The Fan Owned Football League Preview

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Now I can grab a moment on my trip around Eastern Europe, I’d thought I’d finally get around to finishing this bloody preview for the fan owned Football League teams, now with one more club in the family.

So, four games into the season, let’s take a look at our five fan owned clubs…

afc wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon  

Last season: 15th

Title Odds: 50/1

A solid mid-table finish last season, 17 points clear of relegation and 13 points off the play-offs, has finally established in most people’s eyes AFC Wimbledon as a bona fide Football League team after previous seasons of being at real risk of falling through the trap door.

Although he was only on loan, Matt Tubbs made a big impact last season and when he left for fellow fan owned club Pompey last year, a big source of goals went with him. Has he been replaced? Well three forwards in the shape of Andy Barcham (from Pompey), Tom Elliot (released by Cambridge) and Lyle Taylor from Scunthorpe have come in but none have the record of a Tubbs.  Former Millwall stalwart Paul Robinson has been brought in to strengthen the backline.

In reality, there is an outside chance due to the nature of League 2 itself that AFC Wimbledon have a slight possibility of being in a play-off chase or a relegation fight but you feel the clubs growth has now hit the limit till they can move to a bigger ground in the area of Wimbledon. For now though, there are too many teams in a worse financial position for the Wombles to be worried and another season of mid table safety beckons.

Prediction: Mid- Table

exeter city

Exeter City FC

Last season: 10th

Title Odds: 50/1

Well what a difference a year makes. This time last year, a poor financial position and a transfer embargo left many of us (me included) predicting a long hard season for the Grecians. When a shameful FA Cup defeat to Warrington happened, we all thought Tisdale would do the decent thing and walk away.

However, after this result there was a dramatic upturn in form and the club cashed in on Matt Grimes who went to Swansea last season for a cool £1.75 million. Investment in the ground is being made and with no pre-season tour of Brazil (and the spate of illnesses caused) to worry about the club will fancy being in and around the play-offs.

The club has started with two wins from three in the league and have actually won a cup game also, leading to a trip to the Stadium of Light (and the decent ticket revenue that will bring) at the back end of August.

Overall, with plenty of clubs in weaker financial situations and clubs in transition Exeter fans should look forward to a decent season and I would argue have a right to expect better in the FA Cup then the atrocious display of last season.

Prediction: Top Half

Newport

Newport County

Last season: 9th

Title Odds: 200/1

Newport County, who like North Ferriby, have also beaten Wrexham at Wembley on the back of an unsustainable cash cow, screwed a sustainable club out of the Football League. Now with the money man in lottery winner Les Scadding leaving the club and with the Supporters Trust the de facto runners of the club, if not the owners yet, Newport County face one hell of a challenge to secure their Football League futures.

I’ll also note that the Trust have to pay the money that Les ‘loaned’ the club, another example of where there needs to be a rule change so if you want to blow your money on a football club fine but you should have zero right to a penny of it back.

With this is mind, a host of players left the club with the budget being brought to a manageable position and a host of non-league players coming in, including Lenell John-Lewis (his name is a shop!) getting an opportunity to re-establish himself in the Football League.

Some would suggest that taking over in a period where County will have to retrench for the next few years and fight a desperate rear-guard action to hold on to their Football League status, the Supporters Trust have been given enough rope to hang themselves and are on a hiding to nothing.

One point in three games shows how hard this season will be and with odds of just 3/1 to go down there’s every chance it will be a season to forget for county fans. At any other level I’d say take the relegation but with it now impossible to climb into the Football League unless you have cash (largely thanks to the actions of clubs like Newport County), this isn’t an option.

This season is vital, stay up and securing Football League status is achievable. Go down and it’s highly unlikely County will be back in the Football League under the current system. If any club needed a good FA Cup run and survival, it’s this one.

Prediction: 20th-24th

pompey

Portsmouth

Last season: 16th

Title Odds: 3/1

Another disappointing season last time around for Pompey means yet another managerial change, this time in the shape of Paul Cook, who comes in from a Chesterfield side which he (or anyone else) has probably taken as far as they can.

Pompey has brought in a man who has got a team out of League 2 in previous years and with the quality of signings coming in, such as Ben Davies and Adam McGurk to go along with the always prolific Matt Tubbs from last season, Pompey will pack more than enough firepower even with the loss of Jed Wallace, who they could’ve let go of far too cheaply.

Undefeated in three league games with a win against Derby in the League Cup a statement of intent, it’s going to be third time lucky for Pompey in League 2 as they begin their rise back to the Championship.

Prediction: Promotion

wycombe wanderers

Wycombe Wanderers

Last season: 4th (Play-Off Finalists)

Title Odds: 12/1

Probably the most agonising play-off final defeat I have ever witnessed and I’ve seen Shrewsbury Town lose play-off finals… Twice.

The majority of the squad has been kept intact by Gareth Ainsworth, who lots of people didn’t like for the perceived antics and roughness of Wycombe in last season. However, if clubs are going to insist on cheating off the field by spending money they clearly can’t sustain and bleat it’s in the laws then I see no problem with Wycombe doing all they can get away with to even out the odds and Wycombe actually scored the joint 2nd most goals (67) in the league, so it’s not possible they were ball hoofers.

Plenty have predicted the play-offs and with a 100% start in the league, it’s a fair bet but I’m slightly sceptical. Of the last four play-off final losers before Wycombe (Torquay, Cheltenham, Northampton and Burton), two are now in Non-League and Northampton retrenched the year after.

Plus, the clubs below Wycombe will be stronger. Pompey won’t be as weak, Luton should challenge and Northampton, Cambridge, Oxford and newcomers to the league in both directions (Orient and Bristol Rovers) could threaten. Going from a final day survival to a play-off final, Wycombe know the fine margins in this League but a top half finish should be the target.

Prediction: Top Half

So that’s your lot for now. I’ll be back for proper in September but we’ll be having monthly round-ups this season of all the steps to give more of a rolling overview and I’ll see some of you on the terraces. Cheerio.

@eddyman00

The Non-League Fan Owned Season Preview: 2015/16

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Right folks, it’s that time of the year with less than three weeks until the kick off of the new season to run through the ever growing list of fan owned clubs competing in the English pyramid. This time last year, Hinckley were the newest fan owned club but a host of other teams, including Football League Newport County, are now on the list of clubs which will be leaving me bankrupt before I finish this trip.

I suspect this two part series (with the Football League preview coming up tomorrow) to be my last post for a while until my return to sunny Britain from my travels in early September (unless I get stabbed in Serbia) , so I’ll wish you all a good start to the season. Anyway, deep breath, here we go…

newark town

Newark Town – Central Midlands League North – Step 7

Last season: 4th

A new club to this list and also the lowest placed in the pyramid, which is also the lowest level I am prepared to travel to. As a result of this low stature, they perhaps sneaked under the radar as they have had an IPS ownership model since June 2012.

Due to the weird way the feeder leagues work in the Midlands there appears to be only one promotion place from this league and as a result it appears difficult to make progress. I will be honest, bar knowing they came fourth last season I have no idea how they will do and your guess is as good as mine.

Prediction: Screw it… Promotion

hinckley

Hinckley AFC – Midland Football League Division 1 – Step 6

Last season: 3rd

A terrible start to the season was followed by a 26 undefeated league run, which was just a little too late to grab the one promotion spot up for grabs. Averaging 150+ crowds and with movement slowly being made on returning to Hinckley, there is a good chance that Hinckley will be challenging for promotion against perineal underachievers Bromsgrove Sporting. Plus, this year Hinckley AFC will find itself competing in the FA Cup for the first time in their existence.

