SP Let’s talk about the stadium. I get the impression that you made an enormous financial commitment, you hired good people, tough people to make a deal. But this was never your priority, because your priority was the football. Is that a fair summary?
MB Yes. I think so. I was always nervous about it, just because I know nothing about property. Well, all I know about property is it’s full of very, very streetwise people with very, very sharp elbows. And Conor (Conor Hayes who oversaw the project for Matthew from 2016) is almost something out of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, with the motto ‘trust nobody’. In a property deal of this magnitude, a new stadium and 1000 units in this incredibly tight parcel of land, surrounded by railway tracks, you’ve got so many different entities that you’re dealing with you have to have a sceptic in charge who can manage all of that. The other thing about these sorts of projects is that over a period of years the amount of investment required and the complexity of deals always increases. By the time Conor came on board, my financial commitment had multiplied and the deal had become much more complex. Conor is always super cynical, so was the perfect person to manage a project like this.
SP So, given all this understandable scepticism about the property business in general, about some of the earlier plans, do you now get pleasure just sitting in the stadium ?
MB Oh, oh, yeah. Pleasure and relief. Yeah.
SP And it must be pretty good to see the people you did it for enjoying it so much themselves?
MB Yeah. I mean, it was a bit of shame that for the first year it was empty so it was a bit of a letdown. We were still in the bloody Championship and number two it was empty. So it was really only the Bournemouth game that I felt, ‘oh, finally, finally’, and then of course the Arsenal game, that was really memorable.
SP I just want to take you back to the Fulham playoff during lockdown. I was sitting behind you at Wembley, there were about a dozen of us there and it went wonky in the last few minutes and you were the calmest one of us all. There were one or two of us who shall remain nameless who were not very calm at that moment. I was thinking to myself that this is meant to be the biggest game in world football financially and you’ve just lost it and you’re very calm.
MB No, to be perfectly honest the week leading up to it was miserable. When Smith-Rowe scored that goal for Huddersfield against West Brom (which gave Brentford the chance to leapfrog West Brom into an automatic promotion place in 2020 if the Bees beat Stoke in the next game) my wife and son celebrated like crazy and I was like, ‘oh shit’. And there was a tiny bit of me got that feeling when Forss scored against Bournemouth. In fact, when Danjuma scored that breakaway goal for them to go two up, there was a part of me that thought, ‘phew, thank God it’s it’s over’. Right? So just the nerves are so horrible in the week leading up to Fulham, as they were to be honest leading up to Yeovil, in fact I’d say Yeovil was even worse. I could honestly say that it was so horrible that by the time we got to extra time against Fulham I was just thinking: ‘I want this to be over, at least in an hour’s time it’s going be over one way or another’. And I got into that state even after five minutes against Swansea. I thought ‘at least in two hours this is going to be over’.
SP But did you that night after Fulham think next year we’ll be back, well hopefully we won’t have to be back because we’ll get automatic but did you think we’ll get promoted?
MB To be honest my rational way of looking at things was for the Fulham game I thought the numbers said, if we go up tonight, we’ve got an 80% chance to stay up and if we don’t go up then we’ve got a 60% chance to go up the next year.So rather than being all or nothing, it was 80 versus 60. I mean, the thing that really stung was losing Ollie and Said.
That’s because all these great guys were so integral. So I was very confident that we would get there at some point because we were the second best team in the league that year behind Leeds. And we’d been pretty damn unlucky so I didn’t feel this is disaster or that’s our one chance of getting to the Premier League gone. I was very confident we’ll get there but it’s more like, ‘what a pain in the arse’. We’re going to have to deal with the sales of Ollie and Said and these things tend to be fraught.
SP There have been a few transfers that have been particularly fraught haven’t there?
MB Yes. Football transfers can get very fraught.Obviously FIFA deregulating agents back in the day was a questionable decision and we sometimes feel the effects of that.
SP Brian Riemer did a podcast in Denmark where he said Ollie was distraught afterwards, partly because he lost but partly because he wanted to stay and be in the Premier League with Brentford. Is that a fair interpretation of it?
