Tell Me Why

Cod Almighty | Article

by Richard Lord

9 July 2024

First they came for the parachute payments and we did not speak out because it was not relevant to us, right?

Then they came for our FA Cup replays and they did not speak out because they were not fans of lower league clubs.

Then they came for our Saturday kick offs but we do speak out. Is anyone listening?

There may be now beĀ someone in power to speak for you and me and clubs like Grimsby. Rich Lord's coolly impassioned election day diary had a logic and force that deserves another airing, a permanent reminder of why we vote, why we need to vote and why we need to keep holding those in power to their promises.

First published 4 July 2024

Why. It's only three letters long, but it packs a punch. It's probably one of the most powerful words we have. Why? Because it elicits information. It pursues answers. It quenches our thirst for knowledge, and not just for those who studied sculpture at St Martin's College, oh no.

I was told many moons ago by a tutor at sixth form (as he settled into a notoriously impromptu soliloquy) that, to become richer in life, you have to embrace your inner child. "Always ask why," he'd say, "and if you're not satisfied with the answer, ask 'why' again. Keep asking until you get to the heart of the matter. Not enough people do this. They forget. They think it's just kids that should do this."

Ironically, I never asked why, as a sixth form tutor of psychology, he chose to wear a waistcoat and crocodile shoes to work. Maybe I should've. Maybe that was the acid test, and we all failed.

The club's announcement that our away game at Notts County will no longer be played on a lovely traditional and accessible Saturday afternoon but instead on a dark and inaccessible Thursday evening went down, as you'd expect, like a cold cup of sick with Town's loyal fan base. Our support — particularly our away following — is often praised by opposition fans for being "the best that visited [insert endearing term for their home ground] all season". Fewer will now go as a result of this boringly predictable shift.

"Your team will be live on Sky Sports at least 20 times next season!" screams Sky Sports excitedly, like we should all be excited about it too. "And at no extra cost!" (if you happen to subscribe to Sky Sports already). This might be a good thing for the Liverpool fan who has never stepped foot inside Anfield despite a lifetime professing their love for the Reds, but this isn't topflight footy we're talking about.

For the vast majority of fans of clubs at our level, where access to real matches isn't always fraught with difficulty, it attempts to solve an issue that never existed. Only those who live miles away and stood no chance of attending the game anyway had hoped to see Town on the telly. While I'm not suggesting exiled fans are any less of a fan — I say this as an exile myself — the football club has to prioritise its local fan base and local community. This Sky Sports endeavour does the opposite.

Questionable start times aren't just an issue in football. If, like me, you love cricket, you'll have followed the recent men's T20 World Cup. The suits in charge decided that the final, played in Barbados, should begin early in the morning local time so that a billion people could watch it in India, when it would be evening. The precedent here posits this: what if the tournament was held in Australia? A final in Sydney would have to start at 2am so those same billion people could watch it. Where does it end?

In Tony Butcher's final segment of his chat with Jason Stockwood, they spoke at length about culture and values, and, in particular, purpose. Understanding why you're doing what you're doing might sound obvious, but it can get lost, or forgotten, very easily. Jason, and the board, have a very clear vision for the club, which is rooted in principles of identity and belonging.

What's Sky Sports' purpose in this particular enterprise? Why would they go to such lengths to put Town on the telly? What's really driving this? Is it helping the fans who go to the matches? The lifeblood of the game at this level? Of course not. Their lives have just been made harder. If you've ever tried to get back to Cleethorpes from Nottingham after 10pm using public transport, you'll know. Why play it at 8pm on a Thursday night when it thrived at 3pm on a Saturday? To televise it. Why televise it?

For whom?

I'm being rhetorical, but you get the gist. If we keep asking why, we'll understand where this circles back to. Money, profit, share prices, shareholders. This isn't being done for the people. This is another example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, not just financially but in being entertained. And it's being sold to us as if it's a good thing.

How apt, given the day this was written. Think about the parallels that exist between football and politics. It's all linked. Remember to vote. Football doesn't have many bargaining chips left in its fight, but when it comes to politics and the communities that you and the club depend on, you still have your chip. You still have a vote. Don't waste it.