Home Archive SAM MORSHEAD: Millwall’s fans have set an example we can all follow
SAM MORSHEAD: Millwall’s fans have set an example we can all follow
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SAM MORSHEAD: Millwall’s fans have set an example we can all follow

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In the badlands of Lewisham this week, there was a major victory for the lower leagues.

The local council’s plans to buy up land around the New Den and hand them over to a shady offshore development company were scuppered, thanks to the inquisition and determination of fans.

Millwall had been threatened with the possibility – the very real, very scary, barely-worth-thinking-about possibility – of having to down tools and relocate away from their home of 117 years.

Their Community Trust would have been evicted had the compulsory purchase order gone through, their academy would have been left without access to the AstroTurf training pitch required under Elite Player Performance Plan regulations (the EPPP itself is a wretched, parasitic germ that’s been unleashed on the bottom end of the football pyramid… but more of that another day).

And all the while the club would have been contemplating that very real possibility that the redevelopment project – part of the wider New Bermondsey scheme – was to be handled by a company with historical ties to former senior members of the local authority, whose financing was Twilight-Zone mysterious and whose plans didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Throw into that the fact that the firm in question, Renewal, backed the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation charity which falsely claimed to have secured £2million in Sport England funding – and that Lewisham’s current mayor is a trustee of that foundation – and it was as if Millwall were standing upwards at an asteroid of alien waste casting an almighty shadow over their identity… if not their very existence.

That asteroid never made impact, though.

The New Den’s future should be safer after the council’s recent U-turn

Thankfully for the club, its fans and supporters of generations to come, enough hardy souls stood up for themselves.

Prominent in their number were Alan Hall – the chair of Lewisham’s overview and scrutiny committee, whose objections and concerns stood alone for several months; Barney Ronay – the Guardian journalist who brought to light pertinent, agenda-changing information; and the Association of Millwall Supporters who clubbed together to ensure fairness prevailed.

On Wednesday, the first step towards reversing plans for a CPO took place.

This was a victory for the aforementioned and a victory for football fans in general.

It showed that accountability matters, even in our post-truth world where ‘alternative facts’ have been given legitimacy by the leader of the free world and Newspeak has become a common tongue.

It taught supporters all over the country what solidarity and togetherness and community really means in an age where our smaller clubs – the teams who exist out of the spotlight, not even the understudy and with barely a line to utter – are swatted away like Bluebottles at a picnic.

The same process is happening elsewhere. Charlton’s ‘Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet’ have been relentless – and the journalism of Jimmy Stone in ‘Getting To Know The Network’ is superb.

In Blackpool, marches and protests against the Oyston family persist.

The small fishing town of Morecambe has united in support of a football club crawling on with an absent owner, not seen in the UK since November 17.

In Coventry, they rail against SISU. In Nottingham, they despair at Fawaz Al-Hasawi.

Supporters everywhere are standing up for the history and future of the teams that matter to them.

At Millwall, the saga is not necessarily over. The mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, has for now suggested starting from scratch in the planning process and the chief executive, Barry Quirk, has hinted at an independent inquiry – but at the moment it’s all words.

Without action, words are only that. And in our world of Newspeak, what can you believe?

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