617 Launch ‘Shed Light on the Plight’ Campaign – How You Can Get Involved

The Imps fan group 617 Squadron have launched a campaign looking to highlight the continued struggles lower league clubs are experiencing at present.

Before we go into that, didn’t it hit home yesterday? For those who watch Match Day Live with myself and Sam Ashoo, the hour or so before the game must surely have delivered a real dose of reality. Watching us beat Forest Green (six times) over the last few years, in front of a packed Sincil Bank teeming with passion and atmosphere brought a lump to my throat. Usually, when I see Nathan Arnold rounding the Ipswich keeper in the 2016 FA Cup Third Round, I get goosebumps at the commentary. This time, as the Coop Stand erupted, I genuinely felt like crying. I’m not an outwardly emotional man, but watching those clips drove home to me exactly what we’re missing. It isn’t the football itself, we can see that (or some of us can, at times) on iFollow. It isn’t the experience and exposure to the squad, the club’s media output has allowed us to feel some connection where once one did not exist.

No, what we miss is the experience of being there, not being an observer but being a part of it. Belonging. Sincil Bank is where I feel i belong, where my thoughts evaporate for hours, my worries and concerns, even me as a single entity. it is all irrelevant as we become one, experiencing the highs as a single unit. It brings a chill to my spine just writing it and remembering that feeling when a goal goes in, that collective joy. You don’t get that on your sofa, all you do is frighten the dog and have the neighbours remarking ‘Lincoln won yesterday then’ over the fence when you cross paths Sunday morning. It might be football, but it isn’t my football.

What can we do about it? Well, it isn’t just us not being there that is the problem here; there is a real threat that our club could die. I’m being brutal here, I know, but that is the plain and simple fact. The crux of the issue isn’t just that we’re not allowed into the ground, but that there is no rescue package, that that incompetence of football’s governance, and the country, is throttling our club and many more like us to a slow and painful death. Sure, winning yesterday might ease the financial burden a little, like finding a fiver in the street will help you pay your £500 per month mortgage. What we need, is action.

That brings me back round to the 617’s campaign. They get it as much as anyone, that sense of belonging. From the core group of seven back in 2012 they have created that community within a community and in doing so, have grown with the club. I recall plenty of resistance to them back in the day, moving blocks and all that, but Sincil Bank wouldn’t be the same without them, the last decade (almost) wouldn’t be the same without them. Now they’re using their voice to campaign for lower league football.

“It is our fundamental belief and at the core of our make up as a group that football clubs are at the heart of working-class communities who serve not only as an outfit competing in competitive sport but who also play a vital role in engaging with local communities offering a much-needed outlet of expression and a stage to celebrate pride in our relevant local areas.
To lose them would have a detrimental impact nationwide that would be irreversible and change to peoples game forever to one that is utterly unrecognisable. The premier league has responded recently to calls from EFL clubs for financial aid by holding a gun to the head of the EFL. We believe this is for no other reason than to further their own agenda which has reinforced our view that the pittance of 50 million offered for short term survival will lead to a situation if accepted, that proposals such as Project Big Picture and Premier League B teams entering the pyramid will be pushed through the backdoor, resulting in the already existing gap between the premier leagues ‘big boys’ and the rest of football being widened to a point beyond no return.
The balance of power is already too great, this would be the final nail in the coffin for the integrity of the game and very possibly signal the beginning of the end for the beautiful game itself. With all this being considered and in light of fans being unable to attend match day fixtures in any capacity any time soon it is our belief that only government intervention in the form of financial aid can keep the landscape of football from being changed forever and as such we have begun a campaign that we would urge as many other supporters groups across the land to get engaged with – Shed Light On The Plight Of English Football.
Our main aim, for now, is simple – In any capacity, you can make as much noise as possible so the Government cannot ignore the plight of our game. Whether it is online petitions, protests at fixtures in person, writing to local MP’s/Councillors. Make it clear our game needs support and all we ask for is this: Financial intervention. A fair deal agreed with clubs for some sort of financial support that doesn’t jeopardise the heart and soul of English football, away from forced unfair conditions from the premier league. Every other industry has had their support, it is about time EFL clubs were provided with theirs.
Make no mistake we will fight to ensure the survival of our football club till the very end, no matter the cost, no matter the obstacle. Expect to see more from us soon. Tuesday is just the beginning.”

Details of the group’s campaign can be tracked by following this Twitter page, and this Facebook page also. It is imperative that as fans, we do not sit back and let government and the Premier League argue amongst themselves while we die.

Fans have the power, which is why campaigns such as this, and that of the collective of clubs backing Save Our Clubs get the full support of all fans. Sitting back and saying nothing is criminal as a lower league football fan. even if you simply give the social media accounts a follow and voice your concern, that is a start. However, if you want to make a difference, use your voice, today. The 617 believe writing to your MP is going to make a difference and from a meeting, I had in midweek, a leading fan engagement expert feels the same way. Why not message your local MP this morning, telling them why they need to act now? If you wish to, I have included a handy guide to local MP’s and their contact details below, just to get you started. If you do message them, be sure to include your postcode and full name, as they have to verify that the message comes from a constituent rather than a random. I have included the list below, but if you are unsure which area you fall into, this website will confirm who you should write to.

If you are old school and want to write a letter instead of an email, simply put your MP’s name at the top and use this address – House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Act now, get behind the campaigns and don’t let football go down without a fight. If you choose to watch a Premier League game on TV this afternoon instead of writing to your MP about Lincoln, I’m afraid you are a part of the problem.

Don’t be a part of the problem, be part of the solution.

Boston and Skegness – Matt Warman matt.warman.mp@parliament.uk

Gainsborough – Sir Edward Leigh edward.leigh.mp@parliament.uk

Grantham and Stamford – Gareth Davies gareth.davies.mp@parliament.uk

Lincoln – Karl McCartney karl.mccartney.mp@parliament.uk

Louth and Horncastle – Victoria Atkins Victoria@victoriaatkins.org.uk

Sleaford and Hykeham – Dr Caroline Johnson caroline.johnson.mp@parliament.uk

South Holland and The Deepings – Sir John Hayes hayesj@parliament.uk