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Pre-Season to Taste

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Most of us lower division football fans can now relax and start thinking about next season. Start hoping. And planning. We're mostly aware of which players are leaving our club and everyone is after a solid centre half and 20 goals-a-season forward we all think we need to be a decent side next year.

And, there's the fun of the summer to look forward to; the good old underrated fun of the pre-season friendly. Perhaps a much bigger club will come to town, a team you wouldn't normally face. The club shop will be open to launch the new kit and other such essential ephemera (perhaps the garden gnomes will be back in stock). The matches and the store's footfall are a very important revenue stream for smaller clubs before the season begins, especially as most grounds are not 'world class conference venues' and football is the only event that gets the tills beeping. Plus, of course, the first team needs to introduce all the new players to new tactics, new colleagues and fitness needs to be tested in a proper match environment.

Not in London. Not this summer. The Olympics is the law. Literally: the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 to be precise. This limits sporting events during the Olympics, mainly to make sure emergency services aren't bothered with too many non-Olympic things. This falls in the pre-season period. So that's the London clubs' pre-season cash injection down the pan then. Plus, this period is going to rub very close to the first round of the League Cup: bummer if a London club is drawn at home.

So you'd think all the lower-league clubs are aware of this and have made plans? Nope. I emailed all of the London clubs outside the Premier League (except West Ham, long story) and was mainly met by "ooh, we don't know". Two clubs said "it doesn't affect us" (oh, but it does) and I still await two replies. Two notable exceptions: One were going to have a testimonial for a player which they soon realised they can't do, and extra Billy-points to the club I support, Brentford, for only being all over this but having already planned how to get around the cash-flow issue: the Chief Executive Mark Devlin tells me a 'family fun day' is being planned where the ground (and the shop) will be open, the players will be there to chat to the fans and there will be the usual family-day activities.

So as a result of Lord Olympics, Brentford are going on tour! Hooray! It's very unusual that a football club such as ours will get to play abroad, but we're off to Germany (the former DDR in fact) for a 1970s-style training camp and three games against local sides. So rather than relaxing about pre-season and the usual trips to Staines Town and Lewes I'm actually rather excited to be enjoying a little bit of football exotica.

What about your club? What are they going to do? Start hoping. And planning.

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