Indecent Proposal?

This is something a little unusual for us. An attempt at
being serious. It’s not a practice we’re particularly big on if we’re honest.
However, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and be adult for a
change I suppose. So here goes…

On the 10th February 2017, Liverpool FC took the decision to
ban national tabloid The Sun from Anfield and their Melwood training ground
over the long running dispute over the paper’s reporting of the 1989
Hillborough disaster. 4 days later, Sutton United announces that for its much
anticipated 5th Round FA Cup tie against Premier League giants Arsenal, their
regular 1st team shirt sponsor ‘Green Go Waste’ would be replaced by ‘Sun Bet’.
A new online betting site part owned by News International and branded for the
aforementioned newspaper.

To say the the decision of the U’s to make the most of their
15 minutes of fame and associate with the daily publication now officially
persona non-grata on Merseyside does not go down well is an understatement and
then some. Alongside what seemed like most of Twitter thinking we’re scumbags,
a lot of U’s fans were also shocked & upset when the news dropped. This
sort of shit isn’t normally on our radar where priorities are more around
finding that boozer that opens early for some far flung away day and where the
fuck exactly is North Ferriby. A lot of Sutton fans were angry because of the perceived toxic
nature of the Sun’s brand, some because of the reporting of Hillsborough and some quite frankly
because of both. However, we are a diverse group, generally held together by a
love of football, beer and a bit of rock ‘n roll. Of course, there are the
sorts who couldn’t really care where the money comes from. That’s not our view,
but people are entitled to it all the same. As long as they’re not being a dick
about it.

And when we say we’re a diverse group, we mean it. Amongst
our number we even have several proper, bona fide Scousers from the Red half of
the City. Now exiled here in the South with us shandy drinkers, they’ve found
coming to Gander Green Lane to be a not half bad replacement for Anfield and
judging by the time they spend in the bar, they certainly seem to feel at home
here and we’ve certainly come to think of them as part of the family. Guys like that don’t stick around long if you’re a bunch of arseholes. We extremely doubt this deal will be at all popular with them, as we fully understand the ‘never forget never
forgive’ stance a lot of they and their kin would obviously take towards the
News International publication. But we also hope that they’ve come to know the
club well enough to know that they didn’t set out to deliberately piss off or
alienate them. 

With this in mind, I understand there will be some JFT96 material being distributed
at the Arsenal game as a response and undoubtedly some from our own number will be involved
in that.

Personally? I’m definitely conflicted. It’s a bit like that film Indecent Proposal. Some rich geezer has offered your missus a wad of cash for a bunk up. However in this case, your missus isn’t that much of a looker to begin with and the bloke offering the money is someone well known, but a lot of people don’t like. Like Nigel Farage. You’re not too sure about it & know it might cause a bit of friction in your relationship, but that money would certainly come in handy.

I’ve never been a Sun reader, never will be. Even after the Leeds game when the cheeky sods used our crap pun of a name as a headline (we actually expected some abuse for that, but it seems no one noticed. Sums up Gandermonium perfectly I guess!), when my newsagent Ali insisted he give me copies of it and the Mail (another one I won’t buy) for free after I’d spent nearly a tenner on everything else available in print that Monday morning. But on the other side of the coin, I’m writing this having got to know one of their
sports correspondents on this journey. Ben’s a good bloke, works fucking hard and is always
good value to talk football with. He even wound up in bloody Guiseley with us this week
the poor sod. I’ve personally also appeared on their Football podcast during this
run prior to the Leeds game, back when it was all a bit of a laugh and we were
just out there talking up our little club. Does that make me the devil, a sell out or just some sad bastard happy to talk to someone who’s actually interested in his poxy little club for a change? Now, barely a week before the biggest
game we’ve ever had, loads of people think we’re despicable money grabbing
wankers and our support is hugely divided on the matter. A fucking laugh it is
no longer.

