Cod Almighty | Article
by Mike Worden
31 January 2005
Imagine the Pontoon being taken over by fans of other clubs at one of our home games. Imagine flags from a number of clubs hanging at the front of the stand and colours of many clubs being worn. Weird? That's what happened at Wrexham last Saturday afternoon as the second Clubs in Crisis day was held at the Racecourse.
The day was organised by Brighton supporter Nic Outterside as a show of fan solidarity highlighting the financial problems facing Football League clubs at the moment. The date was chosen because of the large number of clubs without a game because of cup commitments and because the fixture was between two clubs who have undergone - and, as in the home side's case, are still undergoing - high-profile financial difficulties. Wrexham are currently in administration and have been docked ten points for it. Doncaster have recovered from their financial difficulties which peaked a few years ago with the chairman burning down the main stand. Ironically Chelsea chose the same day to announce record losses for a British football club and, to put things into perspective, a £12m-a-year new kit deal with Adidas and a wage bill last year of £112m.
Of course, the Mariners now have some financial difficulties of our own, and find ourselves being added to the list of clubs struggling to stay out of administration. In the publicity issued before the event, we were officially listed as a 'club in crisis', although our situation is different to most other clubs on the list. We are just broke, whereas most of the others seem to have a madman chairman or somebody who wants to redevelop the ground into a retail park. Living in nearby Chester, I decided to do my bit for the cause of fan solidarity and head for Wrexham.
The match was preceded by a fans' meeting and press conference held in the local college behind the away end and hosted by Wrexham Supporters Trust. This meeting, which was largely made up of Wrexham supporters, was addressed by a number of speakers with knowledge of the current financial plight of smaller clubs. Journalist and writer David Conn gave an outline of some of the problems faced by clubs taken over by chairmen with ulterior motives. David has written a book called The Beautiful Game and is a well respected football writer and columnist for The Independent. He supports Manchester City and told a few stories about how he grew up hating Peter Swailes but naively trusted Francis Lee simply because he had been a great City player.
Chesterfield supporter and Supporters Direct board member Phil Tooley spoke about the difficulties experienced by his own club and many others to whose fans he is providing advice. Phil was wearing a Chesterfield shirt that told its own story. It was manufactured illegally by the then chairman's own company and bore the name of Luke Beckett, a player with two separate contracts for reasons that can, of course, only be speculated upon.
I spoke to a Wrexham fan who said that although he had heard about the situations at other clubs in the past - even as far back as Charlton fans' 1980s campaign to get back to the Valley - he didn't believe anything like that would happen to his own club until the crisis came to the Racecourse Ground in December.
At 2:30 everybody moved next door to the Racecourse and took up positions on the home kop. Flags and colours of countless clubs were present. I met up with Town fans Emma, Ed and Ian and stood behind our GTFC flags at the front of the stand right behind the goal. With all the St George crosses around, the home kop of a Welsh side resembled an England away section. VS Rugby were to our left, Wolves and Crewe to our right and just behind us gathered a group of AFC Wimbledon fans - supporters who have more reason than anybody to be angry. More Town fans appeared on the Kop and some were later spotted in the side stand, flushed out when the Wrexham fans started with: "Grimsby, Grimsby, give us a wave".
The game itself wasn't the worst 0-0 I've been to, but certainly not the best. I suppose it was fitting that Wrexham didn't lose. They needed the point as well as the extra income and publicity this event brought them.