THE HISTORY OF APFSCIL ASSOCIATION
IN THE BEGINNING
Among the fabled origins of St. Valentine's Day is one associated with the mating season of birds. With so many football clubs having bird varieties as nicknames, coupled with the practice of recognising this date with declarations of affection, there cannot have been a more appropriate date than 14th February for the inaugural meeting of APFSCIL.
Football supporters' clubs have been in existence since the early 1900s (Watford's formation in 1911 being one of the earliest known) but it was not until the years following World War II that a new breed arose. Employment opportunities were bringing people to the South-East, whilst at the same time country-wide travel became easier as the rail and motorway networks developed. Unwilling to transfer their affection for their home-town teams, with which many would have been associated almost since birth, fans began to form exile groups, of which Portsmouth Football Supporters' Club London, founded in 1951, is probably the oldest formally established organisation. Others, spawned during the sixties, began finding themselves on the same train as other groups travelling to the same, or different, games and informal relationships developed.
The credit for deciding that these inconsistent and incomplete contacts should become more formalised must go to Monica Hartland, then chairman of Stoke City Supporters South, who wrote to all the clubs of whose existence she knew inviting them to an inaugural meeting at The Barley Mow public house, Horseferry Road, Westminster on that historic day, 14th February 1975. It was attended by representatives of Carlisle United, Derby County, Everton, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Subjects discussed were travel, membership cards, publicity, fund raising and contact with other known groups.
The speedy development of this newly established network is epitomised by the example of Sunderland's involvement. There had, in fact, been a previous meeting between their London Branch, formed in 1967 and Stoke's, formed in 1968, to discuss mutual collaboration but Monica Hartland, because of changes in Committee members, knew nothing of this. Consequently Sunderland were not even mentioned at the inaugural meeting as being a club who should be invited to join. Among the attendees at the meeting was however that rarity, someone who supported both Newcastle and Sunderland. Travelling with the latter's fans the following day he asked their Chairman, Ian Todd, "Why weren't you at the meeting last night?". A letter from Ian to his known contact at Stoke quickly found its way to Monica and Sunderland were duly invited to the next meeting on 21st March. Not only did Ian Todd attend but, to complete the transformation from anonymity to significance within five weeks, was elected to a Steering Committee as Vice-Chairman.
Further meetings of representatives of eleven clubs, now swelled by the addition of Middlesbrough, were held on 21st April and 13th May, at which the principal business was the development of a set of draft rules. Of these, a key feature, to safeguard against dominance by a single club, was the rule that the officials should all be from different member clubs. The unanimity on this issue was never likely to be repeated over the contentious debate on what the organisation should be called. There was an underlying desire that its initials should if possible themselves form a word (or at least a pronounceable series of letters) but more important was the need to explain the unique nature of the group. Hence references to distinguish that the organisation was neither intended for individuals or for the supporters' clubs of, say, Arsenal or Chelsea transcended other considerations. Were we an "alliance" or an "association"? Was the word "football" essential? Passionate argument ensued but slowly a majority compromise emerged.
And so, at the First General Meeting held on the 11th June 1975, a Constitution was unanimously adopted and The Association of Provincial Football Supporters' Clubs in London was born and an Administrative Committee elected.