MB Yeah, let me put it this way, after we lost to Yeovil I was surprised at the after-party, some players seemed quite chipper. And it was kind of like them thinking ‘well, okay, Brentford ain’t gonna be in the Championship but I will be’. And so someone like Ollie would have been forgiven for thinking number one, ‘I’m going to be in the Premier League come what may’. Number two, ‘I’m going to be better off financially if it isn’t Brentford’. But Ollie was absolutely crying his eyes out all night. Phil Giles saw him in the morning and he was still crying. Yeah, it’s amazing.
SP The other thing reflecting back to that night was that we’ve talked about your first investment of one million pounds, then your three million pounds but by this point you’re 100 million pounds in.
MB Something like that, yeah.
SP You said earlier that there were some down ups and downs along the road, that was quite a big hill wasn’t it.
MB Yeah. Yeah. Leading up to the Fulham game I saw this documentary about Mary Decker and Zola Budd (The Fall: Decker v Budd). That really put things into perspective, because Mary Decker was just too young in 1972. She’s injured in 76. In 1980 there’s a boycott. So 84 is a final chance. And if she doesn’t win this, she’s never ever going to win it again. This put it into perspective for me, that it wasn’t like this is our one chance. I always knew we’d have more chances.
SP And so that day against Swansea you’re five minutes into it. And you’re thinking?
MB Five minutes I’m thinking, ‘soon it will be over’. So Ras (Rasmus Ankersen) said something funny. At halftime against Swansea when we’re two nil up I couldn’t sit down, I was like pacing around nervously. And Ras said to me afterwards, ‘you’d prepared yourself that we’re going to lose even though I knew we had a 70% chance to win’. So I’d mentally prepared myself to lose and all of a sudden, I was having to sort of come to terms with, ‘shit, we might win’.
SP So when Ivan Toney put the penalty away are you thinking, ‘Oh, this could be alright after all’?
MB No, I’m just thinking, even when they get the red card my main thought is, ‘how terrible is this going to be if we don’t go up now? And if we don’t go up now, we’ll never ever, ever recover from it’. About 30 seconds from the end I realise, ‘shit, they’re not going to have time to score and then score again’. It was funny, hearing Phil Giles later say, ‘well, it was all a bit of an anti-climax, we scored too early on’.
‘I’d mentally prepared myself to lose’
The final whistle blows at Wembley
The party begins
SP You mentioned the home game against Arsenal earlier. That was the perfect way to start our time in the Premier League.
MB Yeah it was incredible.
SP What are the other moments of this season that you remember best?
MB For me the highlights are Arsenal and Chelsea. Probably the the two games that I remember most fondly for the same reason were Watford at home and Burnley at home. In each case, we’re playing a potential relegation rival. Just before Ghoddos got us the penalty against Watford I turned to my wife and just said, ‘blow the final whistle, please blow the final whistle, I’ll take this all day’. And I think just before Christian crossed for Ivan against Burnley I said to Phil Giles, ‘I’ll take a point all day long’. And Phil, in his way said, ‘I don’t think I would’. Some of the results have a more special meaning because of the way we have been treated by particular individuals connected to those clubs along the way but I will keep those to myself. Fans will be able to guess those anyway.
SP I can imagine who those might be.
So to the future, what about the transfer market?
MB People have warned us and lo it has come to pass that it gets harder and harder, that the higher up you go the agent situation gets more difficult. I mean believe it or not in the lower leagues many agents genuinely want the best for their player, rather than let me cause disruption so I can engineer a move every year. But for example I read something about how we showed amazing calmness not to splash out the cash in January. In two cases everything was agreed with club, player, agent. And then they fell apart. So, it’s not always as calm as it looks but these things happen.
SP And then the other side is the Eriksen situation, when Thomas first said, maybe I could get him, what were you thinking then?
MB Well, obviously there’s a pretty limited data set for players who nearly die of cardiac arrest and then go back to playing top level football. Thomas was very, very bullish – exceptionally bullish. It’s not unusual for head coaches or managers to say ‘Oh, this this guy played for me 10 years ago, and he was great then’ not realising that times have changed and this is a pretty extreme example of how times have changed. Thomas was absolutely glowing, glowing, glowing about Eriksen’s personality, about his humility and modesty which has come to pass. Before then Norgaard was Thomas’s favourite, he was so glowing about his personality too.
