Regarding the names of the sports venues, The old spotted dog It’s as romantic as it gets.
London’s oldest senior football stadium dates back to 1888 and is located next to the 500-year-old bricked-in Old Spotted Dog Hunting Lodge, once used by Henry VIII.
Old Spotted Dog is home to Clapton Community Football Club (CCFC).
It is part of a growing movement of British football clubs where fans are taking back control and rejecting the world of big-money sports.
Nine divisions above Clapton in England’s interlocking pyramid of football leagues is the multi-billion-dollar Premier League.
Its top clubs include Manchester City and Newcastle United, both effectively owned by Middle Eastern oil states.
Other big English teams are owned by foreign billionaires and anonymous investment funds.
Their budgets and hits don’t interest Clapton faithful like Sukhdev Johal.
“When the fans of these great teams say, ‘Oh, we won,’ I say, ‘No, no, no, they cattle, you observed,’” says Johal.
“When we win, we win because we own the club. We have property.”
Johal jokingly refers to himself as a volunteer “dog body” and serves as manager of The Old Spotted Dog.
He is also among the 1,600 co-owners of the CCFC.
Boycott and revival
Before CCFC was founded in 2018, many of the team’s current fans followed a different club, confusingly called Clapton FC. It is still run by a London businessman.
After a dispute between him and the fans (partly over rising ticket prices), many fans boycotted the matches and eventually founded the CCFC as a cooperative.
As part of the project, they created women’s teams and made the decision to divide all funds equally between the women’s and men’s teams.
After Clapton FC lost the lease on the Old Spotted Dog, CCFC moved in and secured financing to purchase the site.
The freedom to do so was due in part to a design accident and the blatant left-wing politics of the fans.
When CCFC asked members to design a new alternative jersey, the winner was a distinctive purple, yellow and red color combination.
“It was the winner because it was a shirt that had the colors of the Second Spanish Republic; That’s the flag of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War,” Johal says on the sidelines of a women’s cup match at the Old Spotted Dog.
“The shirt is a tribute to the International Brigades who came from all over the world to support the war against fascism. “That fits exactly with the spirit of the club.”
Being trending now
CCFC also runs “open access teams” for players of all levels, ages, and gender identities.
Those teams play in a non-pressurized environment, but wear the exact same uniform as the senior teams.
“People may have never kicked a ball before, and then Clapton will give them a little chance to play in a five-a-side league,” says player and volunteer Beth Malcolm.
Her father played professionally, but she never had an outlet to play soccer until she was invited to join CCFC at the age of 26.
“Through Clapton, I have my indoor soccer team that I play on, [and we have] I won three trophies, three leagues, you know. It’s phenomenal!”
CCFC also offers a safe space for trans women to play in women’s teams, as long as they meet the English Football Association’s hormonal and physical requirements for trans players.
“It’s a welcoming club, both on and off the field,” says trans player Paula Griffin.
“[Here] I am Paula the goalkeeper, I am not Paula a transgender woman. “I’m just a footballer, another member of this team.”
Around The Old Spotted Dog Ground are signs informing fans of the club’s zero-tolerance policy towards sexism, racism, bullying, homophobia and transphobia.
Also included is the ticket price of £4 (C$6.80).
Seniors, refugees, disabled people and low-income people are invited to pay whatever they want, without needing to present an ID.
“It’s a really affordable way to come and watch football at the weekend, rather than shelling out £40 or more than £50 to go see Premier League games,” says fan Jamie Simkin.
“It’s just a much more inclusive way of looking at football and it’s a nice antithesis to what has become at the top levels of football.”
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