Saturday 3rd March 2007.
Football fans can often tell you the date of the first match they went to see, well that’s my date. It was Whitehawk v Truro City in the Sixth Round Proper (why they don’t call it the Quarterfinals I don’t know!) of the FA Vase. I watched most of the game from the East Bank, where we used to be able to stand, with my 4-year-old son on my shoulders and my 1-year-old son in a buggy next to me and I’ve been going back ever since. This match was the first time I’d ever heard of Whitehawk FC even though I’d lived in Whitehawk since 2003 and in Brighton since 1999. The increased coverage in the local press had awoken an obsession in me I had lost since I left my home town of Plymouth. The game ended 1-0 to Truro with a goal reminiscent of Maradona’s hand of God effort.
When I moved to Brighton I lost my weekly football fix as it felt “wrong” going to watch Brighton and other than the occasional Argyle away day I was in the footballing wilderness for 8 years. The feeling of coming to Whitehawk for that first match triggered the need again and I relapsed back into my football addiction. I have passed that addiction on to my eldest son who you’ll often see with me at games, home and away, although he did miss a lot of one season with his own obsessional commitment to FIFA 14. My addiction means I’ve started coming to the Under 18’s now and was treated to an incredible season last year and I hope Jude has managed to get together another exciting group this year, the first game against Lewes certainly looked promising. I’d like to encourage everyone to come along and see our future/current first team players.
If you don’t know me I wouldn’t blame you, if you’ve been coming a while you might have seen me wandering around. My son and I used to stand behind the goal at games, when he was younger he used to love being ball boy when shots were a little wayward and there were only 70-80 people in the ground with no fence to stop the ball disappearing into the bushes. We’ve enjoyed seeing the start of the Whitehawk Ultras, with Rory, Pete and Jay “aeroplaning “ behind the goal on their own and we have certainly enjoyed the excitement of flying up through the leagues. We have moved to the side-lines in recent years due to meeting fellow Argyle supporters who come to Whitehawk, allowing for a double dose of football, watching the team whilst discussing our hometown team, it’s football Nirvana.
During my time coming to the club I have loved occasionally coming to the ground during the week to help out and it’s something I would encourage everyone to do if they have the time. There’s nothing better than sitting down and chewing the fat (after doing some work) with Nigel, John, Keith, Roy, Pete and Denise who do so much more than anyone realises. There are others who help on a voluntary basis but I don’t tend to see them as much I have usually come over on different days, however I have seen the evidence of Mike and his military grade shuttering and Fred Moore with his military grade organisational skills and Vice Chairman Paul Tomlinson with his enthusiasm. I’m sure there are more and apologise for leaving anyone out. The club couldn’t exist without these people.
After a tricky start to the season everyone is looking forwards towards an improvement in performances and results. There are signs of some excellent quality in the squad with a really encouraging youth development policy, I’m sure this will pay dividends in the seasons to follow. At the AGM on the 21st August we saw a committed change to a way of working at Whitehawk that maybe should have been in place in previous years. The target of long term sustainability is a must and an investment in facilities and the future of the club on the playing side is the way to achieve this. Repeatedly investing heavily in the first team whilst ignoring other aspects has got us to this league and kept us here so far but hasn’t resulted in the desired increase in attendance, yes, we’ve gone from the 70-80 regulars to the current 200+ but success on the pitch did see us pushing 400-500 at times. We need to make those 400-500 our regulars and push on to the next level of attendances, any ideas on how we achieve this will be gratefully received, we need to make a day out at Whitehawk an unmissable experience for even more people.
I’ve been asking myself who are our new fans going to be for some time. This is a tough question to answer, especially with the not so minor issue of a Premier League club over the hill. It is good to attract extra fans when Brighton are away or playing on TV but is the market we want to be in? It certainly is helpful to pull in a few students for some of the year but I’d like to place some focus on people coming through the door week after week, people who can’t keep away because they’ve been bitten by the bug, people who want to stay at the ground after the match, people who want to come to the bar before the match. There are people out there who don’t want the Premier League experience, there are those disillusioned, displaced fans who want something different, we just need to get the message out to them. Can we get the local community involved and coming to the ground? These are all items that we have all discussed at fan meetings, club meetings, in the pub, in the stands, but we’ve yet to have a concerted organised method to address these issues. As fans of the club maybe we can help?
I consider myself to not be a representative of any particular group at the club. I don’t represent our benefactors/sponsors or any of our particular groups of fans. As Chairman I endeavour to represent the good of the club and the will of the members. The first job I ask of all fans is to become a member of the club and have your say. We are a member’s club who are fortunate enough to have some generous sponsors who have done a lot to get us where we are. The AGM saw a relatively small attendance with 30 registered members before the night. I was effectively selected as Chairman because I said I would do it and no one else did and that shouldn’t have been the case with the kind of passionate support our club creates. I would like to see the regular 200 fans to all be members of the club and will be pushing this as a priority. If you have ever stood in the stands or sat by your keyboards and questioned any decision that has been made with regards to the facilities or structural decisions at the club, BECOME A MEMBER.
Last year during the summer break a group of fans got together and discussed a lot of the issues being raised but not much came of it, this feels like a bit of a lost opportunity. Getting organised is the greatest ways to affect change, individuals taking responsibility for initiatives has an impact but not on the same level. Becoming a member and organising through the membership of the club is one way of doing this, another might be setting up a supporter’s association. Lets get together and make this club sustainable and the success we all know it can be.
Chairman of Whitehawk FC