Brentford FC’s new signing at the Brentford Community Stadium
SP And what does the model tell you about the Eriksen effect? The perception among fans is that it’s an enormous effect?
MB So, we’ve improved with him in the team but as ever there’s a lot of randomness. We had this period of seven losses and one draw in eight games and we actually weren’t playing that bad at all. In fact, we had times, like the first half against Man United to the whole game away to City we had times when we really played pretty well, indeed. And then maybe there were some wins subsequently, like away at Watford, where we weren’t at our best. So the effect hasn’t been as extreme as people think but certainly there has been a positive effect.
SP What have you made of him yourself ?
MB By all accounts he’s an incredible, incredible professional in terms of his preparation and all around 24/7 professionalism.Everything I’ve seen on and off the field has confirmed that.
SP So Brentford’s prospects for next season. What do you think?
MB Always the ambition is to get better and better. But having said that realistically at the start of any Premier League season there are the six clubs who hope to make it into the Champions League and then the other 14 saying, ‘please for the love of God don’t let’s get relegated’. Randomness is such that it can happen, and it has happened, that you could be maybe the 10th best team, but you get unlucky enough to get relegated. The main thing we look at is the club’s underlying performance and if that continues to improve, and we stay up – yeah, I’d be delighted.
“When I was young there were two things I loved; one was football and the other was art”. Dave Flanagan became so obsessed with Roy of the Rovers, a comic strip about a fictional footballer, that he used to draw the characters on the wall of his bedroom at his home in Lancashire. “I also became obsessed with my dad’s collection of old Manchester City and United programmes. I kept all of them under my bed”. It was this love of football programmes that would eventually bring Dave and Brentford together and create a special creative partnership between people each at the top of their game.
For 20 years Dave worked as a commercial designer for a firm in Preston. “I was always doing football illustrations in my own time but never thought of it as a job.Then I got a call asking me to do a drawing of David Silva for Manchester City. I thought someone was taking the mickey” .
It led to City commissioning him to do drawings of all their squad which they used in their stadium and elsewhere. “It was dreamland stuff. Social media was just taking off so I started posting and Arsenal got in touch, then Juventus, followed by England rugby and UEFA and I was doing all this while still doing a day job in the design firm.”
In 2018 Sam Marshall, who was in his first year editing the Brentford match day programmes, spotted Dave’s talent on twitter. “I saw a pencil drawing he had done of Alexis Sanchez and got very excited because I was keen to do illustrations on the covers on the following season”.
Sam invited Dave to design the covers in that pencil drawn style for the Brentford programmes for the 2018-19 season. Dave had done some one-off covers for other clubs but Brentford was the first time a club had signed him to do a whole season of covers. He’d always loved football programmes since his dad’s collection so for him “Brentford was a perfect job to do”. When he went full time on his own as a football illustrator Brentford became one of his regular clients. “Brentford has become my second club after Man City. I really like the philosophy of the club and the way they do things”.
Sam says: ‘I think Dave enjoys that freedom he has to discuss with me how to approach each cover. He loves working on the project and I love working with him. I think he’s incredible, the best in the business”.
When the Bees were promoted Dave got a special gift from the players.
One of his most striking images was of a Brentford robot.
“The new ‘Brentford Community Stadium’ has so many great features it was easy to design something that not only looked cool but had a nod towards their nickname of ‘The Bees’. The floodlights were always going to be the wings!”
Dave’s other work was progressing well too. Last year he was invited to do some of the illustrations that were animated into the title sequence for the BBC’s coverage of the Euros.
It was Dave’s equivalent of reaching the Premier League and coincidentally Dave was invited down to Brentford for the first Premier League game against Arsenal, he met the players and saw the stadium.Throughout the season he produced a constant flow of high quality work for the programme covers. Sam Marshall explains: “we decided that there wasn’t going to be one overarching theme, Dave has a spectrum of styles that range from the really basic and quite abstract to the incredibly detailed. We wanted to jump along that line all season and keep people guessing, it was that randomness that kept the freshness. If you’re not careful programmes can become wallpaper after a while”.
