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Cod Almighty | Diary

Support does not mean helping the club build its own gallows

17 August 2017

Yesterday, Internet Mariners announced a change of venue for the #BTeamBoycott, Check-our-Tirade match to be played between the Internet Mariners and the Donny R'sonists on 29 August. If you have already got tickets to go to the game, please note that it will now be played at St Christopher's in Humberston.

If you are planning to go, then do get a ticket from here. You can pay the suggested donation on the gate but ticket downloads will allow the organisers to accurately count the attendance.

If you were not planning to go, then please read on.

The change of venue to St Christopher's is the third that has been forced on the match organisers. Yesterday, Lucarlys sports ground pulled out of hosting the game, apparently saying that they "are concerned about how they will be viewed in future, should they host... the upcoming boycott game". What exactly is the reputational damage that Lucarlys fear from hosting a charity match?

Before Lucarlys, Linden Homes club initially accepted the booking but then withdrew, citing scheduled building work. On the Fishy, the organisers accept this explanation in good faith.

Their first venue, Bradley Pitches, declined to hold the match, citing concerns about the numbers that might attend. That sounds a bit odd as they happily hosted a Town pre-season game last month. Perhaps more to the point, Cod Almighty has been told they were also concerned it might affect their potential working relationship with Grimsby Town FC. We have also been told that one of the match organisers had a lengthy phone call from John Fenty, which concluded with the two parties having to "agree to differ".

Cock-ups happen, but this begins to look as though someone at the club is throwing their weight around.

On the Fishy, the organisers rebut that suggestion. There is a thing almost worse than bullying. It is bullying that has become so habitual that its victims, its potential victims, cower when the bully so much as looks at them, hasten to do what the bully wants before they have even made the threat.

If there are other explanations for these developments, it would be good to hear them from the venues and from the club.

It would also be good to hear from the board of the Mariners Trust how they feel about all this. The trust supports the Internet Mariners and opposes B teams in the Football League Trophy. If it is keeping silent now as the price of keeping a place on the club board, then that is a factor that needs to weigh strongly as it renews its relationship with the club and with the fans. 

Far from being in opposition to the club, the boycott is happening because a competition that mixes first teams with academy teams undermines the status of the Mariners. It jeopardises the future of all third- and fourth-tier clubs

Let's go back to basics. What is being boycotted on 29 August is not Grimsby Town: it is the Trophy. Far from being in opposition to the club, the boycott is happening because a competition that mixes first teams with academy teams undermines the status of the Mariners. It jeopardises the future of all third- and fourth-tier clubs.

Far from boycotting the club, as Rise and Shine Diary wrote on Tuesday, fans are being urged to spend money at the club shop to insulate Grimsby Town from the financial impact of the boycott.

The boycott match is about preventing the spread of B teams into first team fixtures. And it is about more than that. It is about fans of two different clubs showing that they can compete in a friendly way and work together constructively. Proceeds from the match will be split between three charities: the Grimsby Town Disabled Supporters Club, Inspire TCI and Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice in Doncaster.

This is two weeks after the Grimsby Town supporters' liaison officer had to spend the best part of a week refuting false allegations that pubs in Chesterfield had to close because of the behaviour of Town fans. Those wrongful allegations can easily stick because of the way, at the smallest sign of trouble, football fans are still portrayed. The Internet Mariners and the Donny R'sonists can only be accused of one thing: bringing the game into good repute. Just as Grimsby fans generated positive media coverage in the recent past with the fancy dress theme days, and with Operation Promotion and Operation Mariachi.

What the boycott match was not about was John Fenty or Grimsby Town. That was unless (as the facts we have presented might suggest) Fenty, and perhaps others at the club, have started using their position to bully community organisations into turning away business.

Fenty has taken to branding his plans to move the club to Peaks Parkway as a "community stadium". What kind of community does he really want to be a part of if one week he is telling a locally owned newspaper it must pay to speak to Russell Slade, and the next he is letting local sports clubs believe they need his permission before they decide to host a charity match? When Fenty talks about "community", I can't help but imagine him in a 17th-century wig, a latter-day Louis XIV, saying: "Les Mariners? C'est moi."

There is no sustainable community model that is based on one person having such power that he can dictate to all others. And there is no future for Grimsby Town if it allows its majority shareowner to treat his personal views and interests as being identical with the club.

For that reason, every Town fan has an important choice to make on 29 August. Missing a Grimsby Town match is a wrench – support is what supporters do – but understand that if you go along to the Checkatrade Trophy match you are supporting those who want to mould the Football League for the convenience of Premier League clubs with more players than they know what to do with. And now, until someone puts an alternative construction on the facts presented above, you will also be complicit in the cowing of grassroots sport.

You could stay at home of course. But better than that, why not go to St Christopher's at Humberston? You can watch fans of Grimsby and Doncaster play a match, raise money for some good causes, and take part in a celebration of the way that football should be, bringing communities together. Watch the Internet Mariners against the Donny R'sonists on 29 August and you too will be supporting the Mariners.