Yesterday’s meeting between supporters’ groups and the club was supposed to be an opportunity for a few pertinent questions to be asked, and, more importantly, answered, about the club’s finances, direction, relations with the fans, and any current news on its sale. It was an opportunity for minds to be put, if not at rest, at least into a state of less frustration.
If I’d read the notes on what went on and what was said at tea time, I’d have gone out and got really, really drunk, before coming home and hoying next door’s bin down the back lane, so disappointed and distressed was I with the content. As it was, I read them with MOTD in the background, and with an increasing sense of disbelief and frustration. That word again. Frustration.
Let’s just put a few things into context. The current lockdown/pandemic situation has meant that, since March, none of us has been able to go about our daily lives in the manner that we’d wish to. For us football fans, we’ve been unable to see our team play and to have that weekly/bi-weekly release of tension and escape from the humdrum of our daily lives that matchday allows. Our season was curtailed while Points Per Game was applied to mean that it wasn’t curtailed for other clubs, with the result that Wycombe are now in the Championship. Premier League games were considered important enough to resume, even though they sound like they’re being played in the town swimming baths.
We’re heading for our third consecutive season in division three, and we look to be losing more of our promising Academy products, removing their chance of becoming the next Local Boy Made Good, the next Rowell, Armstrong, Monty, Pickford, Henderson, or even Honeyman. Our new CEO’s initial statements seemed to follow a cycle of statement, apology and retraction, statement, apology… and the season ticket situation has been, while admittedly an awkward one given the circumstances, a bit of a mess. Away from football, stuff way beyond our control has been happening, and those in power have been making us look like mugs as we try to follow the guidance that they offer us while they flaunt it. Loved ones have been lost, jobs likewise, and there’s no end in sight. The rest of the world is laughing at the way we’ve (mis)handled the situation, and all of this means that people are experiencing extreme frustration. That word again.
The situation at our club, that’s feeling less like our club by the day, has, for many become the focus of that frustration, and we can’t even scream at the players to vent that frustration because we can’t attend the games. We haven’t been able to meet up with our mates to discuss what’s going on, and so the discussion has taken place on social media, where misinterpretation, jumping to conclusions, and rumours and opinion become FACT (note the upper case). Far too much has been said that is either simply untrue or so wide open to personal interpretation. Basically, using social media should be like learning to drive a car – always assume that every other user (road or internet) is an absolute idiot. Trust nobody and nothing that can’t be proven 100% genuine.
One thing that managers and owners of SAFC have discovered is that our club, that’s feeling less like our club by the day, is the footballing equivalent of a Sturmey-Archer gearbox. If you’re unfamiliar with that piece of engineering, it’s a gear system for bicycles that, unlike the Derailleur system that is all out in the open, is concealed in the hub of the back wheel. If you’re really interested, you’ll take it to bits to see how it works. Then, like our managers and owners who’ve delved into what makes SAFC work, you can ‘t put it back together properly, and the result is a pile of bits that individually look very clever and well-engineered, but are next to useless in isolation.
Which is where we are. Yesterday’s meeting was supposed to provide some answers to pertinent questions, but, reading the notes, seems to have left most either unanswered or answered unsatisfactorily. Questions were asked as to why we are taking on people previously employed by Eastleigh FC, and the answer was that you employ people you know and trust. That makes perfect sense, but the fact is that Eastleigh are several divisions even below where we are now. We were told that the Academy will retain its current status, but that it costs £3m a year to run, which probably means that we’ll have to sell anyone who looks promising to maintain it. We were told that it’s very difficult to resist when the Big Boys come sniffing, but with due respect, Championship Norwich can hardly be described as a Big Boy with regards to Bali Mumba. We were told that Stewart Donald has been on the end of abuse both online and in real life, from our fans, which is totally unacceptable. If you want to call him whatever, do it with your mates but don’t make it public and certainly don’t threaten a man’s family.
We were told that potential buyers will only be considered if they can take the club forward, and are considered “right” for SAFC, but that some have pulled out of deals because of the fact that fans are protesting. Hang on, it didn’t put Mike Ashley off, and it’s apparently not putting Amanda Staveley and the crown heads of the Middle East off. Compared to the “protests” up the road, we’ve been meek and mild. We were told that one fans group was being positive while another was being negative, a statement that will serve only to cause division amongst us fans, and division is the last thing we want. Don’t blame the fans for things not happening, it’s not our fault.
It was asked if there was any way to keep Charlie Methven quiet, as since resigning last November, he’s made a few statements that have upset fans, and this is the polar opposite of the situation regarding speaking at the right time during the early days under the current ownership. One of the things Charlie Methven said prior to the takeover was that a big part of his job would be to keep Stewart Donald quiet because he was/is someone who likes to say what he thinks when he thinks it, an admirable trait, but one that needs keeping in check in a very public position as the owner of a football club.
The club also said that if the Red and White Army converted to a Supporters’ Trust, which they are considering, they could buy the club if they could get 37,000 fans to come up with £1,000 each. This is probably far from impossible, but the purpose of becoming a trust is not to buy the club, just to have a say in how it’s run. When further questions were asked about the direction of the club, Stewart Donald said there is “money in the tank”, but if this is the case, why sell Bali Mumba? Statements were made that we’ve shown that 25,000 season tickets in our division (aye, it’s now “our” division), but the current reality is that we’ve sold 10,000. Fair enough, we’ll sell more when the fixtures come out and we know whether or not we can actually attend, but to bank on 25,000 is a dangerous stance.
To be honest, I could go on all day with this, but I have a life to get on with. A meeting that was designed to clear the air and build some bridges between the club and the fans has, to me and on the evidence of the notes published, deepened the divisions. Rather than feeling angry or happy after reading the notes, I just felt sad and helpless. Read them yourselves here, make your own evaluation, and spoil your weekend. Sorry about that.
That word again.