Dave has two favourites from last season. One was for the the Crystal Palace match: “I liked the idea of bees taking on an eagle”.
Dave’s other favourite was the programme cover for the West Ham game, featuring an Ivan Toney penalty. Sam Marshall says: “The Ivan Toney one became a labour of love for Dave, I don’t think he realised what he was taking on”.
” I usually shy away from crowd scenes and this took me a long time to create but I’m so happy with how it turned out!”
At the end of last season Dave was able to look back on his work.
Now he and Brentford are discussing the options for our second season in the Premier League.
Dave’s work is on twitter at @daveflanagan and on Linked In
Donald Kerr is a Bees fan who found himself at the heart of Brentford Football Club for over a decade of extraordinary developments. He was a director of Bees United as far back as 2007 when BU was the 60% majority owner of the Club. He joined the board of directors of the Club itself in 2009 when Bees United members approved a partnership deal with Matthew Benham. Following Benham’s full acquisition of the Club in 2012, Donald was asked to remain as a club director representing Bees United, later becoming Vice-Chairman of the Club.
Donald’s other great service to Brentford has been as a trustee of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, a role he has held since 2010. It was in his dual role as Club director and CST Trustee that Donald was one of Brentford’s speakers at the Hounslow Council Planning Committee meeting in December 2013 when planning permission was given for the building of the Lionel Road stadium. It was undoubtedly one of the turning points in the Club’s history.
Donald Kerr (centre) with Brian Burgess, Chris Gammon, Cliff Crown and Lee Doyle. These were Brentford’s five speakers at the Hounslow Council meeting in 2013 when planning permission was given.
Donald once said: “Community has always been at the heart of everything we do. When we applied for planning permission for the new stadium, the Trust were integral to the Club’s plans – with the aim of building a purpose-built education hub and office facilities. We demonstrated to the planning committee the Trust’s social value in the local community and since then that value has only accelerated”.
Donald will remain a trustee of the Community Sports Trust and in the statement announcing his departure from the Club board he said “I look forward to supporting the Trust’s work with thousands of people of all ages across our local community.”. His commitment to the Club and the work of the Trust was clear in a video interview Donald gave in April 2021 to promote an EFL day of action.
The CEO of the Community Sports Trust, Lee Doyle, told Bees United: “Donald’s passion for people, communities and Brentford FC shines through, whether in a meeting or on a matchday. Through volunteering roles on various Trust, Club and National boards Donald makes a positive difference, offering a considered view on a range of subjects from branding and communications to education. He brings a humour and pragmatism that makes it a pleasure to work with him. It is talented and enthusiastic individuals such as Donald that have helped to build the successful Club and Community model that we have now and long may it continue”.
In his farewell to the Club board Donald said he was “particularly proud having initially been nominated to represent the fans and their views”. Former Bees United Chairman David Merritt who worked closely with Donald said: “Donald was an ever-present voice of sanity, stability, commercial experience, and passion for both the Club and its supporters! I also love how that passion could be particularly evident on matchdays if a decision went wrongly against Brentford, and I am sure that will continue to be evident in his ongoing role as VIce-President. Well done Donald!”
Current Chairman Stewart Purvis said; “Donald was a BU stalwart for many years and was ‘in the room when it happened’ at major moments in the Club’s journey from Division Two to the Premier League and from Griffin Park to the Brentford Community Stadium. He was the BU Secretary for many years and when Brentford’s away games in the EFL Championship received little coverage in the media Donald volunteered to be one of the BU team writing match reports for fans. He was also a keen supporter of the B team, often travelling to away games.
“My strongest memory is of Donald standing in something of a state of shock in the Directors Box at Wembley when Brentford beat Swansea in the play-off final to secure promotion to the Premier League. He could look back to the days when relegation to the Conference League seemed more likely than a place in the top tier. I’m sure Donald has enjoyed this season’s visits to the biggest clubs in English football but he may miss those away days to Hartlepool and Rochdale”.
