Monthly Archives: March 2014

STAND – @The_Paris_Angel meets David Conn

We were very pleased that the brilliant @david_conn featured in WSB3. Our good friends STAND also recently released their latest issue (which you can and should buy here) – it included this interview with David Conn by @The_Paris_Angel.

@The_Paris_Angel meets David Conn

When I was asked if I would interview David Conn for STAND I did not hesitate in saying yes. Not only was this a bit of a coup for the fanzine, there isn’t really a more suited journalist at this moment in time for a publication such as this.

David has written three books;The Football Business: Fair Game in the ’90s? (1997),The Beautiful Game?: Searching the Soul of Football (2004) and Richer Than God: Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing Up (2012). For all three books David used his investigative skills to delve into the somewhat murky world of modern football and the money which goes hand in hand with it. However, this is not the only reason he is the ideal interviewee for STAND – David has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the bereaved Hillsborough families and his 2009 article for the Guardian (Hillsborough: How Stories of Disaster Police Were Altered: The Guardian April 13 2009)which brought to light the families’ continuing campaign for justice prompted the then Labour ministers Andy Burnham and Maria Eagle to press for all official documents relating to the disaster to be released.

He is massively respected amongst his peers and has been named sports news reporter of the year twice, in 2004 and 2009, by the Sports Journalists Association, and has been named Football Writer of the Year by the Football Supporters Federation three times, in 2002, 2005 and 2009. In December 2013 he was named Sports Journalist of the Year in the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards.

After a few emails it was decided between us that the best place to conduct the interview was at his house in the Yorkshire Daleswhich he shares with his wife and two daughters, two cats and a whippet called Daisy. On the coldest night of the year so far, David made me instantly feel welcome after a tricky drive in the snow and as he brewed up we got chatting about the work he has done with and on behalf of the Hillsborough families.

“I really hope with the new inquest approaching on March 31st, that the families get what they deserve and have been fighting for, justice, after all this time”.

After decamping upstairs to his office, David is quick to set out what he feels that football in this country is lacking:

“We are not educated enough about football as a nation – theorganisation of it, the values,the philosophy. I honestly think that if you asked people, hand on heart, that 99% would agree that football should be about communities and values. In Germany and elsewhere in Northern Europe, they don’t just follow a team they have a philosophy. They are aware that there are a set of values football has which should be protected.  Although the game started in this country and we are incredibly passionate about it, for some reason we have never been educated enough and had that philosophy instilled in us. We have owners coming in, buying our clubs,  and they are allowed to change such integral things as the colour of the shirts clubs play in simply because , we are told, “It’s their club, they have the money and they can do what they want”  It’s just plain wrong”

What set David on this journey of investigative journalism was an interview with the then newly appointed Chairman of MCFC, Francis Lee, which he was sent to do by North West Business Insider magazine in1994. The whole idea behind the story was the rapid transformation of football from a professional sport into a business. The following is taken from David’s most recent book,Richer Than God: Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing Up:

“We got into talking, and as I waited for Franny to articulate an affection for the club and inspire me with his intentions for it, it crept on me gradually that he was talking about money, and the club’s need for it”

So it was an eye-opener then?

“Definitely. It was also around this time that I met an accountant from Deloitte who explained to me about the Premier League breakaway and the SKY deal. At the time of the First Division’s breakaway in 1992 I hadn’t realised it was all about the top clubs keeping the TV money, not sharing it with the other three divisions.  The accountant took some delight in explaining to me that the shares in football clubs would be worth a fortune and the owners – I never considered them as owners because I thought the clubs belonged to the fans  – would be doing very well out of this  ‘new age of football’.  He even described himself as ‘a missionary for the new age of football ‘. Yet, for me, a new age of football should have meant putting the money to good use throughout the game at all levels.

I wrote my first book, (The Football Business: Fair Game in the 90s), because I wanted people to know about football in the Premier League era but really the facts in it shouldn’t have been such a revelation. Yet they werebecause this was a secret world; perhaps the class system in this country could have a lot to do with it – the wealthy directors putting on a show for the masses with the masses not really being told what’s going on behind the scenes.  That’s not for you, it’s really complicated. It’s not that complicated really but the business men like to use that as a mystique so they are unaccountable for their machinations – we should expose it to make them more accountable – and thankfully this has happened and is continuing to happen. MCFC, or any club for that matter, shouldn’t be about rights issues and shares – it should be about the game itself and the fans.”

