By, Mark Asato
The Shed. The Mighty Shed. Words that describe where the atmosphere around Stamford Bridge hails from. We Are The Shed is a group founded by a core group of Shed End supporters, and I had to the pleasure of speaking with one of the co-founders and one of my dear friends, Richard Weekes. Richard has been a Chelsea supporter since birth, his father used to stand at the back of the Shed in the late 60’s, still loyal to The Shed End, specifically “The Middle.”
Richard, what is the “We Are The Shed” group about?
We Are The Shed is a group that looks to do two things: One, to create visual displays pre-game to support the team and two, improve the atmosphere in The Shed End. The latter is a much harder thing to do and realistically requires a culture change, meaning it will never happen overnight. What makes this harder is that almost ninety-nine percent of seats in The Shed are season ticket holders. This may sound like a good thing but it means there is no possibility of grouping people together who want to sing, making it harder to have an instant impact. However, we are poised for our move away from The Bridge where we will have the opportunity to ‘group together’ with like-minded supporters and really have an impact on the atmosphere.
How was the group started, and who were the people involved?
The group was started off the back of Jose’s comments about the atmosphere at The Bridge. I went to various Chelsea online forums and put out a call to action, but specifically for people from The Shed; the idea being that we would be stuck together in the same stand every other week so it would be easier to coordinate efforts. We held a meeting initially which was attended by around ten people, most of whom sat by me and whom are still involved today. All of us went from there looking to get as many Shed End season ticket holders involved as possible. We now have around thirty very active members and around one hundred participants who are involved in the ideas processes and on match days. The group has a ‘core’ if you like made up of seven of the most committed members (@j_parsons87, @JParsons91, @RafChelsea, @AshmoreMike, @Alex_CFC_Burke and Liam who does not have Twitter!). This core effectively runs the group and we all have different roles to play.
What does the group do in general and on match days?
There are three kinds of display the group does:
1) The Shed End crowd-surfer – which we will use every home game.
2) The crowd-surfer with the ‘KTBFFH’ (Keep The Blue Flag Flying High) drop down banners – we use this for big games where no specific display is planned (such as United at home or the Champions League Round of 16 game). This is a display we are looking to add more and more elements too down the line. We want the displays to be iconic and unique to Chelsea and The Shed.
3) A specific display – this will be for a special moment like John Terry’s last game, an anniversary, a semi-final at The Bridge, or a big match in which we have planned something special.
As everything we do is supporter funded, we do not like to attempt too many displays in succession simply because we would be asking for thousands of pounds. Instead we have our go to flag, our go to ‘big game display’ and then we look to plan for bigger displays around important events.
What we do on match days depends how large the display is. If we are just using the flag then it only really requires five people. We head into our storage room in The Shed around twenty minutes before kick off, grab the flag, and get it in place. As soon as the players walk out we set it off, bring it back in, and store it away. For the KTBFFH display, this requires around seventeen people. Those that look after the crowd-surfer and then two people for each drop down banner, one in the upper to hold it and one in the lower to make sure it is guided forward and stretched out properly. For the larger displays it does depend however, just for an example, the John Terry display required about seven of us to spend the whole day preparing the day before the match and then literally everyone possible on the day. There was around eight-hundred meters of foil used that day and it all had to be collected before kick-off. Somehow we managed to do it but the cleaning ladies were not too impressed when they saw us shoving endless amounts of foil in their bins and we got a bit of a telling off!
We also spend time mid-week putting the banners up that hang over the front of the stand. They get taken down for cup games when away supporters have The Shed and to put them all in place takes about two hours with four people helping – it is way fiddlier than you think! So we spend time doing this after work or the day before a game if it needs to be done. You could ask why we don’t get there early on match days… the answer to that would be ‘well, we want to be in the pub!’
How does the group come up with and think of new banner ideas?
It’s a group effort, so people throw ideas out there, we discuss them, and if need be we vote. The Whatsapp group has around one hundred people in it and this is where all of the brainstorming takes place and really anyone can suggest anything, if the group likes it we go for it! I’ve had many a bad idea shot down by the group, people like to think it is one guy or a few guys just doing whatever they like but it is a lot of people who love and understand the club putting their thoughts and ideas in. At the end of the day we only want to do things that we feel represent the culture of the club and us as supporters, which is why it is important we have as many people involved as possible. It is the Democratic People’s Republic of The Shed!
How can someone help donate to the group, and what are the social media links for We Are The Shed?
First of all, I would like to say that we look at every donation that comes in and there are always Americans who chip in towards our displays which is just amazing, and it is very much appreciated. There is a stigma around foreign supporters of football clubs and we have been dragged into many arguments about it. We have never said that you cannot be a proper supporter of Chelsea if you live abroad, and we personally know and welcome these people whenever they are in London for Chelsea. For us it is important that those who make the pilgrimage do not just come for the team, they are supporters of Chelsea and the culture of this fan base is just as important, if not more, than those eleven that play on the pitch. There are so many that live outside of the UK who have taken time to learn about the history of the club, the highs, the lows, the legends, the songs, and even the dark moments of our past. You don’t just support a club in the now, every goal scored is a part of the history that has got us to this point and there are plenty abroad that understand that about Chelsea. Plus you all get up so bloody early!
Anyway, donations, we don’t really accept random donations, but whenever we are looking for them we will publicize that through our various social media accounts, which are:
I would like to thank Richard for taking the time to answer questions about the We Are The Shed group. From Richard and myself, Up The Chels and KTBFFH!
Images credited to Anoymous from the We Are The Shed Facebook page.
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