After a dramatic few weeks for football, David O’Driscoll reflects on a Sunday of protest against Secret Cinema’s summer events at Low Hall Sports Ground, Walthamstow…
The big football story of the year has been how a large elite group of the top European clubs, without any consultation of the wider football community, decided in their own interest to create a European Super League (ESL).
Essentially, this would generate more revenue for the clubs themselves and by extension, the owners. Naturally, this caused absolute outrage to the football community: players, managers and most of all, the fans.
They rose up to remind these clubs that the ‘peoples’ game’ belongs to their communities, but also that the roots of the game are in these working-class communities, not in the elite boardrooms. For many football fans who have been despairing of its recent, relentless money-making obsession, this was a moment to savour.
Following this inspiring example, the Coppermill Swifts FC organised a day of protest on an East London sports field – or to Secret Cinema, an “underused field next to a brown field site” or “a field not valued or used by the local community”.
Or maybe even a bit of “a wasteland” that could be more profitable if used for the construction of yet another new tower block, to add to the already urbanised Walthamstow skyline.
To most people in the local community, this ‘field’ is none of these things. Low Hall Sports Ground is a valuable sports area and is very much needed by people in the local community.
According to Sport England, only a tiny percentage of people are involved in a team sport and since lockdown, the number of people doing exercise has decreased. As an NHS health professional, I know that there is enormous concern about rising obesity levels and the general of lack of exercise, which is linked to a wide range of mental and physical health conditions in later life.
The local phenomena that are the Coppermill Swifts took over the sports field on Sunday 25th April to celebrate community-based sport at its finest and to show how a community-based club – run by the community, for the community – functions.
The many teams which make up the Swifts were out in force. The various boys and girls teams of all ages were playing other local clubs to create a tournament situation. The female touch rugby team were enjoying an intensive training session with their local coach.
And the Coppermill Swifts men’s veterans football team played a competitive game amongst themselves – with team manager O’Driscoll, having a particularly fine match, if I do say so myself.
But also the day was an opportunity to raise our voice to register our protest at the loss of this valuable space, to rail against our local representatives who we feel don’t listen to the local community – and to remind everyone of its community-based grassroots.
To play together, breathe and laugh is at the core of a good sporting community. We don’t need a money-making corporate organisation forcing their idea of fun or culture on us.
We do it magnificently amongst ourselves.