Also standing down from the Club board is non-executive director Mike Power. A Bees fan since 1959 he was appointed to the Club’s Board in 2014, having also been on the Board of Brentford FC (Lionel Road) Ltd, the company initially responsible for the development of Brentford Community Stadium.
Mike Power (left) with Greg Dyke, Cliff Crown and an early model of the new stadium.
Club Chairman Cliff Crown said; “I would like to thank Donald and Mike for the significant contributions that they have both made to Brentford FC. In their time associated with the Club, we have progressed through the leagues, built a new home and witnessed many memorable moments on the field. Their advice and influence has been instrumental over the years helping to steer the Club to where it is today. I know that they will continue to support The Bees, home and away. I am delighted to confirm they have both accepted roles as Vice Presidents going forward.”
Bees United tweeted to mark the departure of two long-term Bees supporters from the Club board.
Rune D.Franck (RDF) from Norway and Fran Carroll (FC) from Ireland pooled their ideas to create a list of ten ideas for the Club to consider.
- International Supporters Clubs visits
“I think it can be said that the two (Irish and Norwegian Bees) International Supporters Club (ISC) trips to the home game against Leeds were hugely successful. The access provided by the Club to tickets and for Kix Café near the Club offices was fantastic, and hugely appreciated by all. It was a superb opportunity for members from both ISCs to attend a game, some to the stadium for the first time, which they would not have been able to do otherwise. It also presented the opportunity, especially in the Irish Bees case, to meet members of the group for the first time”.(FC) “Could two group-travels a year be put together with the kind cooperation of BFC and Bees United? One for the final home game of the season, and one in the first half of the season? We just want to attend games with friends”. (RDF).
- Season tickets for International Supporters Clubs ?
“Norwegian Bees would very much like to be trusted with some season tickets to distribute among paying members. Should there be no takers we can inform BFC well ahead of games for the seats to be sold to someone else by the club”. (RDF).
- Club to make it easier for Supporters living abroad to earn TAPs
“I’ve checked around to find out what would make a membership more valuable to Norwegian, or foreign bees, and it mostly comes down to the TAP-system. Tickets, tickets, tickets. I know this will never be 100 % fair, but should the club try to make it easier for supporters living abroad to earn TAPs, it would be highly appreciated”. (RDF).”This would be great if there was a system in place to add additional TAPs for International Members for Home/Away games. This has come up many times before and would be of great benefit to International Supporters that incur great cost to attend games”.(FC).
- TAPs for buying official merchandise from the superstore and having it sent abroad (or even collected from Club Shop on matchday)?
“For me, and other ‘foreign bees’, it’s actually impossible to buy two tickets to go with a friend, a spouse, or a child. I don’t know how this could be done, but extra TAPs for being a “foreign Bee” flying in could be one way, or getting TAPs for buying official merch from the superstore and having it sent abroad?. Goes without saying, one would have to be a paying member of the BFC and the supporters club for this to be effective’ (RDF). “Again, we incur additional heavy charges for delivery, and since Brexit we get hammered in additional VAT charges which need to be paid before goods are delivered. Whatever happened to the points system in the Club shop? Is there something similar to the old system coming back?”. (FC)
- Access to tickets – buy two tickets to go with a friend, a spouse, or a child.
“I know this is the same for all supporters looking for tickets, but International Supporters travelling to London for a game may well be travelling with a non-member (especially a spouse), so in many cases it cancels out the option of going to a game as you cannot get two tickets. Spouses may not ever be future supporters, but an additional friend can always be converted, especially when they get to see how special the club/ground/atmosphere is. Children need to be considered as the future of the Club (if already a Club Member it should be easier to have access to ticket with Parent, even if TAPs not sufficient)” .(FC)
- Visit to the training ground to meet (some) players for Supporter Clubs. Peter Gilham organised the visit for Norwegian Bees (see above and headline pictures)
“A visit to the training ground to meet (some) players is the icing on the cake for supporters, and we hope this is a tradition that can be carried on once a year, even when Peter Gilham at one point finally steps down from his position”. (RDF). “I believe this is something the Norwegian Bees have done for a number of years, and they wish to continue. As they come for a full weekend to games they can fit this into their schedule. Irish Bees tend to travel over for one night, or a day trip, but if this option was available to ISCs then I’m sure it would be something groups would avail of. It’s a great opportunity, and perfect setting, for presenting ISCs Player of the Year Awards. I would love to do this for the Irish Bees (as we did not get to present our PotY award after the Leeds game, and we plan to present it at one of the games early into the new season, this would be fantastic)”. (FC).
