We continue our series of things that you don’t see much when you go to the football these days with something that you do still find at some of the older and smaller clubs in the UK, but in very small numbers – the good old fashioned spit and sawdust social club.
When East Fife moved from Bayview Park in late 1998, not only did the fans lose their spiritual home and a cracking ‘real’ football ground, they also lost a favourite watering hole in the old East Fife Social Club.
Social clubs gave an identity to football club supporters. It was like having your very own personal pub and it was so exclusive that with most of them you had to pay a nominal fee to be a member to even be allowed to drink in there! It was your own private gentleman’s club, except with dominos instead of strippers, unless you were attending a special Levenmouth East Fife Supporters Club event!
East Fife’s Social Club opened in September 1971 to coincide with the team’s return to top flight football. For those too young to remember it, the club consisted of a small dance floor in the main area, along with seating and the main bar. Through the back was the snug for the quieter ones – an ideal place to just sit and think about it all after another defeat.
But our social club went the same way as most others over the years when we moved to the new stadium.
With spanking new stadiums come spanking new bars and bar restaurants. Corporate lunches and matchday hospitality. I’m not knocking it. Such ventures provide a financial lifeblood to smaller clubs like East Fife and the ennvironment and facilities is like night and day from times of yore.
It’s just that standing in these bars just isn’t quite the same. There’s no character and it all feels a bit unfootball-like. More middle class than working men’s clubs.
Some clubs still try and kid on that their new lounges are social clubs, but they’re not except for in name. For me, it’s not a social club unless you have to sign in and then sit in uncomfortable metal seats or long flowing cushioned benches of a garish colour. Any foam poking through the holes in the cushioning adds that extra little touch of ambience.
You also need to have part wooden flooring and a carpet that if you stay in the one spot for too long you have to be cut out from, and let’s just add in a puggy, a pool table, a cigarette machine, a quiet corner, crisps sold out of boxes, and the availability of food of an indeterminable nature!
Thanks heavens for the Warriors Club at Stenhousemuir. You can always rely on that never to change!
There are still some of the old spit and sawdust style clubs knocking about but they are declining at a fast rate of knots.
I’ve got a lot of fun memories of time spent hanging out with my fellow supporters in social clubs up and down the country over the years.
I remember a preseason trip down to Spennymoor in 1994. They had a cracking wee social club. It lasted well but this year it was demolished just days before we were due to play down there – and not by the torrential rain either! It’s going to be replaced with a new bar/restaurant that will make the club some much needed money yes, but with it take a part of their character away.
Maybe I’m just living in the past or maybe it’s just that I remember when you could buy a round without the need to worry about your overdraft limit. I’m away now to stop my shoes from feeling sticky.