One of the biggest issues of the modern game is the extortionate ticket prices – what are your thoughts on that?

“I think it’s depressing when I see clubs charging upwards of £50/£60 for a ticket”

It’s also infuriating when you have fans defending their club’s ticket pricing policy just out of blind loyalty.

“I totally agree. How can they see that as a club issue to defend? It’s a broad fan issue and one where people should be able to see the wider picture.”

David then shows me a crowd photo of the Kop in 60/70s and a modern one at Old Trafford (although it could be anywhere in fairness).

“Look at that one of the Kop – no baldies (like me!)no grey hair and a lot of kids and a real mix of ages. Then look at the one of Old Trafford today- no teenagers, all adults. We’re missing a generation.  I’ve been making this case to the Premier League for years and they use their own figures on the match going demographic which they claim show there’s more of everyone going than there were in the past. Yet we know, me and you know as we were there in the past on the terraces, that it’s simply not true. I put those photos up at a conference I was at and it hit home more than any stats did because it’s so obvious. I think it’s really sad that most people at the game just seem to be of a certain age – older people”

It’s true, and I’ve often made the point that a huge part of growing up for me was going to the match and I think it’s sad thousands of kids won’t get that experience unless something is done about the prices, especially in the Premier League. Whereas in the past people went to the football and acted daft as a kid only to go less as they got older and settled down, the situation has been turned on its head and it’s considered by some as one of life’s luxuries you can only afford on a regular basis when you are earning a reasonable wage. It infuriates me when people view football as a ‘luxury’ people don’t have a right to enjoy.

WSB3 – Hillsborough & Orgreave by Sheila Coleman

On the day that fresh Hillsborough inquests start I thought it right to post on here an article from WSB3 by Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. You can buy WSB3 here and follow Sheila on Twitter here.

Five years separate Orgreave and Hillsborough. At first sight they appear two distinct issues. One a fight by miners to maintain their jobs and livelihoods, the other a disaster at a football ground where ninety six football supporters were killed in Britain’s worst ever sports disaster.  However, these two events are inextricably linked by the role played in both these events by South Yorkshire Police.

The policing of the miners and their supporters came to symbolize the worst aspects of the Tory government under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Strikers and protesters were systematically brutalized by a police force overtly acting as an arm of the state. Nothing typifies this more so than the Battle of Orgreave in June 1984. South Yorkshire Police numbers were swelled by police from forces across the country. The ferocity of police action will long be remembered for its brutality, false imprisonment and lies. This was war not law. Even the BBC news reversed film footage so as to make it appear that pickets attacked the police when in fact it was the other way around. The iconic image of a police officer on horseback wielding a truncheon at a diminutive woman sums up the reality of what people were up against.

Move on five years to the 15th April 1989, Liverpool had drawn Nottingham Forest in the FA cup semi-final (an exact re-run of the previous years). Ninety-six Liverpool fans that went to watch their team never came home. They were killed at the Hillsborough Stadium.  A Public inquiry under Lord justice Taylor concluded that the main cause of the Disaster was the breakdown of police control, South Yorkshire Police.

In spite of LJ Taylor’s findings, no prosecutions arose and to this day no police officer has ever been publicly charged in relation to the deaths (there was a failed private prosecution brought by some of the families against two senior officers). Aside from the fact it was deemed that SYP lost control leading to the deaths, what they went on to do in the immediate aftermath of the Disaster and in the longer term led to a cover up of the greatest magnitude. Indeed it took until the 12th September 2012 for the state to admit that there had been a cover-up and for the prime Minister to publicly apologize.

In the face of more than twenty years campaigning the previous labour government finally realized that ‘Hillsborough’ would not go away. They ordered a review of all available written evidence. This was not ideal and the remit of the Hillsborough Independent Panel left a lot to be desired. Nevertheless a report was produced which validated what campaigners had been saying for years.

Almost immediately the government requested that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigate all matters relating to the Disaster and subsequent cover-up. In December 2012, the Attorney General appeared in person (highly unusual) in the Divisional Court in London to argue that the inquest verdicts of accidental death be quashed in respect of all Ninety-six victims. In arguing the case he used many of the facts we had presented to the same court in 1993 in respect of six families. A great example of how the legal system operates within the prevailing political climate.  The verdicts were struck out and fresh inquests are due to commence on the 31st March 2014. The DPP will also consider if any prosecutions will now arise from the fresh investigations.

