On Ched Evans: Is Charlie Webster cynical, ignorant or both?

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Ched Evans is reportedly going to be back training at Sheffield United after his release from prison. What strikes me about those against his reemployment is just how morally blind those arguing against him seem to be. The main problem with those who have spoken out against Ched Evans is virtually none of them have raised a whisper about the 50% owner of Sheffield United: Abdullah bin Musa’ed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Now Abdullah is, as the name would suggest, not a local to Sheffield but a Saudi Prince who happens to be the Grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia and it is because of this fortune of birth, he is an incredibly wealthy man. Yes, he set up his own business now worth a lot of money but when you don’t have a free market to compete with, you have a Princes connections and your Uncle is worth several billion pounds (here), it’s safe to say he hasn’t had to work hard for his eye watering wealth.

It is not really his wealth we are going to discuss but the Human Rights Record of Saudi Arabia and the Government of his own family. It is one of the most backwards, morally repugnant and disgusting dictatorships on the face of this planet where every basic human right you can think of simply does not exist. Let’s begin…

Human Rights Watch 2013 World Report on Saudi Arabia (here) goes through the details of what living in Saudi Arabia looks likes if you aren’t a rich Arab Prince. The country is run under the virtues of Sharia Law, a legal system which is not exactly a beacon for human rights.

Firstly, do not be Gay. Saudi Arabia is one of 10 countries where being gay can get you executed and the Saudi Arabia sodomy law means people can be stoned to death. In July, one Saudi man was sentenced to three years in prison and 450 lashes after being caught trying to use Twitter to meet other men. The man who caught him was undercover Saudi Agent committed to rooting out the ‘vice’ of homosexuality (here).

Secondly, do not be anything other than Muslim. It is illegal to be anything other than Muslim unlike a decent non-medieval country where people have the freedom of and (crucially) from religion. In this country, when I left my C of E school and didn’t really believe in God as I grew up, it was no big deal. In Saudi Arabia, when you decide that actually being a Muslim is not so great and believing that the Qu’ran is the unalterable word of God isn’t for you, well you are f*cked. The penalty for apostasy in Islam and therefore Saudi Arabia is death.

In fact, being an atheist or thinking anything contrary to what the Saudi royal family says you are allowed to think has now been classified as terrorism, with Human Rights Watch going through this poisonous legal framework step by step here.

I could go through the horrific abuses of migrant workers or one of the many unknown heroes of freedom such as Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. His crime? Setting up a website called Saudi Arabian Liberals and ‘insulting’ Islam (here).

We will move onto the issue that is the one that most matters to those like Charlie Webster and the signers of a Change.Org petition on Ched Evans, the issue of women’s rights. I am not going to dress it up because the facts speak for themselves.

This is from the previously mentioned Human Rights Watch report:

  • Girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians.

 

  • Strict clothing requirements for women were publicly enforced. In July, the Mecca public prosecution department detained three women for taking off their full-body cloaks and headscarves in a shopping mall, sabq.org news website reported.

 

  • Punishment for domestic violence remained lax. The government failed to enact a 2011 draft law to combat violence against women and children. In May, Jeddah’s Summary Court convicted a man for physically abusing his wife to the point of hospitalization, but sentenced him to learning by heart five parts of the Quran and 100 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

In 2009, a woman who was gang-raped by five men and ended up pregnant was convicted of adultery and trying to abort the fetus of eight weeks. She would be sent to prison for a year and 100 lashes (here).

So you now know, if you didn’t already, just what a disgusting regime is being run by the Saudi Royal Family and how much of a living nightmare being a woman in Saudi Arabia must be. Why though is any of this relevant?

Well when you are 50% owned by a member of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia and if you care about Women’s rights as much as I am sure Charlie Webster and others profess to, then it really matters.

All of this leads us to the question at the top of this post. Charlie Webster has written eloquently about women’s rights and raised significant money for Women’s Aid, one of her articles is here but interestingly doesn’t mention Saudi Arabia.

Charlie Webster is a patron for Sheffield United, a club 50% owned by someone who is a member of the Royal Family who allow these atrocities to be committed. How on earth can she with a straight face say that Ched Evans should not be re-signed but not say a word about a joint owner of the same club?

