WHAT are the rules of etiquette, I wonder, when it comes to eating spaghetti bolognaise during a Zoom meeting?
I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of: “Don’t. It’s disgusting. No-one wants to see you doing that.”
In which case, I may have a bit of a problem.
It’s 8.35pm, just five minutes into Lewes FC’s very first (I’m told) Zoom-based monthly owners’ meeting, and I’m starving. It’s been a long day. And Julie has kindly cooked us a gargantuan spag bol of epic quality, a generous bowl of which she’s just placed in front of me.
Out of respect for the 39 other people currently on this call – oh, hang on, it’s just gone up to 40 — I guess I should switch to audio-only while I eat this.
Which is fine, I suppose. It’s not as though it’ll take me that long to wolf it down. Nor that they’ll miss me while I’m off-screen.
Or, let’s be frank, even notice.
Although I’ve technically been a Lewes FC owner now for a couple of years, you’d be hard pushed to have noticed. These people don’t know me from Adam. But by the end of this 60-minute meeting (yes, it’ll prove to be refreshingly concise and waffle-free, not to mention surprisingly uplifting, as meetings go) I’ll be thinking I’d quite like to rectify that.
At this point, for the benefit of readers even newer to this ownership thing than I am – or who’ve yet to sign up for it – I’m assuming some clarification of the term “owner” may be handy in this context. If so, frankly, I’m the last person you should ask, at least if you’re after a proper, detailed explanation.
For that, I recommend you click here.
But in the simplest of terms, I think I’m right in saying, Lewes Community Football Club (there’s already a clue in the name there) is owned by lots and lots of people, each of whom is keen to help it thrive and do good things. Things which football rarely does, but which Lewes FC does routinely. So, this isn’t the kind of ownership that gets you a yacht or a helicopter, if that’s what you were thinking. Sorry.
For a modest annual sum – or for an un-modest one if you’d rather: no one at the club is going to argue with that — what you do get is a share in something special. A share with “no liability” (I’m not really sure what that means but it sounds reassuring, doesn’t it?) and with one vote. A vote when it comes to electing board members, that is, not a vote for who you’d most like to see avoid the Dancing On Ice skate-off.
Although, since you’re asking, Lady Leshurr.
You also get a number of other nice things. As I say, that’s all explained properly elsewhere. But, most importantly, you get a nice warm glow and a sense of belonging.
So, anyway, yes, back to this Zoom meeting.
From my own point of view, I’ve been keen for some while to immerse myself more deeply in the club, in how it works and the things it stands for. And this online meet-up — the Town Hall Meeting, as it’s been billed — seemed a good place to start.
Being an owner can mean as little or as much as you want it to mean, and somehow or other I’d like it to start meaning more than just my annual PayPal contribution and my embarrassingly poor attendance record.
Ah, yes, that attendance record. It’s probably best we pause for a moment and address that. Which would make this as good a time as any, I think, to reveal that I’m a Brighton and Hove Albion Fan. A season ticket holder, in fact.
So, when I go and watch a football match (remember when we used to be able to do that? Crazy times, eh?), it’s the Albion that I’ve tended to go and watch.
Does that mean there’s a conflict of interest here? I wouldn’t have thought so.
Not just because the Albion and Lewes currently play at very different levels of the game (do you like my use of the word “currently” there?..) but because being a Lewes owner and being a Lewes supporter aren’t necessarily the same thing.
They often will be, of course. I’m guessing a sizeable chunk of the proper die-hard Lewes fans who regularly file through the Dripping Pan turnstiles have also bought themselves an ownership, and/or bought one for someone else (the perfect gift idea, folks…). And long may that continue.
But owners are spread far and wide. Globally, I mean. And one of the club’s ambitions, I learn from the meeting, is to spread further still, to encourage more and more people to sign up, in more and more parts of the planet, and possibly even beyond (no harm in thinking big, eh?)
If this goes to plan, that’s going to mean an increasingly high proportion of owners who won’t be attending matches, either regularly or in many cases at all, who won’t be Lewes fans in the conventional sense but who still want to feel a part of this.
The way I see it, that’s where people like me come in. Not die-hard Lewes fans with a regular spot in the stand or on the terraces, not even close to that, and not claiming to be. Just people who love football, and who love the idea that it can have different aims and values from the somewhat dispiriting ones with which we tend to associate it nowadays, and who want to help a club that epitomises that.
I think that sounds fair enough. I hope so.
And in looking to immerse myself a little more deeply in Lewes, might there also be an element of football romanticism on my part? Oh, absolutely. I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t. At the highest level, the game these days feels increasingly sterile and soulless, increasingly samey. You can’t help but wonder what on earth it’s all for.
The Dripping Pan has turnstiles and terraces and mud and beer and I’m sorry but I love all that. Under normal circumstances — to which, have faith, we’ll all return in time — I can sit where I like, stand where I like, even bring my dog if I like.
In fact, having put it like that, why HAVEN’T I been going more often? I’m an idiot.
But, look, I don’t want to get corny and condescending about this. Lewes, presumably like any non-League club, has comparatively modest facilities out of necessity rather than choice. I doubt its aim it to create some kind of 70s football nostalgia vibe. It would love to have more money for repairs, investments, improvements to its infrastructure etc., as well as for all the stuff it does in pure footballing terms and community-wise. Just so long as its key objectives stay on course.
So the more it can spread the word about ownership, the greater the chance that it can do those things.
In that respect, I’m hoping this occasional blog might play at least a small role. Essentially, I’ll be an outsider looking in — learning as I go along, getting a greater feel for how the club works (and indeed non-League football in general, about which I’m currently just as clueless), and hopefully inspiring others to buy themselves a share, extending this to all four corners of the globe, however the hell a globe can have corners.
Lesson One: learn to have dinner at a sensible time, like normal people.
* Mike Ward is TV Critic for the Daily Express, Daily Star and talkSPORT’s Hawksbee & Jacobs Show. More at www.mikewardlimited.co.uk