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Our National Game

Now then, no party politics today. That will return soon enough.


Since being about 6 years of age I have gone and watched sport in one form or another.

I first experienced live sport stood on the Fletcher End at Wilderspool, the then home of Warrington RLFC. This being in about 1966. Not much to brag about, maybe a crowd of 4000 and a team that got smashed most weeks, but to me, it was everything. Looking back on that now, it taught me that seeing your team win was not what it was all about.


I grew up on a run down council estate where nobody had much, and going to the rugby was just what you did. It was compulsory amongst the kids, everybody had a ball and tatty kit in which we all rolled around in the mud whenever possible. Going to the game was a big deal, you met your mates, kids from other schools, strong friendships formed without any effort. I still see some of those people now stood on the terraces at the new ground with their kids, something good in that. Most of them still do not have much, the game is still compulsory, and always will be.

I still dream of this place.


As I grew older football came into the equation. Thing is, it was more complicated and expensive to get to a game, but eventually it happened. Train to Manchester and then learning about crowds of 40,000 and all the stuff that goes with watching a champion team. I was about 12 when I first started going to Old Trafford on my own, you could do that then with no major worries. Not sure that is so today. Sure enough hooliganism was around, never actually saw much of it myself. Even though a train ride was involved, it was not super expensive, by washing cars and my paper round I managed most home games. My visits to the rugby were sacrosanct, one way or another I usually manged to attend both. Again, it was just what kids did back then.


Years rolled by, other distractions came into view, but still sport was top of my list. The other Old Trafford was visited, and my life long love of cricket was born. Again, the cost was not a problem, it was next to nothing to get in, and given the sunshine many pleasant hours were spent watching a very good team do its stuff, Clive Lloyd remains my favourite cricketer to this day.

Genius at Work.


So, working years crop up, and football takes a rest, mainly due to my playing sports, mainly football and rugby. I soon realised that playing rugby league week in week out meant losing time at work, nothing funny about a broken jaw and losing six or seven weeks wages. Again, playing park football was something you just did where I grew up.

None of us were any good, and all had work on Monday morning, again many lifelong friendships were made. I see a lot of my old mates from our loony football days watching their kids getting kicked about on Sunday mornings on muddy parks today.


Eventually age catches up, knees go, and hanging up your boots happens. It is quite depressing when your crude lunges at the flying winger miss by a lot. So, then it is time to introduce your own kids to visiting stadiums, making friends with people, and all that goes along with watching our national game in the modern age.

The dying ritual.


Due to life changes and geography I have hauled my sons along to watch Everton, and Sheffield Wednesday on a regular basis over the years. RL still remains sacrosanct. It is just in our blood, coming from Warrington they inject you with it at birth. Luckily RL is stronger than ever in my home town, fingers crossed that is for ever. I live in Sheffield now, and still go to watch them on occasion.


Over the last few years football has changed dramatically, for the worse. Not the on field stuff, that is better than it ever has been. Off the field however our national game has serious problems. I am not singling out SWFC here, I imagine they all are the same now.

The cost of a ticket is scandalous. My old seat in the North Stand is (i am told) £46 .

Sorry, but after a lifetime of actively travelling and spending money on sports, I am getting to the point of thinking why bother? Me and Shaun went everywhere watching them play, Milwall away on a Tuesday night being one example.


Train fares are a joke, How do they get away with it? A team shirt is a fortune, by the way, is anything more amusing that a fat bald bloke with a team shirt stretched over a fat stomach? why do they do that? Try buying a pie and a pint in a ground, all it is about now is extracting as much money as possible from ordinary people. You be a family who want to take two kids to the game, each of them DEMANDING a team top, or maybe team jacket. Believe me it is not funny any more.

Sport for All?


Saddest part, all those lifelong friendships will now not happen. Park teams are disappearing due to rents and the costs involved. More people work on the weekend.

Employers are no longer sympathetic to amateur players, works grounds are no longer common. I am still actively involved in local cricket (I umpire), the sport is slowly dying.


Money money money,,,, what about "Sport For All"?


Just to illustrate the crux of this piece, I now go watching Rotherham when I can, the seat costs me £26, the train is £4-30, how much is my seat at SWFC?


Shaun lives in Bury due to work and goes to watch BFC. Not rocket science is it? All those executives at the bigger clubs are killing the game with greed.


Rotherham are freezing the admission price for the SIXTH year running.


Simple innit.



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© 2020 Bill Stewardson