When Charlie Webster was on the late night political show This Week just last month talking about Ched Evans she stated she would quit her role as a patron of the club. On Radio 5 live, her comments were:

You will have young people cheering him on when he scores a goal. Not under my name, under my club or community.

A pedantic point here: It is not her club any more than it’s the fans club, you don’t own it so it isn’t yours. End of story.

But where was this rightly justified anger over the image of the Blades and their commitment to women’s rights when the Prince became 50% owner? Not a word. Surely Charlie Webster spoke out when the Prince became head of ‘Youth Welfare’ earlier this year (here)? Not a whisper came from Charlie Webster.

This mindless or convenient ignoring of the ownership is not just a condition afflicting Ms. Webster, (who by working for Sky Sports probably shares the same dislike of discussing inconvenient questions surrounding football as the rest of her former co-workers) but a vast majority of the people who signed the petition against Ched Evans returning to the Blades (here).

It’s almost laughable, a petition appealing to a Saudi Prince about the message hiring Ched Evans would send to young boys. Why would a man who is a member of the Saudi regime give a flying fu*k about hiring a convicted rapist when the reality is the abuse of women is normalised in Saudi Arabia? If Ched Evans had committed the crime in Saudi Arabia, there’s a good chance he would never have seen the inside of a prison cell.

 What message is Charlie Webster and others sending to the female victims of violence in Saudi Arabia when they refuse to speak up about the violence against women and denial of basic freedoms in Saudi Arabia?

I can’t understand why Charlie Webster, who has spoken out against violence on women consistently, didn’t just resign the day the Prince became joint owner. Charlie Webster was offered a second bite at the cherry when the Prince accepted a job for the Saudi government but chose not to.

 As a result, I am left asking myself the question, not just of Charlie Webster but of others. If you had no problem with a Saudi Prince buying a large chunk of your club, can you really be surprised or outraged that the Prince has no problem with a rapist playing for it?

On twitter @eddyman00

 

Links

Human Rights Watch 2013 Report – Saudi Arabia

Gay Saudi Man Arrested

Atheists are Terrorists- Saudi Arabia

Saudi Liberal Raif Badawi – 10 years, 1000 lashes.

Saudi Gazette- Women Sentenced 1 year, 100 lashes

Charlie Webster on Huff Post- Victim blaming

Sheffield Star- Prince Lands ‘Youth Welfare’ role

Ched Evans Petition

The fan owned FA Trophy preview- 1st Qualifying Round

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The FA Trophy has become a competition unfairly maligned by many commentators and treated with disdain by certain clubs at the top of the Non-League pyramid, most notably Richard Money at Cambridge United whining about replays in the tournament and demanding it be moved to midweek instead of its’ traditional weekend slot.

It is perhaps understandable that with the move away from nomination to the Football League replaced with promotion and relegation, the bigger clubs obviously prioritise the Conference as a return to the Football League represents financially and in stature, a more important goal than the FA Trophy. However, these very same clubs will be the first to complain about bigger teams not taking the FA Cup seriously and they should be wary of the pot calling the kettle black.

Also, the notion that an FA Trophy run damages a clubs chances of gaining promotion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The manager mentioned before who was so critical of the competition he ended up winning, also gained promotion back to the Football League via the playoffs. In fact of the last three FA Trophy winners, two (York City & Cambridge United) would get a playoff promotion to go with their FA Trophy and all three went to Wembley twice in the season (Wrexham losing to Newport County in the Conference play-off final in 2012/13). So there is zero evidence that a good FA Trophy run is detrimental.

Even in the case of Wrexham, their FA Trophy prize money and gate receipts led to the club being able to wipe away the debt that had existed, leaving the fan owned club in a much healthier financial position. So the FA Trophy matters, whether your club is at Step 1 or Step 4 of the non-league pyramid.

