Sunday 28th August 2016 ko 18.00
South Wales Alliance Division One
CORNELLY UNITED 2 (Richards 19 Roche 81)
PORTHCAWL TOWN ATHLETIC 1 (Fisher 12)
The final game of the day was just what I fancied, a thoroughly working class local derby with the 150-or-so hoppers augmented by as many locals as possible. Cornelly managed all that and more, but the fact that they even took a hop game, let alone made a success of it was all the more remarkable.
Last season the club had a problem, they’d been fined 6 times in 8 home games for their fans encroaching the pitchside barrier. With the penalities increasing for each infraction the club made the national news for asking their fans NOT to attend games, and threat of expulsion from the league was real. In the end relegation was the least of their problems.
With that in mind it was of no surprise that the club were extremely keen to do things by the book, and that is how I came to meet Gareth.
You see people like Gareth in every small club, they’re the committeemen that make everything happen and without them grassroots football simply wouldn’t happen. But this evening Gareth volunteered for the toughest job on the hop. He took on it on himself to try to enforce league rules on the spectators.
There were two thrusts to that, one was to check the hoppers’ prebooked tickets and to charge everyone else £3, the other was to stop alcohol being brought into the ground. Now both were likely to be difficult to encourage totally, but the alcohol ban proved to be especially difficult. Gareth stood at the entrance, and time after time he politely informed people that they’d have to drink outside of the fence. The hoppers took the news well, but some of the abuse he took from other people was unacceptable.
Eventually he finished his duties, and when there was a quiet moment I sought him out to let him know that whilst some didn’t appreciate his efforts, I did. Because we both knew that the SWAL’s committee was out in force and every league that hosts a hop does so to put themselves in the best possible. The fact that Cornelly did was down in no small part to Gareth and the other Cornelly volunteers’ efforts.
The game helped too, one of those fizzing, tense derbies whose result isn’t known until the final whistle. Eventually Cornelly prevailed, I found an excuse to thank Gareth again, and advised him to find a beer, he’d earned it. I strolled back to Coach 2, pondering the other little truth I’d discovered here. The club did well selling bottles of locally produced real ale, and as one hopper waxed lyrical on the joys of CAMRA the volunteer laughed,
“Here’s our locally produced beers mate!”
And waved a can of Fosters! It wasn’t the kind of day to point out the stuff is brewed in Manchester. It was a day to hope the folks of Cornelly enjoyed their post match beers, they’d earned them.