By Mervyn Edwards, GMB Birmingham and West Midlands Region.
You may have heard of Port Vale football club in the Potteries. It is very much a Cinderella club whose finest achievement was back in season 1953-4, when it reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Port Vale FC is no Real Madrid and Vale Park is not the Bernabeu Stadium. However, the Vale can certainly match the cojones of the Spanish giants, for they have survived through some pretty testing times, and last season (2013-14) finished ninth in Division One.
I have always been a champion of the underdog, hence my soft spot for Port Vale. I also think that it is highly appropriate that a plucky little club like Vale has the GMB as a main sponsor. As we all know, replica football strips are now best-selling leisure wear, and to see people walking around town, going to the pub or visiting the supermarket in a Port Vale shirt that has GMB emblazoned across the front makes me proud of the club and the trade union.
I was privileged to have attended the Port Vale versus Shrewsbury football match with several other GMB members last November. The GMB boasts its own box, and whilst we have no desire to be compared with the so-called “prawn sandwich brigade” that graces the executive boxes at Old Trafford, I felt pampered thanks to the hospitality provided. The box is provided by the Vale as part of the sponsorship agreement with the union. Inside, there are neat tables and chairs providing comfort in unfavourable weather, but a door opens out on to an upper terrace facing the Betbright Stand.
Our shop steward, Margaret Clarke, summed up the memorable experience when she commented: “Not only does all this raise the union’s profile, but it benefits the community.”
By the way, to round off a great day, Vale beat Shrewsbury 3-1!