A growing wave of anger spread through the city of Nottingham last Friday after the failed takeover of Nottingham Forest Football Club by John Jay Moores.
Within minutes of the disappointing revelation, Forest fans took to social media to vent their frustrations at current owner and chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi. Given the intensity and ferocity of the comments directed at the Kuwaiti supremo, it’s fair to say that the supporters have had enough. A sentiment that I agree totally with.
Such was the magnitude of the backlash to the reality of Fawaz remaining in the hot seat, that it took nearly two full days for the anger to dissipate among the Forest faithful. The next emotion was one of empowerment, but the underlying question was how?
Well, for many it has been the Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust and rightly so. The guys at the trust have the best interests of the club at heart, and I urge people to sign up whenever possible.
However, a motion that caught my eye on Twitter began to gather some serious momentum. The talk of mass protest. Usually I’d scroll past such suggestions, but these are desperate times and do require desperate measures. The idea, by Nathan Fletcher, spread like wildfire and before long, it had an accompanying poster, which provided the relevant details. A pre-match protest prior to the Bristol City game on Saturday in the Peter Taylor/Main Stand car park at 2 pm for all those who want the owner out.
I fully support the protest and will be attending it. Something that isn’t in keeping with my character but, as I said earlier, these are extenuating circumstances and require people to slip out of their comfort zones.
Having tuned in to BBC Radio Nottingham’s ‘Matchtalk’ show, as always, I noticed a high volume of calls, texts and tweets coming into the studio about the failed takeover. Also, I listened carefully to the comments of Steve Wright, from the popular, ‘Bandy & Shinty’ publication. Steve echoed the thoughts of the lads at the Supporters Trust by saying that the protest would achieve very little. Both the trust and ‘B&S’ favour a more civilised/tabled discussion with Mr Al- Hasawi. A scenario that would indeed yield success with about 85 of the 92 league chairmen. But we are talking about Fawaz Al-Hasawi, a man behind a keyboard and whose only desk for discussion can be found on Minecraft.
The current Forest owner often scoots back to Kuwait and even when he’s in Nottingham, he’s impossible to locate. One thing’s for sure: you won’t be seeing him in the directors’ box for a while, if ever again. The man doesn’t want to talk. He only wants to dictate and that is why I feel that protest is the only way forward. You can count on one hand the people that have managed to interview him, so what chance do you think you really have when it comes to a discussion with the fans?
I hear people saying that protest is counter-intuitive. Well, I will provide you with a very tangible example of a recent victory for football supporters over their owners, in this very country. Almost a year to the day, Liverpool supporters waved black flags and sang ‘enough is enough’ at their Premier League home game with Sunderland. This was in response to their owners (Fenway Sports Group) proposing to charge £77 for a matchday ticket. Ten thousand scouse fans walked out of the ground in the 77th minute of the game. This prompted a U-turn by the owners, and the extortionate ticket price was scrapped.
It’s only fair to mention that Liverpool, who were leading 2-0 at the time, conceded twice in the 13 minutes that remained after the walkout. So yes, I do understand the negative element to protest. But you have to break some eggs if you’re going to make an omelette.
Whilst we’re talking about football itself, it’s imperative that, as supporters, we do not turn against the playing staff in any way. The act of public defiance should only be directed towards the owner, so any further protests must be well thought out. There is already talk of a Liverpool-style walkout during our next televised game, and other suggestions are doing the rounds as more people turn against Fawaz Al-Hasawi.
At this point, I must point out that it’s taken a long time for some supporters to accept the truth, considering that he’s been at the helm for more than four years now. I make no secret of the fact that it took more than two whole years before I changed my tune, so I’m not going to pretend that I knew it all along. Shamefully, I even wrote an article about how great I thought he was before seeing the light. What can I say? We all make mistakes. Hats off to the few (you know who you are) that called it from day one. Take pride in your judgement, boys and girls.
In my 30 years of supporting Nottingham Forest, I can’t honestly remember a protest of any substance, apart from the miniscule gathering against Nigel Doughty back in 2011. It’s funny, isn’t it? There’s a real correlation between modern football, social media, inflated wages and celebrity-style owners. I remember owning my first season ticket (courtesy of my brother) back in 1986 when all you had to worry about was the action on the pitch. Which is exactly how it should still be. To misquote Brian Clough, if God wanted the game to be played in the boardroom, he’d have put a pitch in there! People say that football is a business. No, it’s still a sport.
I managed to track down the protest organiser Nathan Fletcher to learn how this whole idea came to fruition. Nathan is a 16-year-old from Wolverhampton who inherited a love for Forest from his father. He’s been a season-ticket holder for four years now and in his own words, he has had enough.
“Fans have stayed quiet for too long now under Fawaz after consistently hearing lies and receiving false promises,” Nathan said. I asked him if he was surprised by the response to the protest and what he thought it would achieve? He said: “I was very surprised by the response. It got more than 200 retweets on Twitter, in a single night. I decided to start a GoFundMe page to raise money for banners and signs. I’ve turned off the donations now because the banner is ordered, along with 1,000 individual signs for people to hold”.
Nathan is aware of other fans bringing their own things also and has no idea how many will attend. He went on to say there are more protests and believes they will achieve unity, showing Al-Hasawi that the fans were here before him and will also be after he goes. Nathan added: “My message to Fawaz is simple: you had a plan and it failed, so it’s time to pack up and go for the sake of the club’s true supporters”.
Even though Fawaz Al-Hasawi won’t be there on Saturday, the gathering will certainly not go unnoticed. This is not a lost cause in my eyes and I am enthused at the prospect of public unity in the fight against the dreadful ownership of OUR club. The British have a traditionally liberal nature about them, which is personified by the many law-abiding citizens across the UK. Occasionally though, someone will test the reserve of such people and push them that little bit too far, like the late Mrs Thatcher did in 1990. The poll tax riots were a unified landmark in the nation’s history and a prime example of the phrase, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.
Who knows where this protest will lead and what may come of it, but I will be there with the masses because, just like them, I’ve had enough of Fawaz!