Prediction: Top 2

AFC_Croydon_Athletic_logo (1)

AFC Croydon Athletic – Southern Counties East League- Step 5

Last season: 2nd (Promotion from Combined Counties Div 1)

Last season, AFC Croydon Athletic got the job done and will now look have to look to compete in the level of the pyramid that can act as a massive barrier to further progress, Step 5. Only one promotion spot is available at a level where a significant amount of money can be washing around and they will join fellow fan owned club Fisher FC as they look to make the step up.

Having got back to their proper home last year and now able to generate some of their own revenue in sponsorships and fundraising events, concerns about trying to obtain promotions are at least one season down the line. This season, a year of safety combined with having a tilt at the FA Vase will represent a good season for a club only four years old.

Prediction: Lower half.

Fisher FC- Southern Counties East League- Step 5

 Last season: 16th

A gap of 58 points to last season’s Champions and subsequent promotion winners may be too much to make up in one season but things are definitely looking up for the Fish. This season, they will return to their clubs true home in Bermondsey with excellent 3G facilities, which should make attracting players and crucially a new generation of fans possible.

So this season looks set to be a good one and if the performances on the pitch can match the heroic effort off it, it should be a good time to be a fan of Fisher FC.

Prediction: Top Half

 Saffron Walden Town FC – Eastern Counties League Prem- Step 5

Last season: 3rd (Promotion from Eastern Counties Div 1)

Saffron will finally be at the level they should at the very least be competing at, with attendances even at Step 6 being competitive for Step 4. However, as with all Step 5 leagues getting out of it will be a bloody nightmare. This season should be one of consolidation and finding their feet at this level, whilst trying to get a couple of wins out of the FA Cup. Still, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them push near the top.

Prediction: Top 10

Newport (Isle of Wight) FC – Wessex League Prem – Step 5

Last season: 7th

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Newport IOW will not be going up this season because Salisbury FC will. Serial boom and bust Salisbury are showing the distorting effects that going bust has on the whole pyramid, stunting the growth of clubs that are sensibly managed at whichever level they compete.

Still, this season represents a chance for Newport to try and build a squad who they can have in a position to push for the title next season. A depressing thought now but with the pressure off, there’s nothing to stop Newport playing good football without having to be concerned about it costing them.

Prediction: Top 10

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Congleton Town- North West Counties Prem – Step 5

Last season: 8th

A new one for the list this season, despite becoming fan owned in June 2014 and slipping under my radar. Last season, a solid 8th place finish has left them in a good position to have a tilt at moving higher up the table and with no moneybags teams (to my knowledge) throwing silly money at the league, it should offer more of a chance.

However, with only one promotion spot and with another fan owned club surely ready to get out of this league, a title challenge looks out of reach for this season at least but there’s a chance now to put the building blocks in place, as Congleton start only their second season under fan ownership.

Prediction: Top 6

AFC Liverpool- North West Counties Prem – Step 5

Last season: 9th

Not really sure what to say that I haven’t said before. The club will remain plodding along unless it wants to carve out their own unique identity or stand for something a little bit more inspiring then a Liverpool C team.

This could be possible as Liverpool fans come out of their mass delusion and realising 5th is as good as it is ever going to get but the way AFC Liverpool formed may actually be a hindrance to a real  protest group who are sick of huge ticket prices for soulless games and a predictable finish.

AFC Liverpool could still be that vehicle but until it states it loud and clear then AFC Liverpool is a club going nowhere fast.

Prediction: Mid Table

1874 Northwich – North West Counties Prem – Step 5:

Last season: 3rd

In good contrast to AFC Liverpool is 1874 Northwich, who know exactly what they stand for. As they enter their third season of fan ownership, the club have never finished anywhere but 3rd. Although some may worry that, with the other Vics returning to Northwich (groundsharing at Witton) 1874 may lose fans, I found this highly unlikely. In fact, it’s more likely the other Vics go bust before they force the collapse of 1874.

Returning to matters on the field, with Glossop promoted it is getting closer to the time that 1874 Northwich will start to rise back to where you suspect they could manage sustainably (Step 3) and could be in a real promotion fight with Runcorn Linnets.

Progress on trying to find a home of their own continues and if 1874 Northwhich can put themselves in a title fight for as long as possible and perhaps a Vase run, it should help them sustain their fanbase in what could be their most challenging season yet.

Prediction: 2nd

Runcorn Linnets – North West Counties Prem – Step 5

Last season: 2nd

Our obsession with the number three continues as it will have to be third time lucky for Runcorn Linnets, who have finished 2nd in the last two seasons to clubs who have spent significant amounts to beat off the challenge from the Linnets.

Last season, even after taking their foot off when the league was lost, they were head and shoulders above the vast majority of the league (bar 1874 Northwich) and to my knowledge there is no moneybags team in the league this year who will buy the league from the Linnets.

As a result, I have to be brave and put my money on the Linnets who have served their time in this league and competed whilst doing things the right way, in terms of building infrastructure first. So, sticking my neck out, top spot and promotion is my bet.

Prediction: Champions

AFC_Rushden_and_Diamonds_logo

AFC Rushden & Diamonds – Southern League Central – Step 4

Last season: 1st (Promotion from United Counties Prem)

One team who did escape Step 5 was the Diamonds, who romped away with the title last year and promotion in the process. Although still ground sharing at the Dog & Duck, the Diamonds average attendance (500 plus) comfortably outstrips the vast majority, if not all, of the clubs in their league and therefore should have no worries about competing at this level.

In their three seasons of senior football, the Diamonds have obtained two promotions and never finished lower than third. Whether that will be possible this season is harder to predict but a play-off finish wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility.

Still, a season where the club acclimatises to Step 4 and make a serious challenge the season after, whilst competing in the FA Trophy for the first time in their history, would represent a good return as the Diamonds find their way back to their natural level as a Step 2 club.

Prediction: Top Half

Banbury United – Southern League South & West – Step 4

Last season: 21st (Relegation from Southern Prem)

Also entering Step 4 but from the other direction is Banbury United, who were just four points off survival last season. Although not fan owned yet, the transition to fan ownership is underway and should be completed before Christmas, with the current membership rates and money being put in to the Community Share scheme more than on target.

With so much happening off the pitch, it may be that what needs to happen on it is overlooked. The aim for this season should be nothing more than mid table security, with perhaps a good cup run to make the transition to sustainability easier, before pushing for the playoffs next season when Hereford walk the league and Salisbury finish second.

Prediction: Mid table.

Prescot Cables- Evo-Stik Div One North- Step 4

Last season: 20th

We head up north now to a league that boasts a significant number of fan owned clubs including Prescot Cables. This entry will be like Groundhog Day, as I think that Prescot will yet again be fighting for their survival in this division and eventually you’d think there’s only so long you can fight against the tide.

Still, I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong and if they can get past a very strong Glossop side in the FA Cup that may act as a springboard for a stronger season.

Prediction: Survival

Scarborough Athletic FC- Evostik Div One North- Step 4

Last season: 6th

In an immensely competitive league last season, Scarborough achieved a very strong sixth place finish. With Manchester United ‘B’ team Salford and ex-Football League team Darlington both sealing promotion, some room at the top has opened up.

