LibLink: Tim Farron – “As Millwall’s crisis shows, football is about far more than just sport”


It’s not often that a senior Lib Dem is quoted in the Sports pages (Ming Campbell excepted). But today Tim Farron has been explaining his concern about the decision of Lewisham Council to compulsory purchase Millwall’s land.

He is quoted:

Football clubs are a crucial part of British society and are at the heart of our communities. I know how heartbreaking it would be for Millwall’s fans and the local community if their club was forced to move against their wishes. The details of this case seem quite extraordinary and I hope that the council don’t take actions that could risk the club’s future in the area.

Since that was published Tim has written a longer comment piece.

The beautiful game is a huge part of all fans’ lives.

That is why, even though I am a Blackburn Rovers fan, I was saddened to read about the prospect of Millwall being forced to leave their home ground, the Den, as Lewisham council consider pursing a compulsory purchase order on land around the site. I love Ewood Park, and the idea of Rovers being pushed out against our will is heartbreaking. And I know that for Millwall’s fans the idea of being wrenched from the Den will be just as bad.

Because football isn’t just about sport. It is about community too – the people you go to matches with, the chip shop you grab a bite to eat in before the match and the pub you pop into for a quick pint afterwards. You don’t forget your first match: mine was Blackburn against Oxford United and despite it being a 1-1 draw, it is a match I’ll never forget. Because it matters – it is one of life’s great moments.

And football is also about the jobs in the community that the club creates, the character it brings to an area and the local initiatives it supports – like the Millwall community trust, which offers local people sports classes, educational workshops, disability sports classes and children’s soccer schools. If the club were to go, what would happen to that? What about the people employed by it? What about the businesses in the area that have, in Millwall’s case, grown up around a club that has been playing on that pitch for over 100 years?

You can read the rest of his article here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • I have no great love for Millwall (not many football supporters have – “We all hate them and they don’t care”), and I commiserate with Tim in his current grief supporting Blackburn Rovers. He and I both know that Huddersfield Town “are the greatest team of football the world has ever seen”.

    What I do think he should do is to call for an enquiry into the Offshore property connections of certain Labour Councillors in Lewisham and for any action by that Council to be called in.

    See reports As Millwall’s crisis shows, football is about far more than just sport
    The Guardian-1 hour ago
    ‘Millwall may be forced to leave their home ground, the Den, as Lewisham council consider pursing a compulsory purchase order on land

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Jan '17 - 3:30pm

    It is I think worth pointing out that Millwall are just the highest profile example so far of this. Several lower level and amateur/part-time London clubs have really run into problems over the past decade, just the media hasn’t paid attention. It may well have happened in other high-land-cost areas too.

    This is not just a parochial issue and it’s not just football or even sport.

    And, inevitably when clubs move that has knock-on impacts on other already established teams.

  • Joseph Bourke 9th Jan '17 - 5:53pm

    I was incredulous when I first read of Millwall’s travails. Local football clubs often look to the local council for support when rapacious or cavalier Chairmen have brought a community club to the point of financial collapse. The idea that it is Lewisham council forcing the club out of the community is quite scandalous.
    I had the privilege of serving on the board of supporters direct with Brian Lomax as CEO ( under the then chairmanship of Andy Burnham. Brian virtually single-handed with a small dedicated staff created the template for supporters trust. These trusts have been used to great effect in seeing smaller local community clubs through the trials of administration and pending liquidation, including at my own local club in Brentford.
    Steve Bradley developed the Libdem policy on supporter participation in the governance of football clubs I sincerely hope that Lewisham Libdems will give their full backing to fans efforts to stave off this impending disaster for a South London club with a long and proud history.

  • A football club is global brand parachuting their own image into communities and attempting to replace or destroy what was there before (see Red Bull) rather a community represented by a name, colours and a location. It means I was able to talk to a Turkish man two or three decades my elder and several hundred miles away from either of our homes, and it means Millwall should not be moved from their home this way.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Jan '17 - 10:33pm

    I remember the first game, attending White Hart Lane before all-seater stadiums.
    It was an FA Cup third round replay. Tottenham 6 Birmingham 1, but I did not know.
    They beat Chelsea 2 -1 in the final, which I heard on the radio.

  • I think we need to be careful and to remind people that the real issue isn’t football, but the misuse of the “Community interest” requirement that is supposed to be behind compulsory purchase orders. We can expect to see many more of these as Council’s try to satisfy the wholly unreasonable demands of an out-of-touch central government for more housing and infrastructure to support unsustainable levels of population growth.

    In my area we have a slightly different problem. For a variety of reasons, including financial, a local (non-Football League) club moved out of its 100-year-old in-town ground, which requires significant investment to bring it up to modern football stadium standards and has a number of significant inhibitors against the building of a modern stadium.

    Whilst attempts have been made to find alternative sites within the town, these have all failed as the council gets more money by selling these sites for housing…
    However, due to location of the grounds, it is the only spectator sports pitch within the town and hence the community has made it very clear to the council (and developers) that this is a community asset and hence it would not be in the community interest to redevelop this site into anything other than a pitch for football/hocket etc. currently the residents are ‘winning’ the problem is getting the money to redevelop the site into a modern sports venue, so currently the site is mouldering…

  • The issue is that Lewisham is the modern version of a rotten borough.
    It wouldn’t be the first rather odd property “issue” it wouldn’t be the first transaction that had locals raising eyebrows. The Labour council were unable to get a property company run by the brother of one the local Labour MP to fulfil their obligations as a property developer:
    During the expenses scandal the same MP claimed the London weighting but had his house paid via the expenses as his MP partner claimed it via her expenses:
    And he and his neighbouring Lewisham MP had questions to answer about misusing MPs communications budgets for campaigning outside of their constituencies:
    No one should be surprised this particular Labour council (or perhaps any safe labour council) engage in these sorts of questionable behaviour.

  • Richard Underhillmme 10th Feb '17 - 12:14pm

    Tracey Crouch is threatening to withdraw £30 – 40 million from the Football Association, small beer compared with total government spending, but reform is desired.
    Large sums of money are also relevant. Remember Gary Lineker commenting that Japan can build a football stadium for the World Cup for £200 million while the UK spends £850 million for Wembley on a site already owned (including an arch which is only decorative and contributed substantially to cost overruns).
    Delays are also relevant. remember how long it took to install side netting, or more recently, the goal decision system. There has been great reluctance to make more use of video evidence and to change the yellow card system to send off an erring player for a few minutes.

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