When one looks at the structure of small football clubs, it is impossible to conclude anything other than that these clubs would not be able to exist without people that selflessly give up their time for them. So it was with Pauline England, who was a reader of this site and sadly died earlier this week. Pauline worked as a match-day host at Gigg Lane for FC United of Manchester and had been planning to run for election to the board of the club.
Not knowing her personally (indeed, I am only aware that she is a reader because of the links to articles on here that she put upon the FC United forum, “The Soul Is One”), it would be improper of me to write a florid tribute to her here (a tribute on the blog site to which she contributed can be found here), but it seems appropriate to pause for a moment to reflect upon two of her qualities that have been mentioned more than once elsewhere.
It almost goes without saying that small clubs cannot pay wages for anything like the full infrastructure of personnel required to manage a match on a Saturday afternoon. Indeed, some of the most dedicated supporters see little or none of the action at home matches because they are working to ensure that the rest of us can see it. Without the work put in by the likes of Pauline England, our Saturday afternoon experience would be all the poorer – if it was possible for it to take place at all.
The other principle quality of hers that has been mentioned elsewhere is her dedication to her principles. When Punk Football notes that “I don’t think it’s only fcumites who mourn her passing this weekend, she would report on any club’s plight as being relevant to FCUM”, they are right. It is not a matter of trying to turn football into a communal love-in, merely a reminder that in an age in which selfishness an avarice seem not only expected but almost encouraged, there is still a place for those that understand and cherish the broader community of football.
At Gigg Lane this afternoon, FC United commemorated her passing by playing “Red Flag” at the end of the match. On the pitch, the team played out their own tribute her by coming from 3-1 down to beat Stocksbridge Park Steels 4-3 in the Unibond League Premier Division. Our sincere condolences at this difficult time, of course, go to her husband, family and friends. FC United will be poorer for her passing, just as lower league football in general is immeasurably stronger for the continuing involvement of others like her.