Well, it seems like a fairly obvious question, doesn’t it? The pre-season tour has become part of the football landscape, with clubs of all shapes and sizes taking advantage of cheap air flights to take the opportunity to get in some pre-season bonding and throw in a couple of practice matches at the same time. However, up in Yorkshire, newly-promoted Unibond League side Bradford Park Avenue took the peculiar decision to, well, fabricate a pre-season tour and report it as fact.
It started with a report on the official Bradford Park Avenue website’s news section, stating that the club had undertaken a tour of Spain, playing friendly matches against Soto FC, a “local side”, and FC Benus, and a mysterious “Russian/Bulgarian XI”. Their new signing from FC United, Rory Patterson, scored a hat-trick and they found a trialist called “Stefan Brookster”, and generally had a lovely time. All well and good, then. The plot only thickened when an FC United supporter that happens to know Rory Patterson texted him to congratulate him on his debut hat-trick. Patterson replied, saying (basically), “what on earth are you talking about?”. Patterson hadn’t been to Spain, and hadn’t kicked a ball in anger since the end of last season.
This, we thought, was strange. Perhaps there was some sort of mistake. So, we had a bit of a root around, and found that Soto FC didn’t exist, and that neither did FC Benus. There was, we found a club called Sotogrande that play in Gibraltar, but they don’t play in the Gibraltan League (which only has five clubs in it), and from the scant information that we could gather, may only be a youth team. For FC Benus, there was even less information. If FC Benus (or, indeed, Benus FC) exists, it’s not known as a club playing any league in the world. Suddenly, this much-trumpeted “news” story looks somewhat less impressive than it had done in the first place. Finally, a quick search for the talented “Stefan Brookster” revealed that this player doesn’t exist. Or if he does, he has never played for anyone before. Indeed, a quick check confirms that “Brookster” isn’t a real surname.
At the time of writing, the official BPA web site is down, but the glories of the Google cache mean that the full, original article can be re-printed here, for the purposes of posterity:
As part of our celebrations from winning the championship last season, Avenue embarked on a pre season tour of southern Spain.
We warmed up against a Russian/Bulgarian XI that finished a draw. Connors scored for Avenue.
CEO Bob Blackburn commented after the match that it was a hard game with the Russians showing great footwork, especially around the box.
It was then onto Sotogrande where we played the local team, Soto fc and scored a fantastic 5-2 win with Rory Patterson opening his account and bagging a hat trick, with skipper Steve Connors grabbing 2 ! Avenue unveiled many of their close season signings, but it is fair to say the none made a better impression than Stefan Brookster who controlled the midfield and was deservedly man of the match.
Carl Ruffer arrived late on Saturday to take over management duties from Bob Blackburn and John Dean and was immediately successful with a 2-0 win over FC Benus. Goals from Patterson and our new star, Brookster, resulted in a successful mini tour against tough opposition and director Kevin Hainsworth said “it bodes well for the forthcoming season. Cammy, (Dave Cameron : manager) has made some excellent signings and we are looking forward to the new season with keen anticipation.”
Dr Dean commented. “it has been a fantastic tour and certainly opened my eyes to the talent the continentals have and I am very pleased to have got stuck in with this olympian effort of our team”
In the mean time, the local paper, the local paper, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, had printed the story as fact, and the club didn’t take the story down from their news page, even though it was now widely felt to be a fabrication of sorts. A story about the story may or may not follow (although, curiously, they were still reporting the tour as fact on Friday afternoon). Meanwhile, the club’s new owner, is as bullish an charming about it as he has been in his other public outbursts. You can see a pretty good example of his attitude towards anyone that questions him here. More curiously still, the club’s official website has been down for a couple of days.
The details of the story are largely inconsequential. If it was a lads holiday and they took a load of Bradford shirts with them, then just say so. If “Stefan Brookster” is a mate of Bob Blackburn’s called Steve Brookes (or whatever), then just tell us. If Benus FC was a bunch of fellow tourists and the “match” was played on a beach, or a patch of grass outside the front of a hotel, then just let your supporters know. At the moment, the feeling that there is something not quite afoot at Horsfall Stadium is growing. Why would someone lie about all of this? If it’s a joke, it’s not a very funny one. Bradford Park Avenue exist in a busy catchment area, with Bradford City, Farsley Celtic and Leeds United all within easy reach, as well as Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos rugby league clubs all vying for attention. They need the support of the local press far more than the local press needs them. Feeding false (or grossly over-exaggerated) stories to the local paper is not the way to go about securing their support in the future.
Note to Bradford supporters. I’m not hostile to your club. Indeed, the first piece that I wrote about your club was, broadly speaking, sympathetic to you. However, I have concerns about the way in which your club is being run at the moment. That’s about it, really.