Off the pitch, great news was secured last month when a return to Scarborough appeared to be entering the home straight, with council backing for the Weaponess Sports Village project and a return to Scarborough probably happening for the 2017-18 season.

Despite playing miles away in Bridlington, the Boro still had an attendance higher than a majority of teams in the league so if Boro can get into the play-off picture this time around, momentum can be maintained before their return to Scarborough and inevitable rise up the leagues in the near future.

Overall, despite being massively handicapped by their ground situation and with Warrington, Witton and Glossop who will all add to the completion, a playoff push will be the realistic goal for a club seeking to reclaim former glories.

Prediction: Playoffs

 Bamber Bridge- Evostik Div One North- Step 4

Last season: 3rd (Play-Off Finalists)

Despite doing us all a favour by beating the other Vics in the play-off semis, yet again Bamber fell at the final hurdle. Whether it can be third time lucky for the club will be a tough ask but the club should take confidence from the fact that they were the best in the league, taking out the two teams who clearly were playing below their level.

This season looks ever harder to predict who will win it unlike last time around, in what will still be a highly competitive league, with no teams like Salford or Darlington set to run away with it. They have a good stadium, a good player catchment area in Preston and should be there or thereabouts come seasons end.

Prediction: Playoffs

Hyde United

Hyde United – Evostik Northern Prem- Step 3

Last season: 22nd (Relegation from Conference North)

Step 3 of the Non- League pyramid is crammed with fan owned football teams, across all three regions and we will start up north with a club who have become infamous for their inability to compete on a football field.

Hyde have suffered a horrible fall from grace over the last two seasons after taking Man City’s money and surrendering their heritage in the process. Promotions to the Conference followed but when the plug was pulled, the crash was hard, with just four wins in their last 88 league games. This year, the fans have got their club back and the restoration of the traditional crest, name and colours are all well under way, offering the perfect tonic to the last two seasons of misery.

This does represent the best time for the fans to take over as the club are at their natural level and can now grow gradually with a long term plan as opposed to boom and bust, with a chance to bring in new fans and old ones who may have walked away in the last two years. Sponsorship has come in from a variety of sources, including the nauseatingly unfunny ‘Lad Bible’ but credit to them for putting their money in all the same.

The same management team remains in place and they will have a fan base that makes them as competitive as anyone else, bar Salford and Darlington. Like Dorchester last season, it’s just important to stop the rot and get the fans back to seeing a few wins again. As a result, a mid-table season is my bet and should be the aim.

Prediction: Mid- Table

Darlington FC- Evostik Northern Prem – Step 3

Last season: 2nd (Play-Off winners Evostik Div One North)

So much of this depends on when Darlington get back to Darlington. They were supposed to be back in by January last season, then the start of this one and now there are serious doubts that the proposed move to Blackwell Meadows is going to happen. What should have been the time when Darlington pushed on is now in danger of losing momentum, with fans perhaps dejected by the promises of a move home now being shattered.

As a result, another season at Bishop Auckland beckons and this is certainly going to be a massive missed opportunity, as Darlington start life at Step 3. They will still have the largest fanbase in the league but will be outspent by Salford and will face a stronger test from the likes of Blyth and Workington this season.

Overall, the play-offs might be possible but a top half finish looks more realistic this time around and although they will always be there or thereabouts in this league, Darlington may struggle to go up from this level whilst they remain nowhere near Darlington.

Prediction: Top Half

Merthyr Town – Southern League Prem – Step 3

Last season: 1st (Promotion from Southern League South & West)

One club who don’t have to worry about where they will be playing as they also begin life at Step 3 is Merthyr Town and there probably hasn’t been a better time to be a fan of the club. A 3G facility, an average attendance that puts them right up at the top of the league and back where the old club went bust but now in a much stronger position.

You never quite know how a club will do coming straight up and also this Southern Prem will still be tough. Poole, Weymouth and St Neots either have big money or a strong fan base for this level but Merthyr will be competitive.

A disappointment last season was the lack of a good cup run and with no pressure on them to go and win the league this could perhaps be more of a focus this season. Overall, I’m hedging my bets with a top half finish but wouldn’t be shocked if they sneaked into the playoffs and found themselves with back to back promotions.

Prediction: Top 10

Dorchester- Southern League Prem – Step 3

Last season: 17th

A worrying start meant two successive relegations was a real possibility and a strong finish to the season, with the extra satisfaction that both Poole and Weymouth stayed down, will have given Dorchester fans much to look forward to.

Like Merthyr, they command a good fan base but this is in times of little success for Dorchester and as a result, there is more potential for Dorchester to push the 600 barrier. A club legend in Mark Jermyn is the Manager and with a summer to put his stamp on the squad, a play-off push should be the realistic aim for a club who are more than ready for the good times to return.

Prediction: Top 8

Tinbridge Angels

Tonbridge Angels – Ryman Prem – Step 3

Last season: 20th

We now head to the Ryman Prem, a division for the most part breathing a collective sigh of relief that moneybags Margate and ex-Football League side Maidstone United have buggered off. We also have yet another new addition to this list in the shape of Tonbridge Angels, who have transitioned into fan ownership over the summer after starting the process last year.

Last season, Tonbridge only just managed to stay up which, considering that their average gate of 461 puts them in the top three (now M&M have gone up), was a disappointment. However, the main thing after being relegated the year before is always to survive and with that goal accomplished, they can push on.

This season, already 100 fans have become owners and if 25% of the fan-base signs up this is a healthy amount. Now stability has been secured off it, on the pitch fortunes should turn around with a fresh start at a level the club should be successful at. A swell in the crowds and in the future Tonbridge should be a regular challenger but for this season at least, a top half finish would be a good start.

Prediction: Top Half

Lewes FC- Ryman Prem- Step 3

Last season: 19th

Just one place ahead of Tonbridge was fellow fan owned club Lewes, who have not realised their potential on the pitch since fan ownership. A brand spanking new community 3G facility should generate some more income and the attendances despite years of underperformance remain impressively high for a Step 3 club at 503, which puts them behind London based Dulwich Hamlet only.

I am tired of writing this about Lewes, it’s about time someone got hold of this club and started to get them competing at the top of the league where they should be. A playoff push may be a step too far but a top half finish should be the minimum expectation.

Prediction: Top half.

Enfield Town FC- Ryman Prem- Step 3

Last season:  7th

Only missing out on the play-offs due to a ridiculous points deduction imposed by the FA at the end of the season despite being informed of the situation for months, Enfield Town had every right to feel cheated.

However, this season they need to channel that anger with two places opening up at the top of the league to finally crack the play-offs. Off the pitch, a community share scheme is underway which should further enhance the facilities at the QEII stadium.

Another successful season beckons but for the years of steady progression by Enfield to continue, the play-offs have to be the aim and goal for the club this time around, regardless of points deductions.

Predictions: Play-offs

Hendon FC- Ryman Prem- Step 3

Last season: 2nd (Play-off finalists)

Hendon have not dwelt on the crushing play-off final loss to Margate despite being 10 points clear of them at the end of the normal season. The club has just announced the signing of a rent free 10 year lease at 3G facility Silver Jubilee Park back in Hendon, saving roughly £250,000 in the process and hopes are high that the club can begin the 2016-17 back in the ground.