The FA Trophy is already one round old but we will start here where clubs from Step 3 enter, with £2,700 up for grabs, three games away from a tie against Bristol Rovers or Wrexham and just nine wins from Wembley. As usual, the number in brackets is their Step in the non-league pyramid, so here we go…

Prescot Cables (4) vs Goole AFC (4)

I didn’t expect Prescot to make it past the preliminary after they were drawn against future Manchester United ‘B’ team and franchise Salford. However much to my amusement they dumped Salford out 2-1 away, bagging themselves £2,500 and going one step further than last season.

Prescot have once again taken their customary position this season of fighting against the drop into Step 5 and if they do go down, it’s hard to see the club being able to force its’ way back up, still at this level it is always possible for clubs to go pop mid-season. The club could do with the cash as much as anyone and a win here gives them another chance to get an FC United or Darlington and boost the clubs coffers further.

Their reward is a winnable home tie against Goole, who currently sit 10th in the Evo-Stik Div One South.

Prediction: Draw

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FC United of Manchester (3) vs Padiham (4)

If any club could do with a good cup run it’s FC United. Failing again in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round after a soul destroying defeat in the final minute against Lancaster City, whilst they flatter to deceive in the League, it could give a real boost to the club.

This is especially true with the club set to move into their home of Broadhurst Park in the very near future, what better way to put some oomph back into FC United’s campaign then to get Wrexham or Bristol Rovers at home in the FA Trophy? Or they could pull Stockport out of the hat in two rounds time and if they are in their new ground by the end of November, what a tie that would be.

They could not have asked for an easier tie, with Padiham rock bottom of the Evo-Stik Div One North and were battered 5-1 last night at Droylsden. So FC have a real chance to make some progress and they won’t blow it this time.

Prediction: FC United win.

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Scarborough Athletic (4) vs Darlington FC (4)

Just like the FA Cup, the FA Trophy has thrown up an all fan owned cup tie and by the sounds of it there will be plenty heading down to boost the coffers of both clubs and create a good atmosphere. There are many similarities between the clubs: Former FA Trophy winners who have fallen from grace and nomads until they can get back home, which is where the differences emerge.

After rumours building up about a possible collapse of their move home, Darlington have announced they have stated the clear target to be back in Darlo by the start of the 2015/16 season (here) whereas the last time I heard off Scarborough their target to be back in Boro by 2015/16 has been put back, with the Scarborough News reporting someone may be in frame to buy the club (here).

From my perspective I’m obviously going to be against this and grow exasperated at the reporter welcoming it with open arms. There’s a reason Boro are in this position and although crowds are dipping, there will be a point when the club returns to Boro. Why should the fans hand the club over having done all the work for a glory-hunter to take over when the club is back home?

 Anyway, in the league both clubs are doing well. Scarborough occupy 4th and are one of a handful of teams fighting for a play-off space with Darlo top of the league, looking good value to be in the play-offs again come seasons end.

On the day, both teams could use the cash on top of the good attendance being split between the clubs. Boro have won their last three matches at home but Darlo have won their last eight games so Darlo to shave it.

Prediction: Away win.

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Spennymoor (4) vs Bamber Bridge (4)

After a 5-1 victory over Lancaster City in a replay Tuesday night, Bamber are rewarded with a trip to Spennymoor who they will play on consecutive Saturdays, one in the FA Trophy and then the league. Bamber are once again amongst the pack of seven teams chasing behind Darlo & Salford for three playoff spots. Spennymoor lost to AFC Telford in an FA Cup replay on Tuesday night after being five minutes away from dumping them out in the first game.

That dejection may carry over to the FA Trophy game but Spennymoor have lost only once at home all season and that lost to Telford was their first in nine games. It’s hard to look past Spenny here.

Prediction: Home win

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Lewes (3) vs Harlow Town (4)

Lewes are having another horrible season and in many ways have picked up where they left off last season. They lie 23rd, with three wins from 16 games and there win last Saturday was the first since beating Bognor Regis Town in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup back in September. This is a club that has desperately underachieved over the last two and a half seasons.

Off the field the club raised enough money for a new 3G pitch adjacent to the main ground and that will further generate cash over the coming years and despite the abject results, Lewes still average the 5th highest attendance in the League, so the fans deserve something to celebrate.

Unfortunately, I don’t think they are going to get it on Saturday. Their opponents Harlow Town are a league below in the Ryman North but top the league and have only lost once all season to Grays Athletic in the FA Cup.