So why did it take so long for the state to acknowledge what thousands of witnesses had been saying from day one? It could be asserted that the passage of time was such that there is now not much of a realistic possibility of prosecutions let alone convictions. Quite a few of those involved are now dead. It could also be that the state underestimated the drive and commitment of decent people when they are maligned and demonized.  Perhaps it is a combination of these two factors.

The decision to launch an IPCC investigation in to the role played by the South Yorkshire Police force in respect of the Hillsborough Disaster had a direct impact on those involved in Orgreave. Almost immediately the latter pressed for a public inquiry to similarly investigate the role of the same police force in their battle. What they have got so far is a referral to the IPCC to determine if there are sufficient grounds to investigate the role of the police.

So today, thirty years on from the Battle of Orgreave and almost twenty-five years since the Hillsborough Disaster, the tables are turned. South Yorkshire Police force, which acted with impunity throughout the Thatcher years, is now under pressure and threat of prosecution as a result of sustained campaigning by the very people it attacked and maligned. The people it wounded, maimed and (in some cases) caused the deaths. Have the chickens come home to roost? Is judgment day looming? Or will the establishment, having been caught out, reorganize and regroup to protect those that acted as such faithful servants to a corrupt, right wing government? Time will tell.

One thing that cannot be disputed is the strength and tenacity of Orgreave and Hillsborough campaigners will at the very least leave a legacy for a better, fairer future which hopefully will inform and inspire a future generation to question, challenge and, above all else, treat their fellow human beings with a respect that was denied to the victims of both landmark events in the north of England in 1980’s Britain.

For more information on the Disaster and campaign got to:

www.contrast.org/hillsborough

Orgreave : The Last Stand of the Working Class?

Over recent days there’s been lots of interest in the 30th anniversary of The Strike, particularly with the flag we were forced to remove from the recent Barnsley v Forest game but also the ITV Documentary ‘The Miners Strike and Me’. Below is a piece by @fitzybloke that features in WSB3 on his experience at The Battle of Orgreave. Read it, get pissed off, share it.

Follow us on Twitter @weststandbogs

What started out as the fall back picket for anyone who couldn’t make a priority target, usually a Nottinghamshire pit, has entered British folklore as ‘The Battle of Orgreave’.

Orgreave was not a place that should have carried the hopes and aspirations of the working class, it was just a dirty coking plant and a collection of municipal buildings cut through by a road leading from the village down the valley to the motorway beyond.

I had first been to Orgreave in mid-May of 1984 when we were unable to make our primary target for that day’s picket, a Notts pit, Babbington I think. I guess Orgreave was chosen by the union leadership because it was supplying coke to steel works in the Scunthorpe area and we had tried to picket these on a number of occasions with little success. Usually brief fractious hostilities with small hauliers and the police on impenetrable industrial estates.

The first day I turned up at Orgreave it was a fairly relaxed atmosphere. We had the numbers on the cops and they let us set up a picket on three sides of the plant, on the road above and below and across the road in a bus shelter outside the office buildings. When the lorries arrived to fill up with coke, they did so in military style convoy with full police guard of honour. Driven by a set of chinless wonders in unmarked wagons with mesh covering the windows not many of the scabbing bastards even gave us the time of day and most drove straight through. The second day was similarly eventful although police numbers had increased. On the third day the 24th, things had begun to ramp up, the police were on a war footing, loads of the fuckers with mobile nicks and vans, parked up behind the office buildings we’d been allowed to picket in front of days earlier. The gloves were off, we had been pushed behind a cordon of cops about 30m from the main gates above the plant and access to the site now was only possible via the village; the motorway exit now the preserve of the scabs in their wagons. When the trucks arrived they didn’t even have to look at us anymore, they drove in without having to check their speed. Naturally the situation was a bit more heated than on previous days but still fairly calm.

