Regular readers of this site will be all too aware of the recent problems that have beset Plymouth Argyle Football Club. Plymouth’s supporters, in conjunction with whose of Brighton & Hove Albion, are now planning a protest on the twenty-fourth of September to which supporters of all clubs will be welcome. Here’s Argyle supporter Dan Greet with a little background behind the protest, and an explanation as to why this isn’t just an issue that affects their club.
As I am sure anyone with more than a passing interest in football is aware, Plymouth Argyle are and remain in trouble – real trouble. The imminent danger of liquidation has come to dominate all discussion at Home Park these days. Stories of players not being paid, staff being paid by the manager out of his own pocket, administration, debt and the delays securing the new owners have dominated all news relating to Argyle since March of this year. This nearly came to a head this week when there was talk of the players and staff going on strike and refusing to play today’s game at Burton. Fortunately, strike action was averted when the players and staff agreed to receive forty per cent of the wages that they are now owed for last month with the remainder to be paid upon completion of the long overdue takeover by Bishop International Ltd, although it is worth remembering that this take-over was due to be completed by the end of last month. These, then, are troubling times for a club which just two short seasons ago was playing in the Championship, having been promoted twice between 2000 and 2008.
This is where Brighton and Hove Albion come in. Back in 1997, Brighton were at their lowest ebb due to its shameful asset-stripping by directors Bill Archer and David Bellotti. The club was run into the ground and evicted from its Goldstone Ground home (where it had played since 1902). Two years ground-sharing at Gillingham’s Priestfield followed, before returning to an unsatisfactory home at Withdean until earlier this year. The atmosphere at Brighton games during this period was less than warm, and protests and pitch invasions were commonplace. A protest during a match against Lincoln City on the First of October 1996 resulted in a two point deduction by the Football League in December of that year. Relegation looked likely at this point and the fans’ forum North Stand Chat was overrun with anger directed at the Belloti, Archer and particularly the FA due to their perceived lack of support during this period. Fans of other clubs left messages of support on the forum but none resonated more than a post from a fourteen year old boy named Richard Vaughan – a fan of Plymouth Argyle. His post was as follows:
“I see the scum FA have now taken 2 points who do they think they are they wouldn’t do this to Man United. It makes me sick what is happening to your club and it’s an insult to your fans. I’m a Plymouth fan and I think that one week when we’re away I`m going to come up and support your protest. I think it would be a good idea if LOADS of fans from different clubs turned up at Brighton (with their shirts on) and joined in it would show that we’re all behind you 100%”
The passionate post from this young man brought Albion fans and campaigners against Albion’s treatment together and a date was set for the eighth of February 1997 for the Hartlepool United game to be the first ever Fans United Day. From the previous foggy and anarchic atmosphere that had dogged Brighton games all season came a revelation as thousands of fans from all over the country (and a party from the German club Eintracht Frankfurt) joined together to cheer on the Albion and provide a wonderful atmosphere that helped propel the players to a 5-0 win. Albion went on to survive relegation on goal difference by three goals. How different, we might reflect, might things have been for the club had Fans United Day never happened. Fourteen years on Albion played Argyle in League One with our club’s precarious situation already making headlines and, whilst Richard Vaughan was not able to attend the game in person, he managed to send Brighton a message which was read out at half-time and was very warmly received by both sets of supporters.
Brighton’s has felt a debt of gratitude to Argyle due to the snowball effect caused by young Richard’s post since then, and now in an attempt to repay them for the help they provided to Albion at their lowest point they intend to do what they can to return the favour. In the last twenty-four hours on the very same forum where it all started fourteen years ago, Fans Reunited Day has been born. A grass-roots uprising started by forum member Woodchip has become something of a phenomenon. In just twenty-four hours, over one hundred fans have already agreed to make the trip down to Home Park on the twenty-fourth of September to cheer on Argyle in their match against Macclesfield Town. With three weeks to go and the campaign only just getting started and spreading with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter the number can only multiply. In the day and age where the internet – and possibly even more importantly social media – have become an integral part of everyday life, the message has a chance to surpass the impact it had all those years ago.
The knock-on effect caused by the potential liquidation of Plymouth Argyle through football as a whole could be catastrophic. In an age in which footballers earn huge wages and command bigger transfer fees than ever before, a domino effect for lower league sides is a possibility. Therefore, as football fans, we need to make this day the biggest event that we can to not only support Plymouth Argyle but also to support our game as a whole. No club with a history as long as Argyle’s have been liquidated before and, whilst other teams have come close – a list which is, sadly, too long to go through in full – it seems unlikely that this trend will be slowing down any time soon. We need to act now to ensure this doesn’t happen. So I implore you, if you are a fan of our great sport, please head down to Home Park, Plymouth on the twenty-fourth of September wearing the shirt of your preferred team. Let’s show football that we still care, and that we will stand up to defend our clubs.
You can show your support for Fans Reunited Day through its Facebook page, whilst the official website for the campaign will be open shortly, and will be prominently advertised on this site. There is also further information on North Stand Chat and the Plymouth supporters forum, PASOTI. You can also help to contribute towards helping those that have not been paid in full recently, courtesy of The Green Taverners. We will be providing regular updates on the subject here on Twohundredpercent, as well as on our Twitter feed.