Football : The Working Class Game

Sat 25th May @Merthyr Rising Festival

By Phil Thornton

The original Merthyr Rising took place in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales in 1831 when local miners protested against the lowering of their wages and unemployment. Their demands were met with typical brutality by industrialists, soldiers and the yeomanry. The protesters stood firm and stormed the town. They were eventually beaten by the massed forced of the British establishment.

Merthyr Rising festival celebrates this rebellion with a mixture of talks, music, beer and politics in the town’s main Penderyn square and this year I was proud to be invited to speak alongside fellow FLAF comrade, Tony Rivers and legendary Everton and Wales goalkeeper, Neville Southall.

The Real Red Nev now works in a school for kids with special needs in West Wales and has become a twitter star thanks to his tweets exploring social and political issues with a left wing slant.

Dave Owen from the South Wales Echo chaired the discussion to a large crowd of all ages and genders.

The talk began with Dave asking us about our first experience of attending a match, then lead into other issues such as club ownership, season ticket prices, grassroots football, the uselessness of the FA, UEFA and FIFA, Sky tv and it’s terrible pundits (Nev had the room in stitches on this subject), fan ownership, fan protest tactics, the rise of the right and how to counter it.

An hour went by in the flash of a VAR decision. We didn’t get through a third of the items we we scheduled to cover but still it was a serious yet often hilarious hour spent in the company of good socialists.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Anthony Rivers, people standing, glasses and beard

Nev, Tony and myself stayed behind for the next talk on media bias with Paul Mason and other speakers. Later we went to see Tony’s pal Gareth Hopkins DJ in the dance tent then watch Sugar Hill Gang and the Furious Five sell t-shirts – Support The Culture!! – A great event that has become bigger every year and with Union sponsorship from the RMT, Unison and Unite along with local and national political support. Merthyr Rising proves that left wing festivals are best when driven by grass roots activists and don’t have to be dour, divisive talking shops.

Thanks to Tony and all at Merthyr Rising and hopefully FLAF will have our own presence next year.