Now normally when a club with a fan-base of around 200 is pumping everyone in sight, it’s a sign they are being backed by some money and Cups are vital to these clubs not going pop. It’d be great to see Lewes win on Saturday and maybe string some results together but I fear it will be defeat and another long season for the Rooks faithful.

Prediction: Away win.

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Dereham Town (4) vs Enfield Town (3)

 Another fan owned club is drawn against Ryman North opposition in the shape of Dereham Town, who are battling for the play-offs. Enfield Town have recently with 10 points from their last four games and are up to the giddy heights of 9th after beating Title Favourites Margate 3-1 midweek. It may be too much to make a play-off push but if Enfield Town keep this up (with Margate and Maidstone going up), they could be in with a shout of mixing it for promotion next season.

 There’s always a chance of a shock but Enfield should get through this test and Enfield Town fans can continue to enjoy what has been a very pleasing season for the club.

Prediction: Away win.

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Bury Town (3) vs Hendon (3)

Hendon will be kicking themselves for losing to Dorchester when they saw Bristol Rovers pulled out of the hat to face them. However, the club is in good shape on a great run in the league with a recent win against moneybags Margate being the pick of the bunch. They lie 3rd in the league and off the field it’s coming together to, with a move back to Hendon and a shiny 3G pitch ready for 2015/16 and importantly whether they win or lose on Saturday, the club is not forced to rely on Cup money for the budget like last season (here).

Their opponents Bury Town are struggling near the bottom of the Ryman Prem and Hendon will need to avoid complacency in this cup tie. If Hendon do that, they should dispatch Bury, bank the £2,700 prize money and be two wins away from having another chance of drawing Bristol Rovers out of the hat.

Prediction: Away win.

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Merthyr Town (4) vs Cirencester Town (3)

    The Martyrs had to beat fellow Southern South West team Taunton over two games just to get to this stage. After a very disappointing defeat in the FA Cup Preliminary Round to Larkhall Athletic, Merthyr will be looking for a cup run to go with their excellent league season, where the club is a shoe in for the playoffs at least.

There is a bit of added edge to this game with Cirencester being the team who pipped Merthyr to promotion last season and with a play-off loss, it meant Merthyr stayed down. Cirencester are currently mid table in the league above, there was nothing between these two sides last season and I bet that’s just as true today. It will be a close fought game but I fancy Merthyr to pull off a minor shock.

Prediction: Home win

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Dorchester Town (3) vs Wimborne Town (4)

Fresh from their memorable run in the FA Cup, which came to an end by being outclassed by Bristol Rovers 7-1 in front of a crowd of 1,909, Dorchester are just three games away from having the chance to do it all again.

If they manage to beat Histon the game after the FA Trophy, they could look like being mid table and hopefully enjoy a stabilising season of mid table comfort, which is all the more reason to take this competition seriously. Their opponents Wimborne Town are battling for the playoffs in the same league as Merthyr so it won’t be a walkover by any means.

I predicted Dorchester would lose in every round of the FA Cup and they kept proving me wrong. This time, with Dorchester on a good run of form I fancy them for the win…Which probably means they will lose this time.

Prediction: Dorchester win

@eddyman00

 

Links

Northern Echo- Darlo to return home  

       Scarborough News- Takeover talk

So, who is the next Portsmouth?

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

Are Blackpool the next Pompey?

Just last week the owner of Chesterfield announced he had put in an extra £500,000 just to keep the club going (here) and the Chief Executive has stated the club would need to reach the Championship for the debt to become manageable. This follows on from the eye watering amount of money that Bolton are in debt (here) and whose owner Eddie Davies is prepared to sell. Who would buy such a money draining business, up to its’ eyeballs in debt and with no serious chance of getting back to the cash cow of the Premier League is another question.

Trawling through the clubs of the Football League and it’s hard not to notice just how many clubs are deep in excrement: Birmingham are in a permanent crisis thanks to the ownership of the club, Bolton we’ve mentioned, Blackpool are rooted to the bottom of the Championship after the owners continue to take money out of the club, Cardiff are now at the mercy of a bond villain, the list goes on.