- The get-together prior to kick-off – Yearly event? Ex/current/B players and Bees United presentation.
“The get-together prior to kickoff was highly appreciated. A wonderful sign of the club’s appreciation, and we will forever be grateful. We noticed Sam Saunders was there, and should this become a yearly event it would be fantastic if a person (x-player/staff member) could find time to join in, give a short presentation of what’s going on at the club, taking pictures with fans etc. The group spoke fondly of the meeting they had with the Bees United Chairman “.(RDF) “As mentioned, the get-together prior to kick-off was hugely appreciated by all that attended, and a great location to meet/chat amongst ourselves, and for the two ISCs members to meet too. Would this be something that could be done again in future for ISCs going to games? As Rune mentioned, Sammy Saunders turned up while there, but many were not sure if he was there in an official/social capacity. Some got pics, but others did not as were unsure if we were encroaching. Could a current/injured/ex player attend and be available for pics and chat? (FC)
- Do B/Academy team play home the day before the Senior Team.
“I think having the opportunity to meet players/staff from the B-team (or an academy in the future) would be of interest to us. Meeting and watching Brentford’s “future” could be fun” (RDF).
“This is a good point, and not only for international members, to avail an opportunity to see the B/Academy Team play, but UK supporters that may be travelling into London too”.(FC)
- International membership –
“As foreign Bees we are happy to pay the membership fee, even though we don’t get the chance to attend games very often, but any little gift is appreciated. A pin, or maybe a badge to be ironed on to the kits we buy. Maybe make one for supporters from all over the world. They could look the same, have the same design, but with different flags. Norwegian Bee (and the flag) , Irish Bee (and the flag) etc etc. I don’t know if that would be popular, but I would like to wear “my colours” and anyone with a small flag on the front of their players shirt would immediately stand out from the crowd, and it could work as an “icebreaker” at games, in Brentford, or anywhere really” (RDF).
“We’ve been told that the club are looking into International Memberships, so interested to see what they are like. Club previously had one just before we left GP, which I signed up to, but quickly changed back to regular membership as the ‘benefits’ for international membership were naff (and membership card was not included). As you can see from Rune’s comment and my actions when a card was not included, a physical/tangible item should be included in membership package, NOT just a number!!” (FC)
“I am sure a lot of Brentford-supporters would love to go to Fullers brewery for a tour, and/or tasting. I know I would also love to learn more about the Community Sports Trust, and be taken on a tour at the stadium, if that’s possible to arrange the day before a game?’ (RDF)
‘”Would the club have an International Supporters Club Day, to raise the profile of ISCs and/or get more International Supporters/ISCs involved? Flags/flag bearers for each official ISC as players come out the tunnel/giant flag in the stands/etc?” (FC)
Norwegian Bees can be contacted either via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/262245127132057 or their website.
Irish Bees can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
.Their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/groups/36064 and they are on twitter at @irishbees
If you run an International Supporters Group and would like your group to considered for an organised visit please email email@example.com
Jeff Dent was one of the Bees fans who came under attack when a protest by Man Utd fans opposed to the owners of the Club got out of control in what’s called the ‘Munich tunnel’ at Old Trafford. The protesters surged forward against Brentford supporters queuing to go into the away fans entrance.
The Daily Mail reported: “Group of Manchester United fans are filmed ATTACKING Brentford supporters as they make their way into Old Trafford – with missiles launched, punches thrown and riot police intervening amid chants about wanting owner Joel Glazer DEAD” .The Daily Mail report included a one minute video of part of the incident.
