Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Red Passion

I got a message the other day from Toby Clark with a grassroots story that is all about Red.

By Red, I mean the heartfelt in-the-blood passion of those who support Wrexham Football Club in North Wales.

Toby, who is a former Welsh Fashion Designer of the Year, and who has a deep affection for New Zealand, has started an online campaign to save his late father’s great love and hobby. Toby’s Dad was treasurer, director, chairman and finally life president of W.A.F.C. A few years ago Wrexham’s ground, the Racecourse, the oldest international football ground still in use, was under serious pressure from land “developers” who were threatening to kick the team off the ground. The club survived narrowly, and The Guardian’s David Conn wrote a great article about how the designs of crafty businessman who are sometimes seen as saviours are not quite so innocent.

Now the same supporters are lobbying the Wrexham Borough council to secure their ground by having it designated as protected and reserved for leisure activities. The owners of the club have created a new parent company named Wrexham Village Ltd and this entity is now both the property developer and the new 100% owner of the football club. Given the history, you can understand Toby’s urgency.

A local community needs its common spaces, its history, and shared experience to thrive. Sometimes (particularly in the volatile world that football now find itself in) these spaces are not immediately profitable in monetary terms. But North Wales needs an international ground and Wrexham’s identity is tied to the historical Racecourse that only four years ago, passionate supporters gave their all to save. If ever there was a time for developers to think of what they are removing, not what they are receiving, it’s now.

There are 10 Councillors in Wrexham who will make the final decision over protecting the ground in the Local Development Plan as an area protected for sport. Let’s give Toby and the Racecourse a bump of support by joining me, Rhys Ifans and over 4,000 supporters from Wrexham to Wellington, New Zealand by signing up here. They’re aiming for 10,500 names by the end of August. Let’s get behind a community and its heritage, and protect a real local Lovemark.