Portsmouth are a club who through mismanagement and profligate spending, squandered their Premier League inheritance to hurtle down the leagues, administration following administration. However, since the Portsmouth Supporters Trust took over the club has now become debt free two years ahead of schedule, has raised enough money to buy its’ own training pitches in the city of Portsmouth after a crowdfunding campaign and work is ongoing to increase the capacity of Fratton Park to 20,000 plus.

On the pitch the club is three points off the playoffs and have every chance of being in the hunt come the seasons end. If they don’t go up this season, with the debts all paid off I am banking on them to go up in 2015/16 and I expect them to have got to the Championship before the end of the decade.

In short, Pompey offer the greatest example of why the fans are the best people to own and run their football club. The message to take from this is that being a Pompey is no bad thing but it does involve hitting the very bottom before climbing back up.

So who is the next Pompey? For this we are not looking at teams who could drop into the Conference and go bust like Hartlepool or Mansfield but big teams who fall far below their level and hit the wall.  So I’ve got three prospective Pompeyesque clubs to have a look at.

Blackpool FC made it to the Premier League and the owners completely squandered the vast amount of money gained, as instead of using it to invest in the infrastructure of the club, trousered the money themselves. As the Guardian reported (here), the Oyston family have granted themselves £11.5 million in salaries and £24 million in interest free loans and it seems to have been one appalling example after another on how to run a club this season.

Just eight players on the books ten days before the start of the season, a pre-season tour cancelled and the Director Karl Oyston touting around the Managers job whilst Riga was still in charge, who Oyston has now fired for underperforming.

Just how on earth is a Manager supposed to achieve anything when he doesn’t even have a team together a week before the season? It takes weeks of pre-season training to get a team ready so you can basically write off the first two months of the season right there. Blackpool owner and convicted rapist Owen Oyston had these excuses for the clubs management and you can read them for yourself (here).

I have no problem with clubs running within their means or prudently, that is in fact one of the key benefits of fans owning their own clubs as they act prudently. The difference between this and Blackpool is that profits are reinvested back into the club in terms of building its’ infrastructure or securing assets like a training pitch (ala Portsmouth) and not stuffed into someone’s back pocket.

Blackpool lie bottom of the Championship with six points and are going down with attendances falling fast, so there is every chance they struggle to get back up from League 1 but as the excellent post from Tangerine Theory states: If you want Blackpool to have a bright future, why would you want them to do well on the pitch?

As already stated, being a Portsmouth isn’t a bad thing but for that to happen and the long term recovery to begin some short term damage must be inflicted. That’s why the Blackpool Supporters Trust should ballot its’ members on a boycott of the club and also ask fans not to buy season tickets for next season. Instead of buying season tickets, fans should put this money into a share scheme or trust fund which will only be used to buy a significant stake in the club.

The BST should make it clear that the boycott does not end until the conditions of the Trust (Oyston out, security of the ground to the trust, ring-fenced funds to go to the Manager) are met. No ifs, no buts. It may take the rest of the season and a good chunk of fans not renewing their season tickets in the summer but it would be very likely to work.

Up next is Birmingham, whose decline has been excellently covered by twohundredpercent  and on the Birmingham City fan website Often Partisan. The share price of Birmingham International Holding Ltd, which owns Birmingham City football club, has collapsed 65% in one year and the company has a value of just over £20 million pounds unless I have screwed up my maths. Who on earth would ever pay this figure in reality for a failing football club is anyone’s guess and with Carson Yeung jailed for six years in March for money laundering (here), he may not be in a great bargaining position.

The club has seen a decline in attendances of several thousand and are averaging roughly a similar amount of that Pompey were getting when there descent down the leagues began. It is always amazing just how many fans stick by clubs when they are ran like this. Gary Rowett has taken the reigns but arresting the clubs decline will be no easy task and they will struggle until they are free of their current owners.

A meeting was held Tuesday 28th October where Steve McCarthy of the Birmingham City Supporters trust said “We need tangible things that we can protest against, things that don’t damage the Club (but target BIHL)”. Well I don’t think you can seriously make that distinction, the Club is owned by BIHL and therefore BIHL is the club.

