Picking Up Speed

We’re now heading towards the 2014/2015 football season with all the speed of Usain Bolt trying to get away from Glasgow.  The summer’s main sporting occasions are behind us, and pre-season friendlies are beginning to dominate the sport pages. And at TheChels.Net, we’ve been keeping up with not just pre-season matches, but supporter-orientated events taking place.

Pre-season Travels With The Chels

There was a rare opportunity for supporters to attend a UK pre-season friendly on 19th July, when Chelsea played AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow, home not only to AFCW but also Kingstonian, and a venue for Chelsea’s reserve games in days gone by.

The weather forecast for the day had threatened rain and thunderstorms, however those who had come prepared for a summer monsoon found themselves weighed down with waterproofs as the day remained sunny and hot. And those standing found themselves at an advantage, as an occasional breeze blew through the terraces, whilst those in the seats sweltered, facing directly into the sun. And the match definitely had an “old school” feel about it, as to go with the old school terrace atmosphere, there was an old school Chelsea performance, with our opponents fielding an old school centre forward.  Bayo Akinfenwa was greeted by chants of “Do Macdonalds know you’re here?” and other (unkind) comments.  And barely had the crowd settled down when the home team found themselves a goal up, when Dons’ captain Alan Bennett lost his man in the air, with his header bouncing in off the post past Schwarzer.  In spite of plenty of possession, Chelsea failed to make any impression on the hosts during the first half, and found themselves 2-0 down at when Zouma conceded a cast-iron penalty converted by Tubbs.  At half-time, however, Jose sent in the heavy artillery, making eight substitutions, including John Terry. And it was JT who turned the game around, getting on the end of a corner to make it 2-1.  Mohammed Salah, the subject of plenty of criticism from the stands, equalised six minutes from time, and, right at the end of the game, Terry made it 3-2, converting Baker’s corner.  “2-0 and you f**ked it up” chanted the ecstatic SW6 faithful.  There followed a leisurely trot back to the nearest pub which we’d visited pre-match (England’s most rubbish beer garden, dotted with doggy doo and where getting up from a bench results in everyone being lifted into the air like a see-saw, is definitely not to be missed) for a couple of cooling drinks with friends. Sitting inside the bar, after the game, my attention was caught by the site of a splendid hat drifting past the window.  “Oh” I remarked.  “There’s a lady with a lovely hat”.  My friend Stig had got up to have a look.  “It’s not a woman” he said.  “It’s a man.  And he’s pushing a pram”.  There followed a minor rush to the window but unfortunately we’d missed the sight.  However, dragging ourselves away at 6.10pm for the train, we found him.  Hanging around the off-license.  And it was definitely a man. With a pram.  However, there was a sequel.  I mentioned this odd sight to my friend @StamfordBluez, who grew up in Kingston, and her response was “Moses.  Local character.  I’m surprised he’s still alive…”

A cracking day out for the troops, and great not only to see old friends, but lots of the Twitterati out in force.

2014 Supporters Summit

Last weekend, the Supporters Summit took place at Wembley Stadium, with the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Direct AGMs being held during the course of Friday afternoon/evening.

The FSF meeting took place first, with elections to the National Council being ratified, and a range of motions being discussed.  One particular motion of interest to Chelsea supporters, particularly given recent issues about use of “pyro” within grounds and subsequent bans imposed, was a proposal for “safe pyro” areas to be adopted, and a lively debate took place.  The proposer of the motion spoke enthusiastically on the subject, citing that “pyro” appeals to younger supporters, being seen as “vibrant” and “exciting”.  However, a number of attendees (including myself) spoke against the motion.  My view was that I had previously had a reasonably open mind on the subject, but having seen a smoke bomb being released in the narrow terracing at AFC Wimbledon two weeks ago, and been made aware of the distress and confusion it caused to a number of very young supporters, I could no longer supporter use of pyro in a confined space.  Another speaker pointed out that it was all very well talking about disposal bins for pyro, particularly flares, but having used flares in the course of his work it was a very different matter holding a burning flare and dropping it overboard into water to throwing in a bin which may not be within arm’s length.  FSF Chair Malcolm Clarke called for two votes on the motion, one from individual FSF members (1 vote per person) and one from affiliated groups (i.e. trusts = 5 votes per delegate) and the motion was overwhelmingly defeated.

Under AOB, one speaker minuted their discomfort at the Summit being held at an FA location for a second consecutive year, and that the FSF needed to maintain independence.  Malcolm Clarke noted the speaker’s concerns, but advised that the FA were hosting the event free of charge.