Here are two stills taken from the video by Story Picture Agency:
Jeff Dent, a retired executive on the London Underground, was at the game and reported back to the Bees United board. Although the video showed stewards and police trying to hold back the protesting fans this was only half the story. Jeff said there had been a period when “the situation inside the tunnel was allowed to continue for several minutes longer with no intervention from police or stewards. It seemed that no one in authority wanted to take responsibility for dealing with a highly volatile and dangerous situation”.
BU decided to take the issue forward. Jeff wrote an eye-witness account of what he had seen and our representative on the Brentford FC board raised it with the Club management.
Here’s Jeff’s account of what happened on May 2nd before the game.
|I arrived at around 7.40 and joined the queue for entrance S22 which was a short distance into the “Munich Tunnel”. The queue at that point was maybe about 30-40 Brentford supporters and was moving in through the turnstiles slowly but steadily. A few minutes after I joined the queue a huge number of chanting Manchester United “supporters” entered the tunnel filling the area adjacent to the turnstile queue, which was separated from the queue by just a line of Tensator type strip barriers as far as I could see. This large crowd were clearly in a highly agitated state and were seemingly protesting about the current owners of MUFC. Their anger, however, quickly turned against us in the queue and various items were thrown at the queue including red smoke bombs or flares. They then started to surge towards the queue crushing many of us against the stadium wall.
At this point I became aware that the queue had stopped moving forward and I could hear people at the front of the queue shouting at stewards inside the stadium to let them in. With some alarm I realised that, rather than allow the Brentford fans to enter the through the turnstile into the stadium and therefore a place of safety, someone inside the stadium had made an unbelievable decision to close the turnstile. As someone who spent my entire career in a safety critical industry, I could not believe that we were now locked out of the stadium, trapped in the tunnel, and were suffering crushing and smoke inhalation. Whilst a fit and healthy 64 year old I was actually in fear for my safety and the safety of those around me which included an elderly lady on two crutches.
Eventually, after about 8-10 minutes, I managed to struggle my way back out of the tunnel to find several MUFC Stewards and police officers seemingly doing nothing other than forming a cordon line to hold back non-protesting supporters of both clubs in order to stop them entering the tunnel. However the situation inside the tunnel was allowed to continue for several minutes longer with no intervention from police or Stewards. It seemed that no one in authority wanted to take responsibility for dealing with a highly volatile and dangerous situation.
After some 15-20 minutes or so, a line of police officers finally entered the tunnel and marshalled the MUFC crowd through the tunnel and presumably to the home supporters’ entrances. However, the distinct impression I got was that the police merely followed the crowd once it moved on of its own volition. When the tunnel was finally cleared of the protesters, only then were the Brentford fans still in the tunnel, and those outside, allowed to enter the stadium. I finally took my place in the stadium some 7 or 8 minutes into the match.
Whilst I was waiting in the area between the tunnel and the police cordon I spoke to a MUFC supporter who was clearly disgusted by this behaviour and said to me “this has happened at every match recently and no one does anything!”. He spoke to several stewards while I was with him who all seemed to take the view that it wasn’t their responsibility to do anything.
Clearly there is a major issue at this ground when the police and club staff apparently know this is likely to happen but seem unwilling or incapable of doing anything to prevent it and deal with it. In my opinion someone could have been seriously injured or even killed in the tunnel. At the very least the stewards at Gate S22 should have done everything in their power to get the Brentford fans to a place of safety as quickly as possible, instead they chose to close off the only clear route to safety.
Brentford FC sent Jeff’s statement to thé management of Manchester United and a correspondence between the two clubs followed. At no point did Manchester United dispute any of the facts in Jeff’s eye-witness report. The correspondence resulted in this statement being issued by Manchester United:
MANCHESTER UNITED STATEMENT
“The points raised in discussions with Brentford have been noted with our apologies for any inconvenience and concerns that you experienced ahead of our Premier League match at Old Trafford on May 2.
The safety and security of all supporters is of paramount importance to Manchester United. We have since investigated this matter fully and we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure this cannot happen again.