Unlike Darlo, the countdown until the return of Hendon to a home in their local area is very much on, which should give the club a chance to plan events and rebuild a fanbase badly damaged by their nomadic state.

On the pitch, Hendon have retained the services of Gary McCann as Manager and with the two biggest teams long gone, a title push will be very much on his mind and heading into the Conference South would be the perfect way for Hendon to begin life at Silver Jubilee Park.

That’s not to say they will have it their own way, Dulwich Hamlet will be up there and Kingstonian may re-emerge along with their fellow fan owned clubs in the league but the play-offs will be the minimum standard set for the always overachieving Hendon FC.

Prediction: Play- Offs

fcunited

FC United of Manchester – Conference North – Step 2

Last season: 1st (Promotion from Evostik Northern Prem)

Title Odds: 10/1

(Note: I’m not calling it the National League North, that’s a stupid name)

So they have finally done it, promotion from Step 3 and FC United begin their first ever season at this level in their shiny new ground at Broadhurst Park. The club was already averaging 2000 plus a game at Step 3 whilst being without a home, FC United could now easily push 3,000 a game and may still end up being the largest club at their level, despite Stockport pulling in over 2,500 in 2014-15.

This season, optimism should be high and if they can take the traditional superhuman effort in the second half of a season into this one, there is no reason they can’t make a playoff push and a first home game of the season on a Tuesday night vs Stockport (which will be a sell-out) should be a good test early on. However, FC United are notoriously slow starters and this year they simply will not get away with it like they have done in previous years because this League will just be too strong for that sort of sluggish start.

A great FA Trophy run last season to the Quarter Finals where they beat AFC Flyde and Chorley, both teams competing at the top of Step 2 and old rivals, will give Karl Marginson plenty of confidence that FC United can make a good run at it.

Flyde, Chorley, Stockport, Boston and AFC Telford will all provide a serious test for FC United this season but anywhere mid table and perhaps a better FA Cup run will be more then good enough for a season that FC United fans have waited a long time to begin. The good times keep coming for FC United fans and long may it continue for a club who stuck to fingers up to the way modern football is run and have been loving it ever since.

Prediction: Top 8

AFC Telford United – Conference North – Step 2

Last season: 23rd (Relegation from Conference Prem)

Title Odds: 11/1

Although Telford would have only been six points off survival last season bar a post season points deduction, in reality they were down with months to spare. Last time Telford played at this level in 2013-14, they went back up as Champions but the league they are entering this time will be a hell of a lot harder.

Neither moneybags AFC Flyde or Chorley (who averaged 1,163 last season), were in the league two years ago. Nor were FC United of Manchester, who now they have their own ground will be yet more competition and now that Stockport have had the anvil of huge rent payments taken away from them by the council buying their ground, they will also start to re-emerge as a force to be reckoned with.

This summer the loss of Tony Gray to Airbus and Ian Sharps to Chester means two key components of the spine which you could build a team around have gone but Dave Hibbert coming in should hopefully be finding the back of the net on a regular basis.

Overall, this could be one of the tougher seasons for Telford fans as struggling to compete against money and re-emerging Football League teams, combined with the realisation that Darlington and moneybags Salford are only one promotion away, could make for a long tough season. A top half finish is likely but I don’t see them finishing in the play-offs this time around.

Prediction: Top 10

Chester FC

Chester FC- Conference Prem- Step 1

Last season: 12th

Title Odds: 40/1

We move now to our last Step on the Non-League pyramid, the Conference Prem (or whatever they are called this week) and take a look at two fierce rivals who share the same problem: Just how can a fan owned club try and compete in a league full of ex-Football League sides and moneybags teams, all running at eye watering losses, with only two promotion spaces.

Could this be the season that Chester hit the ceiling? After five seasons of consistent progress, the next step of competing for a play-off place in the Conference is going to be the hardest ask of all. There is a possibility the aim this year should be to be the ‘best of the rest’ when you exclude the 4 (Tranmere, Grimsby, FGR and Eastleigh) but even then there is a new moneybags in Barrow who will average a crowd similar to Chester.

Chester have made some solid defensive signings in the shape of Ian Sharps and Jonny Hunt which should strengthen the squad and having conceded 76 goals last season, the highest outside the relegated clubs, this should mean a few more points come seasons end.

Still, everyone who was hunting the playoffs last season had at least one man with some serious firepower and when John Rooney was the highest league goal-scorer last season for Chester with 11, you suspect this will stop then being a challenger.

Honestly, I think a top 10 finish would be a realistic aim which isn’t very inspiring when you came 12th the year before but it is just so hard to break in without bankrupting the club. So, a trip to the 1st round of the FA Cup and a serious tilt at the FA Trophy should be the order of the day. They may not get to Wembley via the play-offs but you only need to win through five rounds to get there for an FA Trophy Final.

Prediction: Top 10

Wrexham FC- Conference Prem- Step 1

Last season: 11th

Title Odds: 12/1

After the appointment of Gary Mills, I expected Wrexham to make a play-off appearance but now with the departure of top goal-scorer Louis Moult for an undisclosed fee to Motherwell, I am not so confident.

Wrexham scored the joint fewest goals in the top 15 sides in the Conference last season with 56 and have now lost a man who got 15 of them. No one who he has brought in or is in the squad currently has any decent goal-scoring at this level.

So what to make of it all, well despite the poor form of Wrexham for the start of the last two campaigns (only going on a winning run when it was all too late to care), Wrexham still boasted a 3,000 plus attendance putting them the third highest in the League. Now we know this matters less when teams like FGR will spend like crazy but it does show the stature of the club is still there if Mills can get it right.

I do not expect the clubs that finished 6-10th last season to be as strong and if Mills can start on a good run and be in the playoff race by Christmas, the swelling of attendances will give him money to strengthen around January.

Will they make the playoffs? I don’t think they have the goals in the side as it stands to do so but Wrexham fans deserve a side to be competing at the very least and I think this season Gary Mills will deliver that.

Prediction: Top 8

So that’s your lot for the Non-League sides, we will be back tomorrow with a preview of all five fan owned teams including the latest team in Newport County, whose millionaire backed squad denied Wrexham a return to the Football League just  two seasons ago. It’s a funny old game I suppose.

@eddyman00

Groundhog Day: Why Unite the Union’s housing charter show they still haven’t learned

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Recently, Unite the Union have launched a housing charter which perfectly encapsulates just how bankrupt in terms of vision and ambition my Union remains. The charter (here) highlights the chronic lack of housing which is of high quality and affordable to people on low and middle incomes.

Absolutely no one disagrees with this, you are as likely to find the liberal free market think tank IEA or Adam Smith Institute rail against the chronic lack of supply of housing just as much as their fellow progressive liberals in the Fabian Society.

So what is the problem with Unite’s charter? One, they call for policies which will never be introduced and thereby waste valuable resources and time. Second, their obsession with the state makes sheds Unite of any role as a provider and destroys any reason for people to join Unite and build momentum to make positive changes through Unite.

Finally, their hostility to private sector involvement not only prevents them from transforming their role to be an actual provider of quality housing we so desperately need but betrays their own history of working class self-organisation.

For the basis of this, I am going to completely ignore (just like Unite does) the massive impact immigration has had on the cost of housing and its contribution to the crisis.

Looking through the Unite housing charter, the one thing you notice is that all of their policies have absolutely no chance of being put into practise at any time in the next five years. Is the Government going to build more council houses? No. Is the government going to end the right to buy? No, they’ve expanded it. Is the Government going to introduce rent controls (ignoring for a second all the evidence shows they never bloody work)? No again.

