Monday, 18 February 2013

Against Corporate Bullying: The Campaign to Save Alton Town Football Club

Especially for the residents of Alton: Alton Town v Molson Coors in Private Eye 1333.
Alton Town Football Club are in trouble. At the end of this season, they are going to lose their ground. "So what?" you may be thinking. "Lots of small football clubs are in trouble - they overspend, fail to pay their taxes, run up debts. Why should I feel sympathy for Alton?"

Well, as far as I know, they are a well-run club, never been in trouble before. Their problem is that their landlord, Molson Coors (the seventh biggest brewing company in the world) is intending to throw them out so that they can sell their ground for housing. You may be thinking, "but surely landlords can do whatever they like with their own property? It's just hard luck on Alton Town that the mega-corporation that owns this land want to cash in right now. I expect Molson Coors are feeling the pinch in this current economic climate, just like everybody else?" Their last year's profits of £60,000,000 would suggest otherwise...

The real objection is that the sports ground has a covenant on it. Since 1935, the football and bowls clubs which share the site have been protected by this legal document which states that the land should be used for outdoor activities in perpuity. All previous owners (all of them breweries) have respected this document. The full story behind the fight to save the sports ground can be read on the Save Alton Town blog - it's worth reading everything on there, even the links, just so you know what they're up against. It's very much small town, skint Davids versus the billion dollar Goliaths of multi-national America.

What are Alton Town intending to do? Well, on March 2nd, the football club are calling on all football fans and local people to turn up to their Wessex League match against Hayling United. They aim to break their record crowd of 500 to show their landlords that people care about them, and to underline that closing down the football and bowls clubs would be a massive PR disaster locally for the brewery (whose brands include Carling - ironically a former sponsor of millionaires' playground, the FA Premiership).

For followers of several nearby clubs, your team will be playing away on March 2nd. Why not go to Alton instead and support them in their hour of need? Only £3, and the standard of football in the Wessex Premier is usually not too bad. Fans of Reading, Pompey, AFC Bournemouth, go on! You'll be assisting in a good cause, and you might even enjoy it!

To all groundhoppers out there: This could be your last chance to see Alton Town play at their traditional home. You will see a rickety old stand and a lovely pavilion. No kit stands anywhere to be seen. If you've been there before...go again! They're hoping to break their record attendance of 500. You could be a big part of their history just by turning up.

Fellow bloggers: It's a ready-made story for your readers. The football club would appreciate any publicity, whether you have 5 readers a day or 500. You never know who's going to be reading. It might be your piece that's read by that influential someone that could help them remain at the Sports Ground for many years to come.

So, why have I uploaded a cutting of last week's Private Eye article on the fight? Because it is strongly rumoured that an employee of the company bulk-bought every copy of the magazine that was on sale in Alton last week, to prevent the locals having a chance to read it. If that's true, it shows you just what the club are up against. Apparently, there will be another piece in Private Eye soon (not that anyone in Alton will be able to read it).

And anyway, without us, what will become of Sylvester?

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