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Published on August 31st, 2017 | by Bill

Check Our Tirade EFL: Grimsby & Donny fans hold B-Team boycott match.

Here’s Tom Reed, writing for STAND…

You can get a lot done in fields; wars have been settled in nondescript English fields and it was an anonymous field in North East Lincolnshire that saw a momentous occasion in English football, one where fans started to reclaim the game. We’ve all heard the uproar against Premier League B-Team involvement in the Checkatrade Trophy and the accompanying #BTeamBoycott which has rendered EFL grounds virtually empty. Yet, Grimsby Town and Doncaster Rovers fans went one further by organising their own alternative protest match on the same night as the ‘proper’ Grimsby and Donny faced off at Blundell Park.

Labelled the ‘Check Our Tirade’ match between fans’ teams the Internet Mariners and the Donny R’sonists these loyal supporters sent a message to the EFL and their own clubs that their views cannot continue to be ignored and that it is not only club blazers and EFL suits that are capable of holding football matches. Oh yes and they’d also raise money for local charities too.

So, on a late August Tuesday night the vertically striped monochrome Grimsby supporters met the horizontally striped candy cane shirted Doncaster fans at the Jubilee park in Humberston near Cleethorpes. It wasn’t easy getting to that point mind, with the venue for the game having been changed three times after the host venues pulled out. The M***’s Tom Farmery hinted on Twitter that it seemed ‘clear that some at #GTFC do not want it to go ahead’ and while it is difficult to ascertain the feelings of Grimsby Town FC itself, the protest match presented EFL officials with some tough questions.

Fans can clearly hold matches themselves and watching supporters can stand up while doing so, while the 161 in attendance enjoyed a beer on the touchline, all things that most Football League fans can only dream of. Yeah the attendance of 161 doesn’t seem much , but when you realise that 868 watched via a live stream over the internet, the viewing figures rivalled the official attendance at Grimsby’s Blundell Park which was a reported 862.

Match organisers Ian Biglin and Alex Green initially had to beg, steal and borrow to get the basic equipment to hold the event but soon found that people wanted to help out. The referee officiated for free and the pitch hire came gratis too.

Then came the donations for the charities, pledges via Just Giving from fans from all over including Barnet and Wigan Athletic.

The portable floodlights began to struggle towards the end as you’d expect as the sun went down on a hard fought 1-0 win for the Donny R’sonists who, although not quite on fire, did enough to take the tie. The players were presented with a specially brewed beer signifying the spirit of the occasion, a night when fan power really began to take hold when EFL grounds across the country again turned into ghost towns: 527 at Colchester United for their match with Reading B and Col U’s lowest ever competitive home crowd.

The total raised on the night came to a fantastic £1200 for local charities Inspire TCI, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and Grimsby Town Disabled Supporters Club.

Afterwards, the organisers commented that “we wanted to send a statement to the EFL about the fans’ thoughts on the competition. But boycotts are generally seen as negative, so we decided to turn this into a positive for our local communities and to show the strength of feeling within our fan bases. We would like other clubs to follow the example and hopefully it will help to make the voices heard.”

And this is where the pressure on the EFL really begins to mount to end Premier League involvement in a Football League competition. Not only is the #BTeamBoycott continuing but fans have shown that a DIY attitude now extends to holding matches themselves. Maybe one day fans will run entire competitions in the face of elitist league administrators who have become totally out of touch with the lifeblood of the game. Think very carefully Shaun Harvey.

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