So my final club and there are just so many to choose from. I could go for Bolton with their eye watering debts or maybe QPR, whose owner has dropped hints about walking away from the club after seeing the Premier League dream sour. However, we’re going to go for Cardiff City.

It was less than two years ago that Cardiff City had sold their soul by dumping their traditional blue kit and badge to be replaced with the design Vincent Tan would impose. The deal with the devil appeared to have paid off with the club going up to the Premiership as Champions of the 2012/13 Championship.

Until, of course, it didn’t. Cardiff got relegated back into the Football League with only 30 points and seven wins all season. Ole Gunnar Solskjær paid the price for a slow start this campaign and now Russell Slade is tasked with sending Cardiff straight back up.

It does seem a case of do or die for Cardiff, much like QPR last season. This great piece from Wales Online (here) lists the promises that Vincent Tan has failed to fulfil, in terms of turning the eye watering loans he holds against the club (over £100 million) into equity. This is the main reason why the club has a stated net worth of -£64,037,000 (here). QPR managed to go back up by the skin of their teeth and with so many teams in the mix Cardiff may find it hard to make lightning strike twice and if they do stay down, they could join Bolton, Blackpool and Birmingham in deep trouble.

All of these clubs show the folly of being beholden to one owner and the cult of the strong Leader. At best, they will be a good dictator and at their worst they will drag British institutions through the mud and to the wall, which is why it is vital when clubs like Blackpool have a crisis, the Trust seize the opportunity to push meaningful change and harness that anger. I’d advise everyone whose club is in the Football League to join their Supporters Trust.

The truth is even focussing on higher ranked clubs I have countless options: Blackburn, Leeds, and Reading being just a few. The reality is none of our clubs are safe whilst we have no ownership over them and clubs continue to be engaged in an arms race of spending money they don’t have or asset stripping the club out of existence.

If we don’t do something now to prepare for the inevitable then we may just find, when the music stops again, it’s our club that is the one heading into the abyss.

On Twitter @eddyman00

 

 Blackpool Links

Guardian- Blackpool tangerine dream turned sour

Blackpool Gazette – Owen Oyston

Tangerine Theory- The End Game

Birmingham City Links

Twohundredpercent- Birmingham City

Often Partisan

BBC News- Carson Yeung Jailed

Cardiff Links

Wales Online- Vincent Tan and the red bank balance

Open Company- Cardiff City net worth

Don’t poke the Bear: Rangers fans launch a fight back

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Rangers Supporters Trust have a £5 share scheme option.

Rangers Supporters Trust have a £5 share scheme option.

If you were trying to make the cash against concentration of power at a Football Cub and excluding the fans, a better example could not be found then Rangers FC. A massive club and British institution, a club who have regularly been in the Champions League and run deep in the UEFA Cup, were reducing to a laughing stock.

Since their collapse the money that has gone out of the club to certain people at the top and the widespread leeching of the club is pretty amazing, including the example of a man getting close to a million quid for 10 months work (here). What staggers me is why a sledgehammer was used to crack a nut as they blew money on getting out of leagues they should have walked with kids anyway, which is perhaps why the club is now so desperate for cash.

A power struggle has developed with Mike Ashley appearing to have come out as winner. He now controls the naming rights to the stadium and commercial income from Rangers merchandise, plus he owns 8.3% of the club and with the club accepting a loan of £2 million, there is now nothing to stop Mike Ashley taking full control (here) and quick update, he now effectively has (here). So what can Rangers fans do except put up with it? Well many Bears  have started to fight back, not with pointless gestures but with their wallets.

The years of being treated like idiots and seeing their club dragged through the mud again and again to become the embarrassment of Scottish football has finally pushed many Bears to take action. Two supporters groups in Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First are both in the process of buying shares to gain a stake in the club. Combined, they own over one million shares with Rangers Supporters Trust holding just under 750,000 and Rangers First announcing tonight (28th October) they now hold over 500,000 shares. So both are growing all the time.

