Published in Hackney Gazette, March 15, 2007
Didn’t you just know that relocation of the travellers to a site on Hackney Marshes was a done deal from the very first time the subject was raised?
Once again this pathetic bunch of councillors, who are supposed to represent us, have proved that democracy is non-existent, not only nationwide, but in this case, on our very own doorstep.
Who do they think they are kidding when they state that Hackney’s planners had carried out excessive consultation?
I protested against the plan on behalf of more than 1,500 footballers, who, whenever they learn of the council and the London Development Agency’s misguided input, are astute enough to conclude that much of what is going on is just a matter of hiding their land-grab intentions under the banner of the Olympic ideal.
We have learned the hard way that we can’t believe a word uttered by the LDA. We feel desperately let down and see no real future for grass-roots football in the long term.
If they can ride roughshod over our feelings by acting without taking our football community’s objections seriously, then what hope is there for the future of Hackney Marshes?
It isn’t the fact that the travellers have been given approval to move permanently to a site on the Marshes. That is not the point. It is the very principle that matters.
We are apalled that approval in any shape or form has been given to anyone to take up residence on the Marshes. It is the thin end of the wedge and just goes to prove that this undemocratic body can abuse its powers on a scale beyond belief, where, when and wherever they want.
What is happening to this once great country? We used to be listened to, now it seems we are in the hands of a bunch of chancers who are in the process of getting their grubby little hands on the people’s land in the name of the Olympics.
In the football community’s eyes, they have tarnished its name forever.
We are sick of the very mention of the word Olympics. All it does is conjure up visions of smug politicians giving themselves a mutual pat on the back for all the so-called wonderful things they suppose they are doing for the “plebs”.
Then there is the matter of the escalating costs. It is all very well for these politicians to tell us that in the end it will all be worth the mounting expense. It isn’t their money! They just go on glibly on their merry ways with no seeming accountability.
Users of the Marshes – incidentally, we pay to play football on the Marshes – are even more fearful now than we ever were.
The LDA will rat on their promise to restore the East Marsh to its former splendour of grass pitches after the Games.
With costs spiralling out of control, some aims will have to be nipped in the bud and we are betting that restoring the East Marsh to its former glory will be one of them.
We can envisage them looking at the nice plot of concreted land and thinking this could be an excellent opportunity to claw back a large wad of cash.
Do you think it won’t cross their scheming little minds? We in the football community are prepared for the worst.
I did not go to the meeting regarding the travellers at the town hall. Experience has taught me that they may go through with the formality of stating that they will listen, but they will completely ignore our wishes or our objections.
I feel extremely sorry for Anne Woollett and the Hackney Marshes’ user group. Did they genuinely feel that they had a hope in hell?
I know of the hard work this group carries out in order to preserve the Marshes and, if it was not for their input, “our” Marshes would have appeared before us as a gigantic tarmac terrain long ago, instead of the wonderful green space we have at present, and if a community-serving group like the MHUG can’t prevent the desecration of the Marshes, what hope is there for us all?
Finally, my criticism of this spineless council excuses Cllr Simon Tesler. It would appear that there is a molecule of good sense and decency within politics somewhere.
While I think about it, say goodbye from all footballers to the Arena Fields, soon to be lost forever, leaving fond memories of happier days, but sadly to be replaced by an unsightly multi-story car park and media centre. Someone, somewhere is a good little earner!
Chairman, Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League