Monday 26th August 2018 ko 17.00
South Wales Alliance Division 1
AFC WHITCHURCH 1 (Bould 66p)
CARDIFF CORINTHIANS 3 (Raven 50 76p Malloys 86p)
There are a few jokes to be told about taking 2 coachloads of groundhoppers a game in a mental hospital, my favourite being that we’d get the same number out than we took in, but there’d be plenty of different faces!
The hospital, in northern Cardiff was opened in 1908 as Cardiff City Asylum and was designed as a self-contained enclosed community across it’s 5 acres. There was a farm, and full sports facilities, and the unit was at the forefront of treatment for the 750 patients. Eventually it was decided that the buildings were no longer suitable for 21st century psychiatric care and the unit was closed in 2016.
Today, the hospital lies boarded up, and fences put up to keep trespassers out. However for now the sports facilities are still both accessible and in use, and as the coaches parked up I felt the usual twinge of anticipation, but also a pang of regret.
This was the final game of GroundhopUK’s stint with the South Wales Alliance for now. It’s been a great relationship for both the league, the clubs and ourselves, and in Dave Wilcox, Phil Sweet the league have a rare commodity in that they’re both excellent officers, understand groundhoppers and are wonderful human beings too.
We did though have a problem on arrival though, the club had neglected to take a gate. Now on one level that’s the club’s loss, and £3 times 300 is a massive hit to a small club. From our perspective it disadvantages those who’ve booked and paid in advance, but in this case the immediate issue was something as mundane as the programme.
There is a significant strand of the hobby that refuses to count a ground unless they get a matchday programme. Now given that GroundhopUK does an advance ticket that allows you to buy whichever games on the hop you want to attend and include those programmes in a pack, you’d think those types would make a point of buying a ticket wouldn’t you? No, not all of them, and look what happened next.
We ask each club to send us a set number of programmes to make up those packs a day or two before the hop. Any that are unused we hand back to the club on the day. Now this game saw a far bigger attendance than expected, so the club’s programmes sold out well before the coaches’ arrival. So the only programmes left were the GroundhopUK spares, and when it became known that we had a few copies left, there was pandemonium.
It gave us an immediate problem. The agreement between the league, clubs and GroundhopUK was that entry to all games would be £3 and the programme £1, so given what had happened should we charge a £1 each for those programmes or assume entry too and charge £4? We felt we needed the league’s advice so found Dave and Phil and asked their opinion.
Meanwhile some hoppers were haranguing the lady who was looking after the programmes for the 2 minutes it took to discuss this, and one very-well known hopper with a penchant for sunbathing actually tried to steal one of the programmes, before shrieking that he’d write a bad report on some internet forum if we didn’t sell him a programme IMMEDIATELY!
We made the decision quickly so sell the remaining programmes at £1, we could hardly charge people for entry when so many others hadn’t paid, but the whole episode left a bad taste in the mouth. You have to have a dose of OCD to be a hopper but some hoppers’ behaviour was long way short of acceptable.
Let’s make one point crystal clear. There is no way GroundhopUK will ever encourage clubs to do print runs that will mean they will end up paying for programmes that they’ll never sell. Therefore print runs are going to be short, enough to fulfill pre-booked orders, plus a few to sell on the day. Or to put it another way.
IF A PROGRAMME IS IMPORTANT TO YOU- BUY A TICKET!
But once the gate and programme issues had been dealt with I rather enjoyed AFC Whitchurch’s company. Those tents pitched beyond the near goal contained a multitude of delights and I can vouch for the excellence of the Chilli con Carne! Despite the long-term future of their home being uncertain they seemed to be a club at ease with themselves- and they put on an excellent show to finish off the hop.
That included the game, and as much as I enjoyed what Whitchurch did for us, it was good to see the historic Cardiff Corinthians win a game! They’ve become one of the clubs I’ve looked out for during our stint in the Alliance and I hope they’ve begun to turn the corner.
But the afternoon unquestionably belonged to AFC Whitchurch. Whilst they missed out on a large chunk of gate money the attendance they saw was the highest of the hop, so hopefully they made back some of what they lost via their catering and merchandise.
At the final whistle, Chris and I sought out Dave Wilcox and Phil Sweet to thank them for everything the South Wales Amateur and Alliance Leagues has done for groundhopping. I for one frame visits to South Wales in terms of places I’ve visited due to the league. How could I forget the places and people involved at places like Sully Sports, Penydarren, Garw, Cwmbach and Canton Liberal to name but a few? Thanks to every single club, every referee and every single volunteer in every single club we’ve visited.
That isn’t completely it for us and the SWAL. The great beauty of the hop switching to the geographically adjacent Gwent County League is that it means we can still call in and visit new grounds as they enter the league. In the meantime I hope we see Dave, Phil, and the people of the South Wales Alliance will come and visit us as we continue our love affair with the non-league clubs of South Wales.
Dedicated to everyone involved at the South Wales Alliance.