Meeting room of Newton Heath FC board, Bank Street, Clayton, 12th July 1976, 2:40 pm.
It is a baking hot day in the middle of a heatwave. A small table fan sits at one end of a wide teak table littered with pages of fluttering documents. Despite two open sash windows its weak efforts to ventilate the room fail miserably but merely circulate a growing cloud of cigarette smoke gathered around the heads of those assembled, as follows:
Will Stafford: Chairman and grandson of Sir Harry Stafford, founder of Newton Heath
Tom Meredith: club secretary and grandson of club legend Billy Meredith
Alfred Winstanley: finance officer
Liam Curtis: marketing director
Jack Birchall: honorary director, youngest ever scorer and club legend (also @FMheathen’s dad 🙂 )
Gabriel Vázquez: President, Club Atlético Peñarol, Uruguay
Sally Bailey: Office secretary
LIAM CURTIS: So that, gentleman, is the proposal. What are your thoughts?
(a long pause from all assembled, eventually WILL STAFFORD picks up a document from an open manilla folder)
WILL STAFFORD: It would be very good for the club. But I’m not sure it would work – we’ve only just lost the contract to build the new stadium and I’m not sure the timing is right.
(NOTE: in the original Heathens FM18 narrative, Newton Heath were blocked in July 1976 from building a new stadium on a development site called ‘Old Trafford’ by Manchester City Council, secretly undermined by wealthy Manchester City FC board members. The reason they needed a new stadium was due to a stand that collapsed at the end of the previous season, which meant their old stadium, the original Bank Street, was temporarily deemed unfit for use by the council and the football league)
LIAM CURTIS: But that is exactly why we should do it now. We will never have the chance to expand like this.
TOM MEREDITH: Expand? What’s the point? We should concentrate on consolidating what we have. After the whole mess with the stand collapsing we have other priorities.
JACK BIRCHALL: Mess, you say? It was far more than that, people could have been killed. I agree, THAT’S the first priority, safety.
LIAM CURTIS: And that, gentleman, is something I totally agree with as you know, but it is also something that we can now put behind us with the new stand having been passed for safe use by both the council and the league. Our reputation around the world is growing by the day and we need to take advantage before other clubs do the same. Since our world tours of the 1920s there has been a seed that has been growing and it is ripe for the harvest. The time is now!
JACK BIRCHALL: Nonsense! Our place is here, in Manchester, not galivanting around Mexico or wherever the fancy takes us. We’re not in the holiday business.
LIAM CURTIS: It’s Uruguay and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with a ‘holiday business’, it’s a serious proposal that could be the start of a massive worldwide expansion. This could benefit the club for years to come.
JACK BIRCHALL: Worldwide expansion? We are English, born and bred, and that’s where we should stay! God knows it’s bad enough trying to stay in the league as it is. How can we ‘expand’ as you put it when we have been up and down like a yoyo for the past 10 years? It’s about the here and now, man, not the there and then, wearing bloody sombreros!
WILL STAFFORD: Gentlemen, please, I am aware that this has been a difficult year for all of us but please let’s stay respectful. Personally I am still on the fence so may I suggest a brief summary from you, Alfred? As finance officer I believe we haven’t heard enough from you so far.
ALFRED WINSTANLEY (putting on glasses and picking up a paper from a file): Thank you, Will. As I said earlier, the costs of such an expansion would be negligible at this stage, with the largest portion being the transport of any personnel between two clubs with such a distance between them and the lesser portion being the rebranding of the affiliate club. In that respect it would have been much easier if we had chosen an English or European club, though that said, it is accepted I think by us all that the popularity of the club in South America and in particular Uruguay as a result of the 1923 tour provides us with a very good expansion opportunity. There is an added incentive in that Penarol are a small club which means it would be a relatively safe starting point.
WILL STAFFORD: So, can we afford it or not? And more importantly, do you think it’s a good idea?
ALFRED WINSTANLEY: Well, as I say the costs are negligible at this stage so yes, but as to whether it’s a good idea or not, are you asking me as your finance officer or as a board member?
WILL STAFFORD: As a board member and a friend.
ALFRED WINSTANLEY (pausing): Then no, I agree that while we can afford it, now is not the right time.
WILL STAFFORD: Ok, gentlemen, it’s been a long day so I propose we are ready for the vote but perhaps we should have a private chat first given the importance of the matter. Sally, give us some privacy please then bring in Mr Vázquez. Shall we say 3pm gentlemen? (all nod in agreement).
SALLY BAILEY: Yes, Mr Stafford (exiting).
(3pm: enter Sally with Gabriel Vasquez)
WILL STAFFORD (standing): Señor Vázquez. Please take a seat.
GABRIEL VASQUEZ (sitting): Thank you, Mr Stafford.
WILL STAFFORD: Sorry to keep you waiting but as I am sure you understand this would be a very big step for us to take. An affiliation of this kind would be unprecedented in the world of modern football and there was a lot to discuss.
GABRIEL VASQUEZ: I understand, and as president of Club Atlético Peñarol I thank you for your time. It has been difficult for us recently and an alliance with a fellow railway club like Newton Heath would be very good for us indeed. Without it, I don’t think we will survive as a club beyond this season.
WILL STAFFORD: Then in that case let’s not waste any more of your time. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the Newton Heath board will be accepting the motion to form a senior affiliation with Penarol, adopting the name Penarol Paganos as per your suggestion. Welcome to the Newton Heath family, Señor Vázquez.
(all rise and shake hands).
Sally. will you bring the drinks trolley in please? I think this calls for a toast.