THE UNITED COLOURS OF FOOTBALL
What a brilliant night Fans United
Three was. The weather was appalling but the sight
of fans from different clubs coming along to support
the common cause of the smaller clubs and the health
of football in general, warmed the heart. To have fans
from the likes of Blackpool and Bury and Tranmere was
great but to see a group from FRANKFURT was unbelievable.
One highlight was provided by Oxford United fans who
brought their ninety-one club scarf, stuffed into a
bin liner. As it was unpacked in the car park for the
benefit of the Football Focus cameras a Tottenham Hotspur
scarf was tied on by a Chester ISA member to bring
the complement of clubs represented up to the full
ninety two. It was a great spectacle to see the whole
scarf which stretched a hundred yards or so paraded
around the pitch at half time.
During the game fans could hardly
believe their ears each time a corner was floated across – up
went the sound of a World War Two air raid siren to
give warning of an air raid. Some enterprising Lincoln
fans had brought their siren, acquired from RAF Waddington,
to lend a touch of the surreal to a superb match atmosphere.
I guess Lincoln fans made plenty of use of this when
John Beck with his aerial bombardment tactics, was
After the game, we headed for the
Town Hall where Brighton fans apologised for their
late equaliser, a party was held and speeches made.
Though Brighton, Oxford United and Chester fans expressed
clearly much passionate commitment there was also room
for the lighter touch – Mark Howell ventured that Brighton
might be known as the Vultures rather than the Seagulls
for the price at which they had bought Rod Thomas from
us. The Manchester United fan who spoke, said that
though he had enjoyed the game he had been disconcerted
to see a couple of his colleagues getting carried away
and joining in chants of “Come on City” They were due
to be hauled over the coals on Monday he assured us.
Now here is an article written by
a member of the Independent Manchester United Supporters
Association (IMUSA) and posted on the Fans United Three
United For Survival
“Greed is good” opined Michael Douglas
in Wall Street. Apart from inspiring a generation of
Del boys to wear red braces and skip lunch, it would
seem that Gordon Gecko has also served as some sort
of role model for ‘90s football club chairmen.
Just like the day-trippers who pollute
the atmosphere at Old Trafford. Lesser clubs have been
plagued by people who know nothing about the game or
the club they are involved with, and care even less.
Buying a football club was a licence to print money,
or so they believed. Alas once realitystrikes these
people disappear faster than a scouser with a hubcap,
leaving the supporters to try and sort the mess out.
This is why on Friday 15/1/99 a minibus
full of reds made their way to the Deva stadium to
lend their support to the 3rd Fans Utd game in support
of Chester City’s fight to stay alive.
Briefly, Chester’s problem go back
to when they were sold by the developers of their new
stadium to Mark Guterman in 1994. To cut a long and
sorry story short, today the PFA are paying the players
wages, manager Kevin Ratcliffe has been paying water
bills and the club has got about as many winding up
orders as they have points. Assurances given by the
(now absent) chairman don’t seem to be worth the paper
they’re written on (sound familiar to anyone?). The
Chester City ISA started a campaign aimed at raising
local awareness and cash and the Fans Utd 3 – The United
Colours of Football event was the latest venture. Ironically,
their opponents for this happened to be Brighton, a
club who have suffered from their own, near fatal dose
of “owneritis” .
Hence me getting wet and cold waiting
for the minibus to pick me up on route for Chester.
When it appears, it is obvious that a couple of IMUSA
committee members have decided that, as the Deva stadium
is in Wales (just), the game deserved the full on Euro
away treatment and had been on the pi?. sorry – "having
lunch" since 2 o’clock. (For a substantial donation
to IMUSA funds I’m prepared to name and shame!). With
one demanding a pitstop every 100 yards and the other
hanging out of the window to prevent us all getting
second helpings of whatever had been "eaten", we looked
exactly the opposite of reds with a social conscience!
We had been asked to come wearing
colours of some sort so we would be recognisable. Duncan
had managed to bring his entire Utd hat collection
with him (non-official ones – naturally!). These ranged
from beanie hats a la Roses to a horrendous red, white
and black Rubettes number (ask your mother!). Suitably
attired we arrived at the stadium to be jumped on by
the half time draw sellers. The ones at OT would starve
very quickly if they had to survive on my donations,
but remembering the cause we stumped up, but someone
did remark that it is probably assumed that we are
as loaded as the club we support. On finding Mark Howell,
the chair of the Chester City ISA, we were signed into
the social club (more expense!) and were soon reminiscing
about 1983 and all that with the Seagulls. I learnt
that although the club has survived it’s own crisis,
the fanzine “And Smith must score”, didn’t. As Reds
we rely on the fanzines to give a better perspective
than the “everything is wonderful” bolloxs that comes
from the Plc. Try and imagine if they weren’t around.
Talking of the Plc, the game was to be broadcast live
on Sky. Although this move persuaded the courts to
let Chester carry on, my cynical nature tells me this
is more to help Sky’s case with the MMC and the OFT,
than any altruistic motive on their part. It also meant
that we agreed not to bring the extremely subtle "Stop
Murdoch" banner we had planned to give an airing.
As for the game itself, Chester played
the more attractive football and were one up at half
time. During the break, the banner of scarves donated
from all 92 league clubs was paraded around the ground.
The second half was similar to the first and Chester
were a little unlucky to concede a late penalty. To
be fair the Seagulls probably deserved something just
for the massive (and vocal) support they bought.
After the game we made for Chester
town hall, where IMUSA Chair Andy Walsh gave a speech
as well as the aforementioned Mark Howell, and the
MP for Chester, Christine Russell. Attilla the Stockbroker – ’80’s
punk poet and Brighton fan, gave a rendition of a poem
of what the Seagulls mean to him. The passion on display
was in marked contrast to the attitude of the bag carriers
at OT, shame we can’t do a swap!
It is ironic that when the top end
of the game is awash with cash, the lower league clubs
are left out to dry. The FA couldn’t care less, happier
to spend thousands trying to get the World Cup back
here, and by whatever means possible it would appear,
than worry about the roots of the professional game.
With the attitude of clubs like Villa (over the Barry
transfer from Brighton!) not exactly helping, it’s
no wonder that people give Utd fans a slagging.
You may think that as a Utd supporter
what happens to Chester, Oxford, Portsmouth et al doesn’t
affect you, but consider this; Rupert Murdoch is more
than capable of doing to Utd what the likes of Guterman
have done to Chester. Same attitude, just more money
involved. You have been warned!