The difference between the two as I understand it is that Rangers First seeks to be apolitical and Rangers Supporters Trust will comment on the Clubs ownership and internal politics. However, this gives no excuse to any Bear as you have two different options which may come from different places but as Rangers First stated to me: They share the same goal of fan ownership at Rangers FC.

Both groups offer a direct debit scheme where for just £5 a month, that money goes into increasing the amount of shares they have in the club and therefore the amount of control they can exert over the club. Even the sum of 10% gives them the right to have the clubs accounts audited and will perhaps unearth just how Rangers have been running for many years. Growing a stake over many months and years is not something to be sniffed at.

Rangers First have launched a video calling on Bears to #BETHE5TH

Rangers First have launched a video calling on Bears to #BETHE5TH

Apart from tourists, we all support our clubs for life and look to hand it down to our children, which is why fans always outlast their clubs owners. As a result, taking 15 years to build up a big chunk is nothing to be ashamed of, slow and steady will win the race when it comes to owning one of the biggest clubs in British football.

In many ways, it has been opportunity missed by Rangers fans. When the club went bust and was dumped into Scottish League 2 this was a perfect time to rally anger and fury against the owners by doing what happened only years later, that being The Union of Fans calling for fans to pool their season ticket money until security of the Ibrox Stadium was given. If they didn’t gain security, no money would be taken out (here).

Now, you may disagree with who should have been custodians of the security of Ibrox if it was granted (it shouldn’t have been ex directors or players but the fans themselves) but you can’t disagree it is a brilliant idea to be used at other football clubs. Combined with boycotts, such as those by Hereford United Supporters Trust (HUST), we can add fans pooling their season ticket money to buy a stake in the ground as another tool Supporters Trusts should be adding to their arsenal.

Back to Rangers and more specifically to Mike Ashley, who is now the new ruler of Ibrox. The difficulty the fans groups have now is the fact that fans tend to mobilise when clubs are failing or unsuccessful. This is going to be less likely over time if what I think will happen comes to pass under Mike Ashley. He already has the cash cow of Premier League football under Newcastle and now he can move onto project Rangers.

Here’s what I expect to happen over the coming years: Rangers will be promoted this season, whether it is as Champions or via the play-offs. Next season, the club will play Celtic four times with all games being sold out and on the telly, increasing coverage and if they avoid each other in the Cups this season, the effect will be huge.

Mike Ashley knows he won’t need to spend anywhere near the amount of money at Rangers as he has at Newcastle to make them claw past Celtic and get into the Champions League, thereby allowing him to promote his Sports Direct brand to a global audience and in an ego driven way, own a football club which has success. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Rangers are in the Champions League in three season’s time and everyone is saying, press and fans alike, what a great Fuhrer Mike Ashley is.

If this happens, Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First may find themselves isolated. However, as we have already seen at Rangers and countless other clubs, concentrating power in the hands of one man can lead to their failure. Also, what happens if Mike Ashley has you playing in Europe in the Sports Direct Stadium? Plus, there is no guarantee Rangers manage to break past Celtic and how long could it take before Mike walks out having dumped eye-watering loans on the club?

 It’s just a fiver a month in both schemes at either Rangers Supporters Trust or Rangers First  and I urge you if you are a Bear, to forego that takeaway once a month and stick it towards the share schemes instead. In short it’s vital that Bears everywhere make a small contribution to protecting the future of Rangers FC so they can hand it down to their children.

Overall, Rangers has been full of divisions at board level and amongst the fans themselves but whether he is a success or a failure, the simple fact is Mike Ashley won’t be at Rangers forever. Bears today owe it to Bears long gone and those still to come to make sure they have a club that is sustainable, successful and perhaps most importantly, a club they can once again be proud of.

Update: I will now be forgoing two Guinness a month as I have now joined the £5 a month scheme by the RST. So again, get joining.

On Twitter @eddyman00

@rangersfctrust

@RangersFirst

 

Links

Daily Record- Charles Green: I was worth double

Daily Record- Rangers Power Battle

Sky Sports- Mike Ashley takes control

Herald Scotland- UOF pool season ticket cash.

Rangers Supporters Trust- Buy Rangers

Rangers First

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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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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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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Rangers-Supporters-Trust

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.

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