The next time we didn’t make our primary target was the 29th of May, a Tuesday and a beautifully sunny day, we had four in our car with me being the designated driver. We parked the car in the village and picked up some fags and pop in the village shop before heading down over the railway bridge into the large open area of grassland and there we waited. It was hot, minds’t I was dressed up like a wanker in paramilitary style combat coat replete with black gloves and beret (the revolutionary must be impeccably attired). It was clear the police had changed tactics. Now behind the police lines, substantially swollen in number, were a mounted section of perhaps twenty horses you could also see they had short shield units, ‘snatch squads’ on standby behind the massed ranks of the not so thin blue line. The atmosphere in this early morning period was still very amicable the inspection of the troops was undertaken by a number of the lads with the police lines opening to seize one lad who had presumably taken things a little too far. Things started to become a little more agitated as the hour approached, from our vantage point you could lookout and see the convey of wagons as they left the motorway. It was time to front up. I took my place at the head of the queue; in front kissing the coppers, no way back. Like a surge on the old Ponte End that greeted a goal my body was fixed in position by many hundreds more. As the wagons got closer the urge to break the blue line grew, and we worked it down towards the opening gate, graft was something we miners knew all about. Then they appeared, coming in at full canter and supported by the snatch squads the police Trojans drove through our lines scattering bodies, me among them. I was picking myself up behind the police lines, that had stolen 10 -15 yards of ground, when I was arrested.

I spent until after lunch that day sweating my bollocks off incarcerated on a mobile nick, before spending the rest of it being ferried from one police station to another before finally ending up in Rotherham Magistrates court at 4.30am on May 30. The charges made fuck all sense public order blah blah blah, stone throwing, which was bollocks. The subsequent fine was punitive to my union in terms of cost and my own ability to support my fellow man hampered by bail conditions, in place until the trial in September, which meant I could be nicked if I went within a mile of Orgreave. I still had the fucking car keys as well.

Of course I was tempted back to Orgreave though the paramilitary outfit was shelved for something less conspicuous. There were more instances of an escalating conflict before the ‘Battle’. Police had begun to move horses into the tree line that surrounded the large area of grassland that was to the right as you looked down the hill. To the left over the fence, an area of scrub with dog handlers on the perimeter. The railway line and embankment you crossed by bridge as you walked down towards the coking plant from the village supermarket completed the perfect killing field. Then on the 18th June it was clear the order had come down the working class and in particular the vanguard of the working class movement, were to be taught a lesson. “Do not fuck with the state”. The dogs of war were released and the rest is history. I escaped over the bridge and back into the village making it back to the car in time to watch horses rampaging through the streets with riders bludgeoning their fellow man. Officers afoot with no thought of arrest, merely brutality in mind. Fucking terrifying! Absolutely fucking terrifying. The thing all states are supposed to fear “anarchy” was there on the streets of Orgreave. I remember shaking as I re-told the days events to my mum and dad and was looking forward to the news upholding my tale of police brutality. Instead what we got was the lie of the hail of missiles from the miners and police response. 25 years after the fact, a spokesman for the BBC admitted the story had been unintentionally edited when the tapes were played in the wrong order, the miner’s missiles an attempt at self-defence against unbridled brutality by the police. Like the never before seen footage of Hillsborough, two of the seismic events of the Thatcher years and the media failed us. The BBC hierarchy have always been establishment cunts.

Which brings me to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign; a difficult one as I know many of the lads involved who are giving up their time for free and doing a sterling job to ensure that there is a proper investigation into the events at Orgreave, particularly those on the 18th June. My problem is this; the fact I was nicked is indelible proof I was there, that I fought for my class and my community. Why then would I want to discard that proof for a pardon from a set of disreputable wankers like the South Yorkshire Police force, not that they were the only force involved at Orgreave and are maybe being scapegoated to protect the wider law enforcement agencies in the UK. Let the past be rewritten and accept a pardon from those other lickspittles of the ruling elite, parliament and the judiciary, throw in the church and the coterie of charlatans is complete. Fuck that! History cannot be undone, but what we can do is ensure independent inquests where the police are not allowed to investigate themselves and where governments are not allowed to show grace and favour through manipulation of the judicial process in support of their agents provocateurs. The defeat of the miners in 1984 was a death knell for the working class. Since then the elites have taken an ever-increasing share of the pie and moved the burden of blame from the ‘enemy within’ (the unions) to the poor. Why would an apology from any of these make my life complete? I am at war with them; I will always be at war with them. No Pasaran!

 

The Enemy Within