What if your boss announced that from Monday you couldn’t have coffee at work anymore? You could have mint tea only because he had given up caffeine and was now passing on his personal choices to you, the workforce?
You’d probably think your boss was going a bit crazy.
But swap coffee for red meat and boss for chairman and you have the latest strange events to come out of the little (vegan) club on the hill; Forest Green Rovers.
Green millionaire and saviour of FGR Dale Vince has ‘taken meat off the menu’ (apparently this is very different to a ban) – players were stopped from eating red meat a while back and now burgers, hot dogs and the popular cottage pie are no more for visitors to the New Lawn.
It isn’t really that much of a surprise from the club who are the football equivalent of Pheobe from Friends, kooky, weird and sometimes you don’t know whether you are laughing with them or at them.
For now the club will enjoy a couple of days in the media spotlight – reaffirming their ‘quirky’ status but I’m sure some of the fans will be wishing they were in the news for events on the pitch for once.
Whilst this news has the lentil-scented whiff of a publicity stunt about it (it has certainly put Forest Green in the public eye again and follows a story early this season about ‘maybe playing in pink shirts’ next season) I suspect it is Vince, who made his millions from green energy and is a committed vegan, finally starting to put his personality into the club he saved from the brink back in the summer.
He is a properly committed green warrier, having set up Ecotricity in 1995 (he also has an eco-sports car worth around £750,000 for driving around the Gloucestershire countryside) but he is also rooted to his local community, saving Rovers from what looked like certain administration follows various other projects which have seen him try to spread his green ethos to the local area (which is not difficult, Stroud is a hippy enclave).
With such strong beliefs and a major investment in the club it was only a matter of time before he started to make Forest Green a truly green club. He’s admitted he’s not really been a big football man in the past and entrusted that side of the business to manager David Hockaday so obviously he’s taking on the bits that he does know about and the bits he cares about – his statement is certainly passionate.
But at a time when football attendances are plummeting (FGR’s is down around 300 compared to last year) and most clubs are struggling for revenue or to pay off debts/the taxman (Kidderminster, Histon, Ilkeston, Eton & Windsor etc etc) is it really a wise commercial decision to stop selling burgers, bacon sarnies and hot dogs.
Forest Green Rovers’ ground has a pub beneath it, the Green Man, and this has built a reputation for its superb cottage pies, these are no more. Likewise the function suite hosted regular Sunday Carvery events, not any more.
Don’t worry though, the chairman says there will be some meat on the menu:
“The club will still have poultry and fish on its menu, as well as vegetarian food. However the poultry will be free range and the fish from sustainable stocks – in a further step in the right direction.”
Yes, looking at ethical sources of food is important and I get that.
Yes, Forest Green are setting a good example in terms of sustainability and all of that.
But I do feel it’s a bit arrogant – not many clubs can afford to source free range chicken or ethical fish – it’s a bit like Hugh FW getting mums to learn to bake or visit a battery farm, good idea but when you have mouths to feed and there is a value chicken (or pack of mince) so cheap why bother with the happy free range stuff. It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for the other clubs in the league who can barely afford to pay the wages to see another club, one which was so so close to financial ruin, spuffing away money on free range chicken and happy salmon and saying that they don’t need to sell bacon rolls.
And to say that he doesn’t mind if supporters bring a ham sandwich into the ground, again it’s a bit blasé – do FGR not want to make money from food at the ground? They’ve worked hard to make the New Lawn a modern club, with a pub, a gym and function suites but taking away a whole possible chunk of earnings is a bit of an odd decision.
Up the road and over the border at Hereford United there were protests and complaints over the poor quality of the food until a local company Ascari’s were brought in to provide locally made (and sourced) Herefordshire beef pies, which I am assured by a season ticket holder, are the best he’s tasted anywhere…local sourcing is a great idea – its about local businesses supporting local businesses but something about the FGR thing leaves me uneasy.
Some of the fans are already grumbling about the fact it was a half-time treat for sons/ nephews/ grandchildren, they don’t like being told what to eat and the excellent point that if the move is on health grounds why are they still selling crisps?
The FGR fans have had a slightly fractious relationship with the club this season – from the joy of a reprieve and financial security from Mr Vince, to the lows of 12 games without a win and the threat of the relegation zone, players in and out (sometimes controversially), protests to get the manager out, praise for how well the manager has done, its been a rollercoaster and some of them, some of the ones who are already thinking twice about coming to games might be lost.
As one Gloucester City fan put it:
In the words of The Cure’s Robert Smith:”‘If Morrissey says ‘Meat is Murder’ then I’ll eat meat because I hate Morrissey”
I should imagine some Rovers fans might share this view.
Banning the players from eating red meat ‘on health grounds’ is also an interesting approach – does it extend to their home life too? No more lasagne or spag bol? No more sneaky Maccy D’s on the way back from training?
Hmm will they keep to it?