APFSCIL SOCIAL FUNCTIONS
Initial exchanges between clubs clearly revealed that few of the Association's original members were able to mount regular and well-attended social functions. As well as, in many cases, having small memberships spread over a wide area of the South-East, everyone's priority against limited leisure budgets was to attend their team's games as frequently as possible. One early effect, however, of the new relationships which were developing was a series of friendly darts matches, the earliest of which are recorded as having taken place at the start of the 1975-76 football season. By such events, clubs were able to offer their members a greater involvement with fellow exiles, an opportunity particularly welcomed by those who worked on Saturdays or who could not regularly afford to attend games. Non-participants from the competing clubs and guests from other clubs were welcome and these occasions became as much inter-club informal social events as darts matches.
A broader range of social aspirations led to the addition to the Administrative Committee, in May 1976, of a Sports & Social Secretary. His first duty was to put into effect the outcome of a survey which had identified a riverboat trip as the type of social event most likely to receive enthusiastic and economic support. This took place as a celebration of the Association's first anniversary in June 1976. Flushed with the success of this event, planning immediately started for a Xmas Dinner and a post-season holiday in Jersey. In the event, the Xmas Dinner turned out to be a New Year one and took place in January 1977 at the Clarendon Restaurant, Hammersmith, with an attendance of 76. Journalist Steve Curry proved an interesting speaker at what became the forerunner of a regular event in the Association's Annual calendar. During a period in which formal occasions of this type have become progressively less attractive to the younger generation, it has been reassuring that the event has continued to be of sufficient importance as a statement of APFSCIL's existence and role that support has guaranteed its viability.
The Annual Dinner has also benefitted from a wide range of guest speakers from the football world as detailed in Appendix C. The officials of the Association's early years took the view that the occasion provided the opportunity to publicise the organisation to those with influence in the game. There was no aim to make money from the event, more an opportunity to display publicly the conviviality which could exist between supporters of different teams and for supporters to say a "Thank You" to families and partners they abandoned every Saturday. It was reasonable, therefore, to expect visiting speakers to recognise the importance to the game of the supporter and their volunteer leaders by expecting little more than a free meal and their expenses for attending. This has been largely successful over the years and should still be regarded as an ideal but in a period when the commercialisation of the game is rampant, it has occasionally been necessary to pay a fee (sometimes a substantial one) to obtain the services of a guest speaker for the event. There has been no evidence that the status of the speaker has had a significant effect on the attendance level at what has become, for many, an event to which they look forward with enthusiasm.
In 1990, a Presentation Evening was added to the schedule at which the trophies for all the previous season's sporting activities were presented by Frank Worthington. Among those who have officiated in subsequent years have been Brendan Batson, Billy Bingham, Paul Elliott, and Clive Walker. The event has, however, achieved mixed success financially. Even though the price has been deliberately kept as low as practical, participants have not always been prepared to buy tickets for an event at which they were presented with a trophy they may have actually won as long as six months before. Other formats have been tried or are under consideration but at present it seems unlikely that such a function will achieve the same status as the dinner in an annual calendar of events.
Other early activities included a chess tournament and a coach trip for a day out at Sandown Park (picnic included). The latter, together with the riverboat trip and the Jersey holiday mentioned earlier were so successful they were repeated again in following years. There was also contentious debate over a number of meetings about whether or not it was appropriate for the Association to hold a stag night. More propitiously, however, a charity walk was organised from Kew Bridge to Tower Bridge alternating between North and South banks at each successive bridge. Jimmy Hill officiated as starter (thus guaranteeing the Association's efforts at least some publicity) and a cheque for £2114 was presented to Chelsea Chairman director Brian Mears, on behalf of the Goaldiggers charity, at the 1979 Dinner.
clubs. This experiment led in due course to several clubs entering in their own right, thus diminishing the pool of interested, and sufficiently well qualified, members to represent the Association; nevertheless it managed to maintain a team until 1992.
In 1991, in celebration of their 40th Anniversary, Portsmouth inaugurated a "Supporter of the Year" award for which they provided a shield. Candidates for consideration would have demonstrated a comprehensive and positive contribution to the activities of their club. Whilst additional involvement with APFSCIL was not necessary, any such participation would clearly add substance to nominations. Portsmouth themselves selected the first winner but for following years handed over responsibility for administration and selection to the Administrative Committee. The award has been presented at each year's Annual Dinner.
More recently, a "Newsletter of the Year" award has been inaugurated. Many of APFSCIL's clubs find publication of a newsletter a necessary activity to inform their members who are spread over a wide geographical area. They vary in format, frequency and professionalism of presentation so a formula was devised to relate these factors to the size of a club and the resources available to it, as well as content.