Darlington Mowden Park RFU, who are currently 10th in the National League 1 after promotion last year. They are two leagues below the Premiership and are commendably trying to make use of the Darlington Arena which virtually destroyed Darlo Football Club. They have got New Zealand using the Arena as a training base for the world cup and average over a thousand people a game, why can’t they save themselves the trouble of competing on the field and just buy some smaller team higher up the leagues or one in financial trouble and move them to Darlo? Again, what would be the argument against Mowden Park doing this by those in Rugby if they sanction the Wasps move?

The same league that Mowden Park competes in also hosts Coventry Rugby Club. That’s right, Coventry already have a rugby club, not a franchise, a club. They could very well end up being swallowed up by the invasion of Wasps swarming over the area and this is seen as fair by those running Rugby.

The sport of rugby will no longer be a competitive sport but a franchise model, where those with the biggest troughs get the biggest share, I hope teams like Darlington Mowden Park treat a Coventry Wasps with the contempt and hostility they deserve.

Right, that’s how I see it from this angle but what should happen now? What should those disenfranchised Coventry fans and betrayed Wasps fans do about it? You are of course entitled to disagree but people need to start thinking about this now.

If I was a London Wasps fan the first thing I would do is forget about petitions. Bluntly, you don’t get a vote in Coventry and it feels hollow. Seeing as how Wasps are about to become the MK Dons of rugby I see no reason why you shouldn’t do an AFC Wimbledon. Now I know thanks to the excellent Wasps Blog on Twitter there is still the original Wasps FC who play so you could go and support them in mass and rise them up the leagues or perhaps a better idea: Start your own club.

The fan-base is certainly there to support a team but this time it would be owned by you, the fans. That way, what has happening now could never happen again and you can preserve the traditions and heritage of Wasps in London. Yes it would be hard but I am sure by now you would receive a great deal of support from across Rugby and across sport from fans who fear what could happen to their clubs in the future.

The alternative is to travel to Coventry or give up on the sport you love and if you do that, you are letting the bast*rds win.

If I was a Sky Blues Trust member (and if I wasn’t I would be joining asap) I would be taking seriously the possibility of SISU dumping the club very swiftly due to having no asset left to strip. When this happens, a plan needs to be in place to buy the club or, if you are dumped with massive rent by Wasps or debts by SISU, start all over again. I certainly wouldn’t be giving money to those who still own the Club and I would advise my fellow members to boycott those who have brought Coventry to its needs.

This lastly leads me on to those who vote this through, the Cllrs. Now when the inevitable happens and the Cllrs vote it through, I could start another rant about how this is what the Labour party is now: A bunch of soulless franchise worshipping leeches who have no respect for community, tradition and place.

Instead, I would make a list of every Cllr who votes the move through and I would destroy their careers. I would get people to run as candidates against every single one of them and make sure they never hold office again. I was on the Council’s side in their battle against SISU but I would bury them over this. They have been blinded by greed and they should be made to suffer for it with no mercy.

Overall, this sorry situation represents everything that is wrong about the way sport is going and run in this country. Loyal supporters betrayed, clubs seen as nothing more than franchises with contempt for their roots and heritage. The solutions or actions that I have suggested however could point towards something brighter.

Out of the darkness of this sorry episode two sets of fans could be united together by a common cause and by working together, they can end up with teams that only that they could be proud of but something much more vital in the modern age of sport: A club they can call their own.

On Twitter @eddyman00

 

Links

@thewaspsblog & http://www.thewaspsblog.com/

Coventry Telegraph – Council to Agree Sale.

http://www.skybluetrust.co.uk/ & @TheSkyBlueTrust

Another FA Cup preview: Second Qualifying Round

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hendon-fc

So another weekend, another FA Cup day is upon us and we have eight fan owned clubs marching on with Darlington and AFC Rushden and Diamonds giving their respective higher league opposition (Blyth and fan owned Hendon) a run for their money, with Prescot Cables being swept aside by FC. United.

Having had a look at the draw we can see who is in best position to pick up another £4,500 in prize money and move within two games of making the 1st Round Proper and the chance to get Sheffield United or Portsmouth out of the hat. Numbers again refer to their Step in the non-league pyramid. Off we go…

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Curzon Ashton (3) vs Scarborough Athletic (4)

One league separates these sides with Curzon Ashton top of the Evo-Stik Prem having only lost one game in the league this season and top of the table. Still, Scarborough have made a great start to life in Div One North, sitting on fifteen points and right in the hunt for the playoffs at this early stage of the season.  If Scarborough can grab a draw there is every chance of them putting one either Curzon Ashton in the replay but I think Curzon will have too much for Scarborough today.

