The League Cup's Mickey Mouse irrelevance is intensified for Chelsea supporters combatting the CPO ahead of their clash against Everton.
Let's get one thing straight here: I couldn't give a flying s**t about the result in tonight's red hot Carling Cup clash between Everton and Chelsea. The Toffees could put out a team containing Tony Adams, Ray Parlour, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Savage and I would barely bat an eyelid in they beat us. In fact, I'm going to go even further – I hope we lose. I hope that we get knocked out of the Carling Cup in such a humiliating fashion that those who go to the game tonight, go back to London so angry that they arm themselves with pitchforks and storm tomorrow's Chelsea Pitch Owners meeting, raise a raging army of gone-to-seed cabbies and run chairman Bruce Buck's 'Yes'-voting cronies out of town. Then they could, ooooh, I don't know, mess up his office a bit; move documents from the 'In' tray into the 'Out' tray, and hide his mouse. Anything that will stop the outcome of tomorrow's vote on whether to sell our shares in Stamford Bridge to the club from being 'yes'. Even turning his desk around so it faces the wrong way – that's the sort of pillaging not seen since the Normans invaded.
For those of you who don't already know, this is something of a crucial period for Chelsea Football Club. The club wants us to sell our CPO shares so that they can move from Stamford Bridge to a custom build new ground, with a capacity of around 60,000 (roughly what it used to hold back in the 60s and 70s). Since the announcement of both the club's wish to buy the shares and the date of the vote, various fan groups have sprung up to persuade shareholders to vote against the club, and the general mood among supporters is to say 'no'. The biggest of these groups is the Say No CPO group, who earlier this week lodged over 2,000 proxy votes (including mine, I hope; however the Italian postal system being what it is you never know). Meanwhile the fans at Everton who want to vote at the meeting will need to be there for 11.30am, and it was revealed today that over £200,000 was spent on CPO shares in the final week before sales were suspended. That adds up to 2,000 shares, maths fans, over 10 per cent of all shares issued, and more than have been sold in the last seven years; I wonder who could have been buying them all up at such short notice, and how many of them were bought in the maximum block of 100 shares per person? We don't know, because The Independent's Sam Wallace, who has done some brilliant reporting on the issue, 'requested an updated shareholders' register from CPO's offices in Surrey yesterday but received no response to its inquiry.' Nice eh? Furthermore: 'A recent shareholders' register revealed that Buck had bought 100 shares himself in April. CPO shareholders with significant holdings have been invited to meetings at the club with Buck and John Terry over the last two weeks.' With all this as a backdrop, why exactly should I care whether we get knocked out of the poxy Carling Cup or not?
Your football club doesn't belong to you, and it never did. It has nothing to do with you. You don't own it, and you never will. If you don't like what's being served up for you – don't go to the games.
The club hasn't exactly covered itself in glory over the last few weeks either. The Indy also revealed today that Buck was trying to 'sideline' Paul Todd, a season ticket and CPO holder, by contacting his friend Mick Crossnan, who runs a waste disposal company that has a contract with the club. In one of the voicemails left to Crossnan (there were at least five), Buck says: 'Just to let you know that at about 10.30 last night Paul Todd wrote quite an aggressive email to Chelsea Pitch Owners and he is obviously organising something and really we don't like that and we really want him on the sidelines and we are relying on you to take care of that and I would appreciate it very much if you could.' This is hardly the sort of behaviour one would expect from someone who claims that he wants a dialogue with supporters about a stadium move, is it? Meanwhile Chief Executive Ron Gourlay yesterday finally admitted what we already knew: Chelsea are looking at three sites – Earl's Court, White City and Nine Elms, across the river in Battersea – for future stadiums, three weeks after saying: 'We continue to look at options for expanding the Bridge and I should be clear that we have not identified a site for a new stadium elsewhere.' Which was of course, a blatant lie. On top of that the club has roped in John Terry to shill for a 'yes' vote, and has turned down the proposals from Say No CPO to allow the freehold to be passed on to a new ground.
While all this mess was being dragged up they've tried to: bully us by saying that if we vote 'no' then we will never move from the Bridge (why, exactly?); bribe us by saying that people who vote 'yes' will get priority on season tickets in the new ground (on what basis do they think that we'll even need priority on season tickets in a ground with 18,000 more seats than the one we have now?); and have tried to make this debate about whether we should move stadiums or not, all the while claiming (until yesterday) that there were no sites lined up. Let's make this clear, just in case it wasn't already: we are not all voting 'no' because we are against a move from Stamford Bridge in principle. Some will be of course, while others – including me – would be interested in hearing and discussing plans, and what this would mean for the people who would be going there on a regular basis. A 'no' vote doesn't have to mean 'we will never move', but we can't be expected to give up our stake in the club with next to no information, especially after being treated in such a shabby way. Personally, the club's conduct over the last few weeks points towards one conclusion: they've known all along where they want to go, and they want to do it now. And frankly, they don't give two hoots what we think.
The other night I went out for a drink with someone I've got to know out here. He's a sports historian, who I met through my girlfriend. I shan't reveal his name, nor the team he supports, because frankly I don't know if he wants his views reproduced online or not. However he is very funny on the subject of what idiots football fans are; he gave up supporting his team quite a while back (he was a home and away regular) once the penny dropped that he was being treated like a sap, so this isn't coming from someone who doesn't understand us real fans. And frankly, it's a pretty convincing argument, even if it kicks the solipsist, sentimental part of my brain square in the gonads. It goes a little something like this: 'Your football club doesn't belong to you, and it never did. It has nothing to do with you. You don't own it, and you never will. If you don't like what's being served up for you – don't go to the games. If you don't like how the club treats you – don't go to the games. Don't give them your money. If you go to games to protest against the club – you're a nob, and you've got nothing else in your life. Putting up with s**t just so you can say that you're the “best fans in the world” is just a sop for your ego – football isn't about you. Go home and s**g your girlfriend – or have a w**k.' I can't tell what a nice feeling it was to be roundly insulted over a beer; it really made me feel like home. I also have to say that a boycott is always more effective than paying your money and waving an insulting banner at the chairman. However, where we part philosophical ways is that the stake we do have in our clubs (be it shares in the stadium, or merely spending money on match tickets) can be used to change things for the better, rather than just binned as we walk away forever. All we have to do is organise ourselves. Perhaps I'm not as cynical as my haggard old friend, but with any luck tomorrow will be the first step.
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