By Chris Parker
There are many clichés thrown around in sport, and football in particular, many of them apply to supporters. ‘Best fans in the league/country/world’*, ‘fans are more important than any player/manager/director/owner’ (* delete as appropriate), the list goes on & on.
Many of them have at least a degree of truth but by and large clubs play lip service to supporters, often taking them for granted and treating them as cash cows (or an irritant). Overzealous policing and stewarding is common and many fans are left with a feeling that being a football fan is a crime.
Through the Mariners Trust’s #OperationPromotion campaign, the signs are that Grimsby Town FC are finally accepting that the supporters are the lifeblood of the club. I am sure that our major shareholder will say he has never thought any different but the reality of some fans at least, is that they are often treated with suspicion rather than welcomed with open arms.
I have read that some fans think the only way #OperationPromotion can be considered a success is if the club are returned to the Football league next April/May. To my mind nothing could be further from the truth. The campaign has already been a success. Yes, the money raised is fantastic and if that means Paul Hurst can bring in an extra player or two or attract a couple who may have been considered just out of our reach then that is great news and sets the team up well for the forthcoming season. In my view I think the money is largely incidental, although I totally accept that cash plays a growing part in our national game even in the 5th tier.
This campaign should demonstrate to all doubters that a progressive Trust:Club relationship can flourish. Maybe there was suspicion in some quarters regarding the motives of the Mariners Trust but by now I am sure they will have dissipated.
The Trust should be commended for setting up and running the scheme, especially Paul Savage who appears to be the driving force behind the initiative, but I think the benefits will run much deeper. What has taken place is quite remarkable. The close season is boring for many football fans who look forward to the first sign of a pre-season friendly but now every Grimsby Town fan is talking about the club in the early days of June. Donating a £5 and chatting to friends and colleagues about it. It has put the Football Club at the forefront of people’s minds and that can only be a good thing.
Hopefully more exciting news is on the horizon that will further engage fans so that when the season proper kicks off in August Blundell Park is a sea of black and white passion with the highest season ticket numbers for decades, home fans behind both goals and a wall of noise to inspire the home players.
I really hope the club can find ways of helping with the atmosphere, whether that be by way of a megaphone in the Pontoon, home fans behind both goals, issue of flags and indeed anything black and white to ramp up the positive feeling and capitalise (not just financially) on the unity that abounds.
That is the key for me. Taking the new found passion and not only celebrating it but developing it into something more long term and something that continues to grow. If GTFC can get promotion imagine the momentum we can carry forward?
In summary congratulations to the Club, The Mariners Trust and the Fans but let’s make this the start of the climb, not the peak!