They say football has become a soap opera in England these days, the ups and downs, personalities and media focus generating an endless stream of lurid and controversy-driven storylines capturing the nation’s attention. The man bidding to buy Mansfield Town wants to take this a step further and rename the club “Harchester United”, the fictional name of the team in Sky Television’s soccer soap opera, Dream Team.
You may scoff, but I think you’ll find John Batchelor, the prospective owner in question, has an irrefutable logic behind this proposal:
“Football supporters in general have to understand that if they want professional football in their town, they have to accept it has to be done on a commercial basis.
“Harchester is more promotable than Mansfield. That’s not any form of insult to Mansfield at all because it’s a club with a long tradition but it’s just a fact of life.
“One club has been on the television for 10 years and the other one hasn’t.”
Mr. Batchelor has, as they say, form on this kind of behaviour. Of his many ill-fated schemes while helping drive York City into the ground, one included renaming the club York City Soccer Club to attract American interest. Batchelor has confessed to asset-stripping companies, making £120,000 out of York City (having bought it for £1 eighteen months earlier) before its collapse.
Dream Team ran on Sky for a decade until 2007, attracting something of a cult following that Batchelor apparently believes would start supporting Mansfield Town if they were renamed Harchester.
To be fair to Batchelor, he’s not exactly shy about revealing his motives, as he told fans recently:
Let’s be clear, I want a football club, preferably one in the league. The ONLY reason that I want it is to make money, the only reason that I want to do that is to look after my immediate family. I can only do that by making it work on the pitch and as a result making it work commercially. This would be MY club, if you like what you see come and watch, if you don’t, then stay away. I am not even interested in discussing it with “fans”, however, I will talk to customers anytime. If Mansfield is going to host professional football, it has to accept that there need to be some HUGE changes at this club. If the fans don’t want to host it, all they need to do is not turn up. I have a plan, and I have a vision of what football needs to do, I am going to do my best to achieve it, I am not a multi-millionaire, just a guy who has some idea’s who is prepared to have a go and take a risk”
“I will budget for no fans turning up at the ground, which really every club should do. As you will have seen from my replies, I am not trying to attract negative thinkers, either get behind this, or watch football somewhere else. IF I am successful in achieving ownership, this will be MY club, MY business and up to me to provide entertainment, it is MY risk. Come and watch if you want. I’m sorry if all of that sounds a bit brutal, but those would be the facts of life, and I do not want to get off on the wrong foot by telling anybody something that is misleading, as I said in an earlier response I have that T-shirt. What do you want? I would have thought that it would be better to start off with honest responses. I am in this to make money.
Will current owner Keith Haslam actually sell to Batchelor after this has hit the news? Haslam himself is wildly unpopular in Mansfield for mismanaging the club for many years, but many fans now fear it could get worse before it gets better.