Life goes on

Picture: neloqua

With an amazing season over, fans can head for the beach or sit back and relax, occasionally checking out the latest transfer rumours in the papers and chatrooms. But for supporters’ club organisers, the close season brings plenty of work. Ian Todd*, founder of the London and Southern England branch of the SAFCSA, explains

The players, except those with international call-ups, can go on holiday, no doubt with the club’s fitness maintenance regime accompanying the Raybans and Bermuda shorts.
And the majority of fans can catch up with all of those weekend jobs which got put aside as the season reached its “Mustn’t miss this crucial game!” climax.
But for those volunteers involved in the supporters’ club movement around the country there’s little chance of a complete break.
The sales stock needs to be checked, the season’s financial accounts completed and audited, and a myriad of tidying up jobs done.
Before you know where the time has gone, it’s June 14, the fixtures for next season are out and there’s the August travel plans to make.
On the wider plane, those involved in the national supporters’ movement are planning their Annual Conference and meeting with UEFA, the FA and the Premier and Football Leagues for bipartite discussions on the relationship between the authorities and the fans and the improvements we’d like to see.

As membership secretary of Sunderland’s London Branch of supporters, I find rarely a day goes by at present without an enquiry arriving about membership for next season.
Some approaches come from completely new names, others from previous members whose enthusiasm has been rekindled.
Exiles from the North-East are a pretty hardy lot and the branch membership remains fairly stable from season to season. Some return to their native territory but are replaced by those setting out on new careers in the capital.
What fluctuations there are, though, are incontrovertibly linked with the fortunes of the team. It is human nature that enthusiasm wanes when we are doing badly and rises when fulfilment seems more likely – and match tickets more scarce.

I can’t recall a time when there was such confidence that the recent success will be sustainable and that is clearly reflected in my current postbag and e-mail inbox.

Additionally, there are already signs that there’ll be a lot of Mackems down here working in one capacity or another on the preparations for the 2012 Olympics and will value the services the branch can offer.
As well as, without much work, boosting our numbers, there are other more arduous challenges to face before the August 11 (or 12!) kick-off.
The rail operator with whom we have had an attractive group travel contract throughout our existence has lost the franchise and we don’t yet know who we’ll be dealing with come September.
A new rail company will also be running trains direct from London to Sunderland, via the coast route, next season and a meeting is planned with them shortly to see if they will offer a similar and competitive arrangement.
There is a plan to adopt a more modern branch badge. Will the design be agreed in time to print new stationery and membership cards in time for the new season?
And of course, there’s a celebratory promotion issue of the branch newsletter to prepare and issue. Meanwhile, several members will be representing the branch on the cricket fields of Southern England.
Not that we’re complaining – we wouldn’t do these jobs if we didn’t enjoy it. But how much easier it is to be enthusiastic about them when the club’s future is so encouraging.

* Interested in joining the London and Southern England branch? Write to Ian Todd at SAFCSA Membership, 8 Wyke Close, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 5PE

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