It’s not that I think the sell-off of council houses under Thatcher was a good thing, I share Peter Hitchens view (and many Conservative councillors in fact) that the sell-off has been a total disaster. However, what would stop a future Government selling them off on the cheap all over again?

So why does Unite continue to waste time and money in asking people to back a charter that will never be implemented? As Maurice Glasman says “Where there’s a way, there’s a will” and as there is no way any of the things that Unite is calling for will happen, just what would be the point in backing it?

Secondly, this obsession with the state misses the opportunity to engage their membership, attract new members and actually represent the interests of working people again. For example, Unite state:

The demolition of structurally sound council homes that could be brought up to decent homes standard and in which communities want to continue to live must end

Ok, so why doesn’t Unite use some of it’s vast wealth and instead of wasting it on the liberal progressive party (still bizarrely known as the Labour Party) actually buy those houses themselves? Unite’s current policy of seeking to transfer all the power to transform people’s live to the state in fact hands it to a tiny minority of well connected policy advisor and PPE graduates who live a million miles away from the problems they say they would solve.

What is the point of being a Union member if the only thing we’re going to be trusted with is to sign petitions and back a Labour candidate at a general election every five years? There’s a reason Unions are dying on their arse.

Instead, Unite should be funding housing co-ops, helping them to set up and control their own homes, in the same way Supporters Direct helps fans take over clubs.  By helping groups set up their own networks they would be transferring control to those who have the highest stake in making it work: the renters themselves. Unite could also build houses themselves (heresy I know) and either sell them or offer cheaper rental rates whilst requiring those who rent the house to become members of the Union. Investing the surplus in new housing, it could quickly become a virtuous circle.

This shift in emphasis would immediately give people a purpose to join Unions and empowers people across the country, building a momentum to attract new members. It also does far more to control the vices of abusive and exploitative landlords, not only in the price they charge but the way they have been known to abuse and steal from tenants.

Unite would be at the forefront of driving up standards, building houses and providing the jobs themselves ( workers who they could Unionise). This bizarre objection to the private sector by Unite prevents them from actually doing something useful and combating the vices of profiteering they say they are against.

Councils are broke, have to make more cuts and will be forced by George Osbourne to provide land for housing. Well why doesn’t Unite go to councils and tell them they will build the houses to a higher standard and more affordable then other providers? I don’t care which party the Cllrs come from, very few are going to reject an offer like that.

However, this distrust of the private sector ignores the fact that Unions themselves were primarily private organisations to enhance the interests of those who knew the state was not going to help. Mutual societies, friendly societies, workers libraries, the list goes on and on, all run and controlled by ordinary people themselves to transfer power and resources to the labouring classes and prevent exploitation by the market or the state.

Sadly, this history is being betrayed along with all the people who can and would do something through Unions to combat the evils we see in the housing market today. Unite’s offer to people: Pay money to become a member just to sign worthless petitions and trust Harriet Harman with our lives, isn’t a very inspiring one or one that anyone is responding to.

It’s time for Unite to create a new housing charter and rediscover their roots, by offering a bold vision to renters, councils and all those trapped out of the housing market about what Unite themselves can do. I am certain we would see membership climb, housing co-ops spring up and more good done to tackle the vices that Unite say they are against then by politely asking others to do it for us.

It’s time for Unite to give a bold message: Let’s not wait for the state, let’s do it ourselves.

@eddyman00

Links

  Unite Housing Charter

Hereford FC- Brave New World or missed opportunity?

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Hereford United

On Saturday, over 4,000 fans packed in to watch a pre-season friendly between phoenix club Hereford FC and fan owned FC United. Hereford will play a second fan owned team in Merthyr Town on the 18th July and the platitudes have come out from the Guardians David Conn (here). It is undoubtable a good thing that this historic football club is back on the scene but has the presentation of Hereford masked the chance that the fans have failed to take?

Before we delve in, let’s go back to last season. Hereford United was transferred from former owner David Keyte, who had successfully run the club into the ground and to the point where the fans thought they had only just escaped relegation from the Conference. It was transferred to Tommy Agombar who is a convicted criminal and a man whose motives were less than pure, judging from this interview with the BBC where his eyes lit up when the word development was used (here).

After failing to pay a bond to the Conference, Hereford United was dumped in the Southern Prem and at which point the fans went on strike. Organising around the Supporters Trust (HUST), the fans eventually forced the club to be wound up in the high court and fan power had flexed its muscles to remove another terrible ownership regime from the sport. We could look forward to adding another former Football League team and a huge club to the fan owned family…

Or so we thought. What happened between that day in court and the game on Saturday has been given very little coverage. The outcome has been to replace a model that relied on benefactors and little fan control with a model that… relies on benefactors and little fan control.

It became apparent early on that the HUST leadership had clearly not formed a plan on how to create a fan owned club at the inevitable death of Hereford United or rather, the plan they had been forming with others certainly wasn’t the ones a lot of Trust members were expecting and left many asking why a fully fan owned model had not been pursued.

The offer that was put on the table was one with so many drawbacks that it should’ve been tweaked. It should also be noted that HUST members were made to vote to approve the proposal, despite the fact that the Articles of Association were not going to be available until several weeks later (here).

Firstly, fans (or more specifically HUST) are banned from ever being able to own the club by only being able to acquire 50% of the shareholding. The articles of association give the ‘benefactors’ a dominant 4 to 3 position on the board regardless of whether HUST get 50% shares or not. Although the HUST will have 3 people on the board regardless, they have been given 3 years to raise £250,000 for their 50% shareholding.

Now, there are several problems with this, one being of incentives. If the HUST already have 3 board members regardless of the shareholding, what incentive is there for people to contribute to the share issue over the next three years? Very little I would argue, especially combined with the fact that for the next three years Hereford FC will fly through the leagues.

Also, unlike the scenario at a fan owned club, fans are essentially being asked to contribute twice. At a fan owned club, people pay to be members of the trust that owns the club and all their contributions in shirt sales, tickets are sent into the surplus which allows the club to operate.

At Hereford, fans will be members of the trust and none of their spending at the club will count as a contribution towards the trust increasing their shareholding, despite the fact that without the fans (and Agombar found this out sharpish) buying tickets or merchandise, there is no club at all. So people will have to find even more money on top of what they are already contributing to the club to increase the stake of the HUST, whose increase in shares has seemingly no benefit at all.

Except of course when you get to the really important thing, which is, you will only need 51% to appoint and remove directors. Although no one individual will be allowed more than 25%, there is nothing to stop a group of people coming in, buying a stake which combines over 51% and removing the trust.

Far from having a model that prevents what happens before from happening again, it does precisely that by leaving the club at the mercy of relying on benevolent benefactors or good dictators in not destroying it.

So what will be the outcome in five years time for Hereford FC? Hereford will undoubtedly rise through the leagues as their attendances at their games and ability to generate revenue due to the clubs size will dwarf all others.

However, I confidently assert this would have been exactly the same under the fans as we saw at Chester, AFC Wimbledon and a host of fan owned teams. As a result, there was absolutely no need for significant ‘investment’ in a club that would be running surpluses for several years and is starting at Step 5.