Prediction: Home win.

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FC United (3) vs Lancaster City (4)

Trevor Sinclair of ex England fame is part of the coaching set up at Lancaster and is hoping he might even make it onto the field against FC United who saw off Prescot in the last round. United have been struggling for consistency this season and lie five points behind Curzon with Buxton also above them, having an effective six point lead over FC United. However considering the teams they could have got out of the hat this is a great draw for FC United, being at ‘home’ against lower league opposition and FC United will be disappointed with anything less than a win today.

Prediction: Home win, Stockport away next round.

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Hendon (3) vs Leiston (3)

Both these clubs are in the Ryman Prem with very little to separate these sides in the league. So a tough draw for Hendon who had to work very hard to beat a determined and fellow fan owned football club AFC Rushden and Diamonds in the last round. With Harrow Borough (their landlords) playing away Hendon get a Saturday kick off which should boost the crowd and with Hendon soon to be moving to a 3G pitch in Hendon they could do with every penny to keep them going till this transition. It will be close and could easily go either way but I think Hendon will edge it.

Prediction: Home win

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Eastbourne Borough (2) v Enfield Town (3)

A horrible draw this for Enfield, bar the fact if it’s a nice day they can go to the beach. Eastbourne sit in the upper half of the Conference South with Enfield occupying their traditional position of just above the relegation zone. If Enfield can keep it tight early on they might be able to squeak out a draw but it looks like a good game to take a lot of fans down to the seaside, have a bit to drink and walk away saying “we gave them a good go”.

Prediction: Enfield to lose, Enfield Ultras to be in good voice throughout.

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 Winchester City (5) v Newport Isle of Wight (5)

Both these clubs will have been very pleased with this draw as both will feel they have a great chance of marching on in the FA Cup and picking up that cash. These Wessex Prem sides actually played last week with Winchester winning 3-1 but both sides will have sussed each other out and it should be close.

Prediction: Draw.

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Abingdon United (5) v Dorchester Town (3)

I predicted Dorch to lose last time out and very ashamed of myself I am too. They got arguably the best draw imaginable with Abingdon yet to win in the Hellenic Premier and lie in the relegation zones whereas Dorch lie three points above the relegation zones (although they may lose three points when Hereford go bust) in the Southern Prem.

This is a great chance  to go through and this time, instead of blowing all the money from previous FA Cup runs they may this time use it for more boring and sensible purposes, like paying off debts and investing in infrastructure.

Prediction: Dorch to lose, the ‘Same Old Few’ to drink themselves to oblivion win.

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Workington (3) v Bamber Bridge (4)

It took them a replay to come through and their reward is a tough but not unwinnable game away to Woekington. Bamber have made an excellent start to this season lying second place on 17points in a league Salford City are going to run away with. Meanwhile, Workington have the same points as FC United, losing three games this season.

If there is to be a shock in our favour this looks the most likely with Bamber taking great form into this match but a draw may be more realistic. I’m going to stick my neck out here though…

Prediction: Away win for Bamber.

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Witham Town (3) v Lewes (3)

An all Ryman league Prem clash this and this is one round further than I expected Lewes to make. Lewes are really struggling in the league and a moral sapping draw against bottom side VCD Athletic on Tuesday night probably hasn’t helped. Still, Witham aren’t exactly sitting the world alight so I can predict with some confidence Lewes pulling off the same trick as last round, an away draw and a home win in the replay.

Prediction: Draw.

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So that’s your lot and I expect to see half of these teams to find their way into the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Although the first round proper is seen as the holy grail of with which non-league teams aspire to there are arguably as many teams in the Conference that you would rather pull out of the hat than Football League opposition. Put it this way: Would you rather draw Bristol Rovers away/ Wrexham at home or Accrington Stanley?

The fact  many sizeable clubs lie in wait in the 4th Qualifying round has put great cup ties one game closer for non-league sides. Here’s hoping that some of these sides can get the two wins required to give themselves a chance of a memorable (and financially helpful) FA Cup run.

@eddyman00

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