FGR Vice-Chairman, Phil Butterworth

Forest Green’s Vice Chairman, Phil Butterworth, has been one of the fortunate few who has been able to watch live football in recent times. Here, Phil reflects on his trip to Harrogate.

I have been able to attend fixtures this season, a privilege granted in respect of my position as Vice Chairman of FGR. Yes, I’ve been able to watch matches ‘live’ rather than streamed, but attendance at stadiums has been very different in the Covid year, 2020.

There have been pre-match forms to fill in, various checks on arrival and then escorts through deserted corridors to an isolated seat. At some distance away have been other masked individuals looking lonesome amongst thousands of empty seats. We were usually given a vegan sandwich, occasionally a beer and always tea or coffee. On one ground, that will remain nameless, we had to make our own tea and were allowed one biscuit each. To make matters worse all the takeaways in the city were closed post-match as we made our way home.

Then came Harrogate, the fixture immediately subsequent to the most recent lockdown. It was a long journey, with one quick coffee stop at a virtually empty M1 service station.

The stadium is so small, that with Covid restrictions in place, all available rooms were taken up by the players of both sides & the officials. There was no hospitality at the ground. Instead, the Harrogate Chairman had invited us to take ‘High Tea’ at 1pm at a local hotel. Would it be scones from the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms or cakes from ‘The Wild Plum’?

We were treated to tasty hot vegan snacks courtesy of the chef at The Cedar Hotel. They were delicious, but we also made room for triple cooked chips & a pint of Theakston’s  Old Peculiar. The welcome, hospitality and courtesy were all impeccable, great respect to the newcomers to league football, Harrogate Town.

A short drive to the ground and the vibe of fans at the game was brilliant. It was a handsome, much loved and cared for ground. When the players came on they clapped the crowd, as they ran around the perimeter of the pitch. The returned applause demonstrated what they had missed over the last six months. The mutual support and affection gave me a lump in my throat.

Our performance was not one of the best, it was hard work against this young team, full of energy and aspiration. But we were the better team, scored the all-important goal and returned to Gloucestershire with the 3 valuable points. FGR are now in the automatic promotion places.