The difference now of course is the success, which would’ve been claimed by the fans as a collective and created a shared sense of responsibility (just think how much more attached AFC Wimbledon fans are because the promotions were theirs), will be focussed on the benefactors, who will become to be seen (correctly) as the leaders of this project. The HUST will not get close to its’ 50% target and membership will decline steeply.

Hereford will start to find their way back to where they were but I suspect they will also revert back to the ownership model they had (if they haven’t already), whereby power is concentrated in the hands of a minority of people over which the fans have no control or way of removing.

In the end, I am pleased for the fans that they have a club to support and wish them as much success as any other benefactor club, which is to say I wouldn’t want it to be at the expense of clubs like Merthyr and FC United, who combine the rhetoric with the fact that they are actually fan owned.

Unlike David Conn, I think we should be more sceptical and believe that though in the short term Hereford fans will be celebrating, in the long run they have missed a golden opportunity to ensure the club they support is never exploited and in reality, they won’t ever get such a good opportunity again.

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@eddyman00

Links

David Conn on Hereford FC (Guardian) 11th July

Hereford FC – Articles of Association

New Balls Please! @BalaSportUK seeks to change the game.

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Fairtrade in the UK is a highly profitable business and has a growing range of products in the UK. The aim of Fairtrade is to increase the quality of life for those who produce the goods we all use on a daily basis. Although it should be noted that certain groups suggest Fairtrade may not be as productive as it aims to be, one area where it certainly could make a difference is in high quality sports goods, which are hand stitched and where mechanisation can only produce low quality goods.

That’s where Bala Sport UK comes in, who are trying to break into the football market with their fancy new product. The aim is to give a significant premium to the workers in Pakistan who produce the Bala balls and produce the vast majority of high quality goods by big producers such as Nike and others.

The percentage of Fairtrade in the balls market is 0.1% globally and shows that there is room for expansion within developed nations such as the UK.  The football sports market is of course dominated by big players such as Adidas, Nike and the number one retailer used is Sports Direct, owned by the wonderful Mike Ashley.

So does Bala Sport UK even stand a chance? In short, yes. Just like Positive News (here) the margins are quite tight and the company isn’t predicted to make a profit until Year 3, with capital invested not being able to be withdrawn till Year 5. However, once again it is this sort of highly conservative planning that gives me confidence of the projects long term success and again, the model of community shares is they are supposed to be a long term investment.

There is a market for ethical goods in the sports sector and there is no reason why the Fairtrade sports equipment couldn’t get as popular as chocolate, coffee or a host of other consumer goods. Schools and colleges are becoming more consumer conscious than ever before, giving Bala Sport a young market to tap into for their products.

They have already got in with one big club and it shouldn’t be any surprise that FC United have yet again led the way in changing football for the better, by using a Bala ball in their first ever game at Broadhurst Park against Benfica, with Andy Walsh speaking about the project here. As well as this, the Supporters Direct Scotland Cup between Stirling Albion & Hearts on the 14th July will also be using a Bala ball and will be another platform to promote the brand to a new audience.

Although it’s early days there is no reason not to be ambitious for this product. What starts in schools and colleges can spread to having deals with the Non-League game in Scotland and England. Like we’ve seen in every other community owned product, slow and steady progress will inevitably lead to long term success. Perhaps in a decade or two, Bala Sport could be providing their equipment to professional football divisions and other professional sports leagues.

With just a few weeks left until the share offer closes, this is the perfect time to pop in £50 and be part of what will hopefully be the start of Fairtrade goods putting in a good performance within the sports market and getting a decent result for investors and workers of Bala Sport.

@eddyman00

@BalaSportUK

Links

Buying Community Shares in Bala Sport UK – Microgenius

Bala Sport Website

Ownership vs Legislation: Comparing Swans Trust and Clive Efford

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On the 7th July, Clive Efford MP and Shadow Sports Minister presented another attempt by the Labour Party to bring in a Football Governance Bill (here). Yesterday, Swansea City announced their fans would pay no more than £22 to attend away games, as Swansea would use the considerable Premier League wealth to help their fans (here). With these events coming in quick succession, I thought it would be a good time to contrast the difference between ownership and legislation.

The Clive Efford bill seeks to do several things: 10% must be offered to fans when 30% of shares are sold and fans will have the right to appoint a quarter of Directors or a minimum of two.  As Mr Efford states:

By giving fans a place on club boards, my bill would ensure that fans can no longer be ignored.

As if to prove his point, the very next day Swansea City, who crucially are 21% owned by the Swans Trust, announced they would reduce ticket prices for their fans attending away games. Here’s a perfect example of how supporters on boards change the culture of the club and so those of us in favour of fan ownership should be in favour of this legislation, right?

Wrong. What this actually shows is the difference between fighting to change ownership from the bottom up or handing the power to top down organisations through legislation. Swansea City are doing this because both the owners and the joint owners at the Trust share the same vision. The Supporters Trust are also on the board not because they were put there by someone else but because they organised themselves.

The fact that it was the fans and the fans alone who would be the ones to force their way into the ownership of the club meant that the fans will have higher levels of engagement with the trust and a greater levels of activism, precisely because they know it’s up to them alone to make sure the model works.

The second reason is of course because Swansea hit the wall, were collapsing as a club and nearly went bust. Again, that sense of a shared vision and collective identity is what binds the project together. Swans Trust walk in as equals with every board member knowing they are there by the work of the fans alone.

On the other hand, Clive Effords proposals at a stroke would sow the seeds of the destruction of the movement at the very point we have won the argument, leading to this movement going the way of mutual societies and (soon) Trade Unions… into extinction.

I have already covered why I dislike the details of these proposals (here) so I will cover the fundamental disagreement with the proposals which is they transfer the responsibility and crucially the power, away from the mass movement of people to the state and it’s tiny group of advisors.

When you focus on leglislation, the culture of campaigning immediately becomes about what more we can get the state to do rather than what we collectively as a group or team of people to do. Ownership of the issue is sent down to London and to the tiny team of advisors who draft the legislation.

We have seen this with Trade Unions, who now spend all their time campaigning for the state to do more and more which also means they will be required to do less and less, the minimum wage being a classic example. What reason is there to join a Trade Union if it has no control or responsibility to bargain on your behalf?

The outcome is declining members and a shrivelled movement, led by people who are detached from what the mass would want. Historically, Unions knew this and mutual societies also fought against the nationalisation of aspects of their functions. The long run reality is that working people or those who want change end up with far less power or quality of life in the long run because of the hijacking of their functions by the state.

We can’t all be MP’s or policy advisors with a PPE degree but we can all be members of a collective mass movement, who join trusts and boycott clubs, taking ownership for ourselves but most importantly, on our terms.

FC United have put online that they already pay a Living Wage so should the Government wait till 2020? They are, in a way, proving my point. The reason they are paying that is not because the law tells them to but because they are owned by a group of people with a shared culture, emboldened by the fact they built it themselves. Plus, companies who don’t want to do something always find loopholes.

I believe in fan ownership and workers on boards, I pretty much believe in the mutualisation of as much stuff as we can get our hands on. However, legislation on stuff like this almost always only comes in when we are winning the fight anyway.

The bill has got a second reading in December and we will of course track it’s progress but we should remember the mistakes of the past which is:  You cannot legislate a cultural movement. I thank Clive Efford for his support for fans on boards but I’d much rather prefer it if he joined a supporters trust like the rest of us, instead of dictating from above just how we’ll take control of our clubs.