The club have an excellent relationship with Brentford F.C. and we look forward to welcoming your fans to Old Trafford for the match which is scheduled on February 25, 2023.”
Bees United is grateful to Jeff, the Brentford FC safety team and the Club’s Business Communications team for their help.
Who can forget that glorious evening when after many months of planning the exhibition at the London Museum of Steam and Water finally opened? The collaboration with the club and Bees United proved to be a successful event. With over one hundred invited guests including the Pitt Family in attendance it was an emotional evening. Here’s the great video which Stuart Hughes made that night, its now on our BU YouTube channel
To top it all we went and beat Arsenal 2-0. The exhibition closed on 8th May and to round things of we went on to beat Southampton 3-0.
Given the constant change to the fixtures, thank you SKY, and our opponents’ escapades in Europe, I attended the museum on every occasion that the museum’s opening times coincided with a Brentford fixture. For at least two to three hours I met supporters and talked to them explaining the story behind some of the exhibits despite there being explanations to accompany the exhibits.
Supporters came in groups, with probably there being fifteen to thirty people in attendance during each time I was there.
Among the people visiting the exhibition was Andrew Dean, his father John was a friend of John Pitt whose memorabilia was one of the corner stones of the exhibition. John Dean was unable to travel up from Dorset to view the exhibition. However, Andrew explained that the two Johns would travel together the length and breadth of England watching Brentford. They probably saw them lose more games than we won. Sadly, John Dean, who was Brentford’s oldest ever matchday mascot died on the 3rd January. He supported Brentford for 90 years.
Supporters enjoyed reading about the journey from Griffin Park to Lionel Road, some too young to appreciate the hard work that went into the ABeeC campaign. The memorabilia of Arthur Charlton who played for Brentford in the 1890s. The money raising efforts to help raise funds for Bees United to keep the club alive.
The explanation behind the Pitt Collection. Although there was a written explanation supporters enjoyed hearing first-hand how we came by the memorabilia and the sympathetic way in which it was removed from John Pitt’s home. We also included the last few minutes of the play-off final commentary. Was it really a year ago?
Then there was the John Chandler programme exhibits and the explanation of how when serving on HMS Cairo in 1942 his ship was torpedoed. Unable to get back to his cabin to retrieve his fully autographed London War Cup Final programme it went down with the ship. John’s father sent him a replacement, which was on display. The single team sheets produced during and after the WW2. Due a paper shortage these were meant to be recycled; John kept all his. John supported Brentford from 1930s until the age of 93 he was no longer able to travel. His final game was the Johnstone Paint Trophy final against Carlisle.
The centre spot from Griffin Park encased in Perspex, that will now go on display at Lionel Road
We encouraged visitors to complete feedback forms to gauge their opinions on both the exhibits on display and if there were any interest in a further exhibition. Overall there is a wish to see further exhibitions, even something more permanent close to Lionel Road. Visitors wanted to see more about football shirts down the years, more about the failed attempt by QPR to put us out of business in 1967, and more trophies, photographs and something about the iconic Royal Oak Stand.
The feedback forms also showed that 100% of those attended the exhibition rated it, good (3%,), very good (32%), and excellent (65%).
The quality of items on display good (6%), very good ((39%), excellent (55%)
The explanations given to support the items on display, good (3%), very good (45%) and excellent (52%)
The club has a vast amount of memorabilia in store that most supporters would never have seen even when we were at Griffin Park. Items represent a social history of the club. The players used to receive match reporting instructions by telegram in the days before telephones. Social media wasn’t even on the horizon. Speaking to a young girl visitor, she didn’t know there was such a thing as a telegram.
There are players contracts for the 1930s. they were paid £5 a week another £1 if they won a game.
One further item in store is a small shield that smells of smoke. It was one of the few items recovered when the Braemar Road stand was destroyed by fire 37 years ago.
To not create something more permanent would be an opportunity missed. The chance to explain more about our 133 year history should not be allowed to just be stored away from future generations. It would also enhance the visitor experience and give supporters something else to do ahead of the match day experience.