09 April 2005

3-1 United We Stand! 

We want our stadium, We want our Stadium!

My beloved Cambridge United are holding up the football league, but that’s the least of our worries. We won today but it still looks bleak, six points a drift with only four games to play. A crunch game against third from bottom Rushden in three weeks will be our last hope of maintaining league status and that’s if all the results go for us between now and then. Its not in our hands!

For those who have been out pounding the streets getting their fingers bitten by dogs on door steps, I have not been slacking off at the football, I was campaigning there as well. We spent the morning launching our campaign (the pictures should soon be on the web site). It was an excellent day, lots of new faces turned up and people were generally interested in our message, I even picked up votes for Lindsey from two market traders from Stratford and a couple from Yorkshire asked how they could get involved in the campaign there. We gave out postcard at Cambridge United and I am hoping I will be able to address the fans at one of their forums as football has become a political issue in Cambridge. Thanks to the comrade who thoughtfully wrote the policy on Sport and recreation.

The banter and chanting on the terraces today was not about football! Finance, insider trading, the problems with capitalists and their betrayal of the people who matter were mirrored in the collective voice of football songs, the beautiful part of the live game! The only other time I’ve heard the whole of the home crowd sing in unity is on the occasions we have won promotion or at away games in the midst of our famous cup runs!

Cambridge United's ground sits on a very large plot of prime real estate. The club is in financial difficulties (largely due to poor decisions by the board) and in December director John Howard, in an inspired piece of dodgy dealing, brought the stadium for £1.9 million. The Stadium as a going concern was valued the previous year at over £3m and the site rid of the football club is worth at least four times that! Howard's aptly named property development firm, Bideawhile Ltd, is now renting the stadium back to the club for £500,00 a year. In a George Bush on the Iraqi people type moment, Howard said "From the heart I am not here to see this company and this football club suffer". Meanwhile the fans have been trying to raise enough money to gain more of a say in their club. What other business needs their customers to bail them out. Er, railtrack, MG Rover, the numerous other sell offs . . . .

The club is, needless to say, back in financial trouble. Another 'loyal' director, Johnny Hon, who happens to own a chain of betting shops, has now offered to buy the stadium on behalf of the club, for £2.2m. It is rumored that Howard, who now won't sell, wants to build unaffordable houses and Hon wants to put a casino on the site. Neither is allowed to develop whilst football is being played at the ground, but low and behold they are both backing a move to a out of town venue. The last thing the most deprived ward in Cambridge need s Yuppie flats of a gambling den. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of going to the football with my dad, I wouldn’t want that taken from me or deprived to anyone else. Please sign the petition to stop the developers.

So back to the terrace and some inspired singing of "sack the board, sack the board, Sack the board" and "stand up if you hate John Howard" then "sit down if you hate John Howard". It is just like an anti war demonstrations. All of us, the people, can't be wrong, and of course - we are not! In fact its no different at all. The more we sang, the more it was apparant that we might be stripped of decades of memories and of our vibrant community. The crown was good natured, but militancy was in the air!

10 fans went to meet
went to meet John Howard
10 fans, 9 fans, 8 fans, 7 fans, 6 fans, 5 fans, 4 fans, 3 fans ....
and a baseball bat went to meet John Howard!

All in jest, but probably not out of the ASBO remit. Low and behold the police made them selves visible.

The people versus profit and the class war is live and well in Cambridge.

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