The FSF meeting concluded, the Supporters Direct AGM took place, which was a slightly less lively and contentious affair.  The new CEO of Supporters Direct, Robin Osterley, admitted that whilst he didn’t come from a football background, this might be more of a blessing than a curse.  Almost 400,000 people in the UK are engaged in the Trust movement and he praised the effective, efficient and committed staff of SD.  He noted that much of their income comes from sponsorship and consultancy services, and that SD is “nearly” fit for purpose.  He thanked BT Sport for their sponsorship of the summit, at which one speaker commented that whilst it was laudable that the event had secured a marquee sponsor, was it not a little incongruous that this was BT Sport who, with Sky, do so much to inconvenience supporters?  Mr Osterley responded that this issue had been considered by SD management, but BT had been given the benefit of the doubt on the basis of their willingness to engage with Supporters Direct, unlike Sky, who have shown no interest.  The meeting concluded with tributes to members of the Trust movement who have passed away during their last year, particularly noting the contribution of the late Darren Alexander, Chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, in reviving the group.

The next morning saw an early start to arrive at Wembley in time for a tour of the stadium at 9.15.  I went on a Wembley Tour in 1985 and it’s not just the stadium that’s changed.  Ainsley, the tour guide, could have been working at Madame Tussauds, or any other tourist attraction, such was his professional enthusiasm.  It was, however, a hugely enjoyable hour, taking in a visit to the press room, mixed zone, dressing rooms and finally ending up in the tunnel, prior to walking on to the pitch, with an opportunity to test the Wembley Roar for ourselves.  We were then escorted back to the Bobby Moore Suite to pick up our Delegate Packs for the Supporters Summit, which opened at 10.30am with a tribute to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, both of whom died in the recent MH17 disaster, as well as other colleagues who had passed away.  This was followed by opening remarks and a surprise appearance by Greg Dyke via video to participate in a recorded Q&A which made headlines across the media, dubbing the FA Council as “”overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white in a world that isn’t overwhelmingly male and white, and somehow that has to be changed.”  He went on to say “We have to try and change it but we’re not alone, supporters have got to try and change it as well.” In fact the message wasn’t terribly well received, and film accompanying his claim that he really enjoyed his trip to Brazil and “mixing with ordinary supporters” which showed him on a yacht, drew laughter and catcalls.

The Plenary session (Fixing Football) drew suggestions from supporters about how the game could be changed (although this contained a fair amount of reheated material from Everton’s The Blue Union from the previous evening) and then the next session was devoted to workshops, including Protecting Club Identity, which focussed on the problems at Cardiff and Hull this season.  After lunch, the keynote session discussed the recent FA Commission, and there’ll be a special look at this report on TheChels.Net very soon.  Afternoon workshops looked at the role of Supporter Liaison Officers and Diversity in Football, FFP and the work of Safety Advisory Groups. The summit concluded with a Q&A via “The Blizzard”, which is a very tasteful quarterly football magazine (think a more general Plains of Almeria) and the delegates staggered off home, exhausted, at 5.30pm.

Chelsea Charity Heroes

Well done to Paula Harding for completing her stint of planting the stunning ceramic poppies in the moat of The Tower of London to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

Just a reminder that Martin Wickham and his friends are walking all the four west London professional football grounds and on to Wembley on 6th September under the banner “West London United” in memory of their friend Tom for the PKD (Polycystic Kidney disease) Charity UK.  You can find out more and sponsor them at their JustGiving page.

You may remember that over the last couple of months TheChels.Net have been reporting on Gary Wilson’s fund-raising efforts following the news that his daughter Kirstie had been diagnosed with cancer for the second time.  We’re delighted to be able to tell you that Kirstie’s chemotherapy seems to be working, and everyone here is keeping their fingers crossed that Kirstie continues to make a good recovery.

In more fund-raising news, family and friends of Jim McSkimming have now raised not only enough to purchase two defibrillators for use in their local community in his memory, but they’ve also been able to make a contribution to their locals boys and girls’ football team, together with the Cardiac in The Young charity which the team supporters.  A presentation took place recently, and you can read more about it here.

CST News

The Chelsea Supporters Trust AGM takes place in the Attenborough Suite at the Copthorne Hotel SW6 on Saturday 16th August.  It is still not too late to submit your nomination for election to the Trust board, although the deadline closes at 23.00 tomorrow.  This is also the deadline for submission of motions to the meeting.  If you are attending the AGM, you can enjoy a free tour of the Chelsea Museum beforehand, but please note places are limited.  You can find out more at the CST website.

We’ll be back soon with a special feature on the FA Chairman’s England Commission which was debated at the Supporters Summit last weekend.  In the meantime you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.