@eddyman00

Links

Clive Efford MP- Football Governance Bill

Swansea City FC reduce away ticket prices

Now for something positive: @PositiveNewsUK to become a co-operative.

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After the budget you are probably in need of some good news and thankfully we have some. Launching early June, Positive News set themselves a target to raise £200,000 by 8th July to relaunch the brand and start a new era for their product. As of today, Positive News UK has raised over £260,000 from social investors and will transfer into co-operative ownership.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Positive News was formed in 1993 and since then has aimed to provide… well positive news, as a contrast to the traditional fare of depressing or increasingly hollow news on offer from most newspapers and online sites.

Now, I admit to only having read the paper once whilst at sixth form and found it to be the exact opposite of what I considered news to be. It was twee and about ‘happy’ things which weren’t making a serious difference to anything locally or nationally.

Fortunately, the rebirth of the newspaper gives me and all the other investors a much welcome chance to shape the paper. Why? Because the model under operation will be the simple principle of one member one vote, just like so many of the fan owned clubs we have looked at on this blog.

As editor of Positive News Sean Dagan Wood points out, the co-operative model represents a radical break from the traditional oligopolistic news market and has the chance to give a way for Positive News to have a good unique selling point, presenting itself to future readers not only as a customer but as an owner. The new model is also an example of the failed ‘benefactor model’ that Positive News has had, which as we all know from football is completely unsustainable in the long term.

It’s also backed by Dave Boyle, best known for the time he was Head of Supporters Direct and had a pop on Twitter at the club stealing Pete Winkelman when AFC Wimbledon were promoted to the Football League.  Dave Boyle remains a top bloke, Winkelman remains a club snatcher.

This isn’t to say it will be plain sailing; trying to gain a decent market share in a changing media landscape to turn a profit (or surplus) will not be easy. In fact, a big loss of £171,000 is predicted Year 1 (to be cushioned by community shares) with a profit projected from Year 3 onwards. However, this is no different than many businesses and if it leads to a sound base to generate a long term surplus, so be it.

There is certainly an opportunity here to work with other co-ops and become the go to place for people seeking to be inspired or even share good examples of how people are making a serious difference through co-operative values in a variety of fields, whether it be sport, housing or in business.

The business plan gives me confidence that collaboration with other co-ops could lead to Positive News also becoming a good advertising place for jobs within the ethical/co-operative field and raising good revenue for Positive News, whilst at the same time giving co-ops confidence that when their advert is seen, it’s hitting an audience who are likely to buy those products on offer or apply for those jobs.

My only fear (which, as they are based in Islington, I see as perfectly justified) is it becomes just a place for that very sanctimonious liberalism perfected by the Guardian, who themselves have been running massive losses in the millions for far too long. The consequences being that people who are attracted to the principles of the paper but don’t buy the socially liberal narrative it may constantly produce, believe it’s not a product for them.

However, that is a worry for another time. For now, all that needs to be said is congratulations to all involved in this campaign and let’s hope it’s a positive start to a good, profitable future.

@eddyman00

@PositiveNewsUK

Links

Positive News Community Shares Offer

Positive News Website

Blackpool fans fire the gun: @BlackpoolST announce bid for Blackpool FC

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Blackpool Supporters Trust

Today, Blackpool Supporters Trust made a significant step to putting Blackpool FC into the hands of those who truly care for the club: The fans themselves. We’ve looked at Blackpool numerous times on this site and now Blackpool fans are stepping up to the plate by putting forward a comprehensive £16 million package to buy the club from Owen Oyston.

The story of Blackpool has been well documented but today marks the beginning of a new phase for the fans of Blackpool and something that allows them to keep their chins up and prevent them from descending into apathy even as they boycott the club.

Nor has this move come out of the blue and can be seen as another step in the effective, well run campaign by fans groups including Tangerine Knights and BST. The protests near the Oyston residence continue with the latest one happening this Sunday just gone but more significant is the release of an alternative shirt; a now tried and tested way for Trusts across the country to deprive awful owners of sales whilst raising cash for themselves.

Many people will be wondering where BST have got 16 million quid from and the answer is that a significant amount of this is the value of assets that the BST would hand over to the Oyston family. The offer is to hand over all the assets bar the stadium and training facilities and wipe off the loans made to Oyston companies by Segesta (the company which owns Blackpool FC). Combined with the nearly £5 million quid that the Trust will empty from the club’s bank account into the pocket of Oyston, it represents the most generous of golden handshake packages.

In many ways you have to respect the nerve of the BST to count assets that the Oyston family already owns as part of their bid total when the deal offered is far more comparable to ones made to third world dictators, tempting them to step down and retire to a villa on the south of France.

Why then would Oyston accept? BST offer several good reasons but most notably is the fact that no one else would offer Oyston such generous terms for the club and the value of Blackpool is collapsing every year they remain in charge. Club accounts show the decline in money made by Blackpool FC. With less money in League 1, the ending of parachute payments and the systematic boycott by fans, it will only get worse.

The figures highlighted by BST should also make other fans sit up, showing the significant losses entailed by the vast majority of clubs in League 1 for season 2013/14, including an eye watering £6,870,000 for Coventry City, who have also been run into the ground by their owners.

The BST have given have set a deadline for reply by Oyston for July 21st and although I don’t think he will accept, today represents another good move by Blackpool fans and means that the question all people who are against something hear, “What’s your alternative?”, now has a clear answer.

The answer is a club owned by people who are committed to investing in the infrastructure of the club, rebuilding relationships with the local community and rebuilding the very foundations of Blackpool FC. The answer for Blackpool FC is fan ownership and I am sure football fans everywhere will wish them the very best of luck.

@eddyman00

@BlackpoolST

@KnightTangerine

Links

Blackpool Supporters Trust- The Bid

Blackpool Supporters Trust ‘Not the Club’ Shirt

The Delusion continues: Reports from a Labour Leadership Hustings

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Last Saturday, I decided to carry out the political equivalent of self-harm by going to the Labour Leadership hustings in Birmingham before (mercifully) heading off in the evening to the 1874 Northwich Beer Festival.

What I witnessed was a perfect example in why in the long run Labour is dead and probably deserves to die. The four Leadership candidates took to the stage each supposedly representing a different political viewpoint but on the issue that working class and lower middle class voters fled the Labour party on, the responses were all the same.

First up was a question on ISIS and with only a minute to respond it was not surprising that most candidates descended into cliché spouting jargon. Whatever Yvette Cooper said was so utterly devoid of any meaning it appears I’ve made a specific effort not to record it. Liz Kendall, the supposedly Blue Labour lite candidate turned the question into attacking David Cameron on wanting to leave the EU (which he clearly doesn’t) and saying we’ll be at the heart of the EU with her, just like every other candidate.

Jeremy Corbyn, despite his rather sadio masochistic response that Nick Cohen would summarise as ‘kill us, we deserve it’, did at least bother to answer the question and made his standard anti- Iraq war speech, as if opposing a psychopath who slaughtered Kurds for fun was the reason for Islamic Extremism. Still, he did make a very good point about the rather large number of arms sales we make to non-democratic states.

Andy Burnham wrapped up by mentioning Armed Forces day, which by the looks of the audience they were entirely unaware of actually existing.