To the outsider, it would understandably seem like this deal
is just another in a long line of football clubs just cashing in when the
opportunity arises and fuck the consequences. And I can’t say I blame ’em,
especially given we have of course already secured some pretty sizable cheques
to delight our bank manager with, so to some this could appear to be us just milking it for the sake of it. However, here the decision would have been
reached by a board that are, like us, supporters. Our Chairman and our President
both started out in our Supporters Club many years ago for example and served
on a Management Committee that in 1989 sent a donation to the Hillsborough
Disaster fund on the Club’s behalf. These aren’t guys taking a deal to pay them
back a ‘directors loan’, or pay shareholders a dividend, nor will we be
spunking a hundred grand striker over the summer.

Sutton United is a classical Non-League outfit still finding
it’s way and coming to terms with the modern game a little, which is mostly thanks to our manager Mr
Doswell who’s dragged us a little forcefully towards the 21st Century over the
last few years. However despite being a bit dusty, we’ve always tried to do
things the right way. People take the piss out of our directors and their club ties & blazers but unlike some of our peers we’ve never used HMRC as an overdraft, never been in
admin and then shafted local businesses out of fortunes with bollocks penny in
the pound CVA deals and we make sure our staff and players are paid on time and
in full.

The thing is, these guys in charge are volunteers, they do
it for the love not the money. And sometimes, they might get it wrong. But when
all is said and done, any mistakes are made with the future and the
sustainability of the club at heart. And with the FA looking to play chicken
with Parliament over their governance of the game, we little guys (and I speak of Non-League in general here) are staring
at the distinct possibility of £40 million quid being withheld from grassroots
football as a result. Is it any wonder heads can be turned by big money?

We aren’t the first Non-League side to take the Sun shilling
of course. And barring the likes of a Dulwich or a FC United, I doubt there aren’t
many sides at our level who’d say no either. Farnborough, Scarborough &
Crawley have all done so in the last 13 years when they got huge ties in the FA
Cup. Scarborough used their Sun money from their tie against Chelsea to pay a
tax bill, Farnborough’s (ironically from a game against Arsenal) ended up going
to their ownermanager at the time who then promptly upped sticks 5 minutes
later to Stevenage, taking half the team with him. And Crawley? Well they
already had a seven figure wage bill, so fuck knows what black hole that went
into, probably another League 1 player’s signing on fee. Ours? It’ll go to fix
the clubhouse roof and go into facilities on the Rec side of the ground that’ll
benefit not only us but our local community too, that same Rec that we lease
from the council and maintain at our own cost to give our juniors team
somewhere to play.

To be honest, throughout this run, another theme has been
Paul Doswell saying we don’t want to go up, we’re not ready, we’re a Non-League
club and the infrastructure isn’t there. We’re run almost entirely 100% by
volunteers and to be honest, the last week has caught up with everyone a bit.
Of course we’ve enjoyed this extraordinary adventure, but when the circus packs
up its toys and we get back to being a local club with local sponsors battling
for the points to stay safe in the national league it will be relief for many
of us.

If you’ve got this far, then cheers for taking the time. Now do
us a favour if you will, come back and check out Sutton United in a year, 18 months time. Maybe we (the club) can
then show you the real fruits of all this and perhaps you can see the reasons
why the club took that deal. In fact fuck it, if you genuinely want to see it for
yourself but don’t even want to give us any money, get in touch. I’ll happily pay you in, you can have a pint and you can maybe see for yourself why we stick with this lot. I’ll even try & get you a chat with the Chairman himself if you want.

If you want further pointers, check out Dos’ presser from GGL yesterday here. I’m not sure I can put it any better.

On the other hand, if you think this is all a load of old
flannel, Sutton United have made their deal with the devil and will have to live with the
consequences, then we completely respect that too. You’ve at least heard us out
and I genuinely hope someday when you next hear the name of Sutton United FC, it’ll be for a far
more positive reason from your point of view.

Cheers.

Taz (with a big assist from Totts!)





UPDATE

Two days after we did this piece, Liverpool FC Podcast ‘The Anfield Wrap’ got in touch to see if Taz fancied putting an audio based angle on the above. If you want to hear the result of his chat with click HERE.

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