Sunday, 12 June 2011

Dave Boyle: an afternoon with a true football fan

I was having a few beers with Dave Boyle in the Amersham Arms in New Cross, on the brilliant afternoon last month when AFC Wimbledon won promotion to the Football League.

Dave was - until last Friday - Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, the campaign for community and fan ownership of sports clubs. He was forced to resign because one of SD's main funders, the Premier League, got wind of a couple of fairly blue tweets Dave posted in the euphoric minutes after Wimbledon won the tie on penalties.

I thought they were dead funny. He hazed a few powerful enemies of the peoples' game by name, but we'd had more than three, so he got at least one of those names wrong to start off with. Pop psychologist and  pundit Raj Persaud must have wondered what he'd done to deserve an invitation to vigorous oral sex. It turned out Dave's intended was actually Raj Parker, one of the panel of three that approved the decision to take the old Wimbledon and relocate it lock stock and barrel to Milton Keynes. Unfortunately for Dave, Twitter allows such mistakes to be instantly corrected.

The Premier League didn't just get Dave's head. They've apparently decided to cut off SD's funding completely. I'm not going into the realpolitik and vindictiveness of this - it's well covered in the press and social media. Suffice to say, if Richard Scudamore of the Premier League had got snitched on for mooning the opposition out of a minibus window, he might have been in hot water - but would the game decide to close the League down? I doubt it.

Anyway, as we were watching the game via a jerky feed on Dave's laptop in the Amersham, he explained to me how promotion for the supporter-owned AFC Wimbledon - a club he helped found via an ad in the south west London press for players, after a founding meeting in a local pub - would be not just a fulfilment of one of his dreams, but would feel like a vindication of everything he's worked so hard for over the last ten years (and there can be no doubt he and the rest of the team at Supporters Direct have done a brilliant job).

When it got to penalties, Dave could barely watch. When they won, he went temporarily - and entertainingly - bonkers for a few minutes. It was infectious; I wasn't the only one in the Amersham grinning from ear to ear. Suddenly, it was one of those beautiful, sunny spring afternoons when all's right with the world.

We went our separate ways. I stayed on the train while Dave changed, to get his connection for London Bridge and then home, where he was planning to continue the celebrations with local comrades. As he got out of the carriage, he stuck his head back round the door, gave me a thumbs up, and said: "It's been emotional!"

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