The second and third question focussed on economic credibility and at least here there was some sort of difference with Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall saying the deficit was too high under Labour and was a problem. On the other side, Yvette talked about the need to expose Tory ‘myths’ that spending money you don’t have is bad in the long run (commonly known as basic economics) and Jeremy was… well everything you’d expect from a Islington Liberal.

We then came to the one of, if not the single biggest issue which hurt Labour, immigration. The answers from all of the candidates showed not only why Labour will be dead soon regardless of who wins but more importantly, why it deserves to die.

Because despite all the false rhetoric about a real choice between the candidates, on this issue, they are all social liberals and the desperate desire of three candidates to try and pretend otherwise shows why Labour lost.

Up first was Andy Burnham, who I saw as the last hope of something sensible coming out on this but alas no. He said the Labour party was ‘out of touch’ on this issue and then proceeded to show just how out of touch he was with his answer.

I’m in favour of free movement to work but not for benefits.

He followed this up by using the example of his father working in Germany as proof it’s about give and take. Now, if he really believed that it would mean only a fraction of German people being able to come work in the UK and not the open border to millions of Eastern Europeans, many of whom took the opportunity to come and work in Britain. Also, I don’t see how it’s fair that Burnham benefiting from his Dad being able to work abroad means working class families now should pay the costs of mass immigration.

There is enough evidence that immigration for low skilled work has damaged pay, living conditions and the quality of life of working class people competing for those jobs. If you don’t see this, I can only assume you are A) Someone who has never had to work in those jobs for a sustained period or B) Someone who has financially gained from the influx.

Andy’s answer was totally dishonesty. The vast majority of people moving to Britain in Europe are not doing it for benefits and it’s a lie to suggest that. The problem is they are coming to work and undermine the economic standards of working class Brits. So you can either be against that and therefore campaign to leave the EU or accept that you don’t actually care, it’s very simple.

Liz Kendall, who laughably has suggested she will win back the ‘white working class youth’, again carried on with the delusion that we needed ‘firm rules’ on immigration to ensure people weren’t coming here to claim. She also warned we couldn’t “out UKIP UKIP”. If a future Labour leader thinks the way to get back the white working class youth is to say ‘we’re staying in the EU and immigration continues’ but not even have the decency to honestly say it to their face , Labour is dead.

Yvette Cooper showed her lack of mastery of economics by saying immigration shouldn’t be used to under cut wages and be exploited, which is the kind of naivety I expect from a Sociology undergraduate. The whole point why business like foreign labour is because it’s cheap and they will work longer hours for worse pay and conditions, or else what would be the point of them being hired in the first place?

The only person who was honest about their rampant social liberalism was Jeremy Corbyn, who basically stated people voting for UKIP were either xenophobes or idiots.

So where is the choice for the vast majority of people who don’t want to live in some Thatcherite utopia of Nigel Farage’s imagination but want immigration for low and unskilled labour to completely stop? If they really wanted a real contest, where is a Kate Hoey or a Frank Field? Bluntly, there isn’t one.

Now I know Liz Kendall has come out with stuff now around regional banks and workers on boards with higher Union membership but it’s as if these people think you can have the good activism without the social conservativism with it’s sense of place, roots and ability to exclude outsiders. The truth is (and always has been) you can’t.

Also we saw in plenty of seats like Southampton Itchen, with Rowenna Davis standing with her own Blue Labour lite campaign, how immigration cost Labour.  UKIP came third, taking enough people who would’ve voted Labour when it represented their interests, to kick Labour out and put the Tories in. Bluntly, if you aren’t of the side of people when it comes to immigration, they couldn’t give a toss about the rest of it and they’ll vote UKIP until you wake up or die.

All candidates want to stay in the EU, all have signed up to the idea that being pro mass immigration is historically a Labour value (it isn’t) or is actually left wing, instead of seeing or admitting that it is every slum landlords and every uncaring businessmen’s wet dream.

Today, Unite announced they are backing Jeremy Corbyn because he shares their values, which tells you a lot about how far Unite has gone from their own working class base to liberal delusions.

However, I will also be voting Jeremy Corbyn because whoever is elected leader, they will all kill the Labour Party. At least Jeremy Corbyn won’t lie to my face at the same time.

@eddyman00

A year is a long time in football- The rise of Wycombe Wanderers

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wycombe wanderers

After having a last gasp survival in the Football League in 2014, now Wycombe are just one game from League 1.

What a difference a year makes for Wycombe Wanderers. On the final day of last season they were as good as down. Bristol Rovers needed only a point against a Mansfield side with nothing to play for and Wycombe also had to win against relegated Torquay.

At the end of the 90 minutes on 3rd May 2014 Bristol Rovers had fallen to a one nil defeat to Mansfield and it would be Wycombe who stayed up on the final day of the season. However much supporters expected this season to be better I don’t think any of them could imagine just what a fantastic performance their team would put in on the route to Wembley.

Credit must go of course to Gareth Ainsworth, who since taking the reins at Wycombe has dealt with the significant financial restraints at the club. To have put a squad together which for the good share of the season was inside the top 3 is a fantastic achievement and it shouldn’t be underestimated how tough a task this was.

Wycombe, by virtue of being fan owned and attempting to run sustainably will always be at a disadvantage to teams funded beyond their means and larger clubs. This season, Bury and Shrewsbury spent heavily to ensure success and both have gained promotion whilst incurring significant financial losses. Other clubs like Luton have re-emerged as a force after returning from non-league whilst clubs such as Southend and Plymouth can command higher attendances.

The reason for the financial prudence at Wycombe is something we have looked at before on this site. Three years ago, the Supporters Trust took over the club from former owner Steve Hayes and since then has struggled to get the club on an even keel financially whilst staying in the League.

Despite a potential buyer at the end of last season, these talks broke down and the Trust launched an ambitious Community Share Scheme with the aim to raise £2 million over the next five years. Looking at the share offer the financial situation of the club was starkly laid out. In 2012/13 losses were £1.3 million, last season they were £355,000 and this season a loss was projected (here).

However, the good news is not just on the pitch but off it, with £500,000 of the £2 million pledged before their play-off final. The significant cash boost that a Wembley appearance will give the club and media coverage can only help as the Trust look to clear the books and is yet again another example how despite all the difficulties fan owned clubs face (with a lot of those difficulties being inherited from others), they can still be successful.

On a wider note, it is the second appearance at Wembley for fan owned clubs this season and if Wycombe were to win it would take them back to the League they were relegated from when the fans took over. It would also be the highest level a fan owned team has got to in the pyramid since Exeter City competed at League 1 in 2011/12.

It is good sign and hopefully the start of a trend where fan ownership starts to claw its way up the pyramid, giving our cause further backing and exposure. If Wycombe can get up, the fans club will be on an equal footing with the sugar daddy ‘big’ club Sheffield United and will be the receiver of many envious glances from Blackpool fans, who’ll be wondering why they can’t have owners who care about the club.

In many ways, even if Wycombe were to come straight back down it would be far from disastrous and going up gives them more breathing space to clear the debt, free from the worry of dropping out of the Football League.

Still, they face a tough test in Southend and both teams go into the game in excellent form but regardless of the result, the owners of Wycombe can take pride in the fact that they took over a club three years ago, who were living beyond their means and heading for administration.

Today, their team will step out onto the hallowed turf of Wembley with a chance to create a memory that will go down as one of the clubs great moments which fans will talk about for generations. Not bad for a bunch of fans.

@eddyman00

Links

Wycombe Wanderers Community Share Offer- February 2015

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