About 16 years ago I started chatting on an Arsenal message board called “Arseonline”. It was on the Rivals.net network, which was set up to have a blog for every club in the UK.
The idea was simple and it worked, you registered on the club you followed and had access to every other clubs message board (unless they banned you). Many an hour at work was spent/wasted by not only chatting about The Arsenal but also going onto other clubs message boards to wind them up.
A bond was made with other Arsenal fans. Over the years we all met up at games and the majority of us are still mates now, even if we can still argue over nothing on whatsapp and wind the hell out of each other…and no it wasn’t my fault the minibus for Cardiff away didn’t show up!!!
Anyways just over 10 years ago Rivals took the cash. They sold out to SkySports who inturn decided to change the simple to use message board and ruined it all. Maybe that was their intention all along. Ruin the biggest multi-club message board to drive people to their own one. Who knows?
Led by the lads at ‘boro, a new network was formed – Fansonline – and we were invited onto it. The fella who ran the Arsenal board could not move our message board and had work commitments, so we left SkySports. The other lads decided I should do the donkey work and set it up. The main reason I guess was as I was between jobs at the time. But I loved chatting about The Arsenal so had to do it.
At the time we all sat in different areas of the ground, so naming the blog after a stand didn’t work, so the name ‘She Wore A Yellow Ribbon’ was chosen. Now those of a certain age will know that this is not only our cup song it was also used as a call to arms and was often sung in away ends and in situations less than savoury in today’s world.
Fansonline was fun to start with. Not as many people as the old Rivals network as not all clubs moved over to the new network. At the same time, I started writing blogs and for a dyslexic this was a challenge. If you think my spelling and grammar is bad now you should’ve seen it back then!
Also at that point we started getting paid, which was novel. Paid to talk about what you love! I remember the 1st payment – £130 for the month. We decided to donate half to a charity and www.taxicharity.org was chosen. We still raise money for them every year.
The other half was put in a kitty and once or twice a year we would get everyone together and get on it on the websites money. We also bought a huge SHE WORE flag, which was to be lost in Barcelona a few years later (Cheers Neil!)…
The money at that rate never lasted, the arse was falling out of internet advertising….
Then along came Facebook in 2009. At first I set up the facebook.com/shewore page to try and get more people to join us on the message board, rather than to promote the blogs or build a community on Facebook.
I loved chatting about The Arsenal and just wanted more to join us. But that never worked, Facebook was too easy to use and I ended up spending more time on Facebook than I did on the message board. It was clear that message boards were dying out and Facebook was now providing an easier to use, better platform to discuss things with people.
The Facebook page took over and has turned into a monster. With 45,000 people on it, it now has the biggest number of London born/based Gooners on that platform.
Around that time I had a decent enough job and due to Facebook and friends of Friends from the original message board and by drinking maybe too much before and after games my social circle over The Arsenal grew.
Now I wanted to go Celtic away in the Champions League. My employers, as always, hated anyone booking time off, so a deal was struck. I could go the away game as long as I took the bosses wife, who was also the HR, to the home game. She was a Celtic fan.
After a few pre-game drinks in the Woodbine she wanted to go into The Gunners Pub. When in there I met a fella I knew who was drinking with a few girls. After the game the bosses wife told me to go meet them for more beers and take the following morning off…Result.
Around 2010 I first got involved with helping to promote Islington Boxing club. They were close to shutting down over a legal battle, but due to a lot of hard work by a lot of great people there they are now one of, if not the biggest armature boxing club in the country. They should be very proud of themselves.
Twitter came next.
I had no interest in twitter. I just set it up to copy Facebook posts and blogs. For the 1st year or so all it did was automatically post whatever I put on the Facebook page. I did not even log properly until 2011.
Now 2011 was a special year for a lot of reasons. I was drinking every game on Holloway Road, mainly The Bailey and The Wig n Gown (both sadly now shut) and started my 1st little venture into merchandise – She Wore Polo shirts.
I would store them in the back room at The Wig n Gown in a big bag and sell them in the pub before and after games. Also I finally pursued one of the girls i had met at the Celtic game to finally go out for me (our 1st date away to Ipswich in the cup).
One day in early 2011 i was invited to breakfast before a game by 4 fellas, to talk about doing a remembrance night for our Rocky. They had the contacts and I had the audience to help fill the venue. We all had a deep love for Rocky.
At that time i started using twitter to aid with the promotion. It was hard work, but turned into a great night raising thousands of pounds for good causes.
It is one of the best nights I have ever had, which ended in the very early hours in Phibbers (another pub shut down) with Stevie Rocastle telling us stories about his dear brother. Those at that original breakfast went on to form the BSM, which has helped lobby against ticket prices, supporters rights and protest against the current regime.
2011 also saw the 1st call by us on She Wore that Wenger’s time was up. Since then on all platforms we still think that.
At the time we got slaughtered for it. Some still ignore us over it. Add that to our involvement with the BSM and we have probably pissed off a lot of newer fans to The Arsenal as well as those running the club.
I/We have always had big issues with Silent Stans ownership and Ivan ‘What do you do’ Gazidis.
Now some blogs and those on twitter with big accounts get invites from the club to all events, private meetings, tipped off transfer stories etc. We don’t, we never have, we never will. We also never want too.
We were black balled.
I like to think we have stood up for the normal working class fan and say things how we see them and that will never change.
Fast forward to 2014, me and partner had grown up. We had a daughter, a mortgage and had moved out of N1. We were no longer going to every home game and barely making any away’s anymore.
Everything was going lovely until I had a health issue.
By then I also hated my job, so I just kind of left. We were down to our last £50 of our overdraft with 2 weeks before the bills were due when I got a call from Mick, one of the lads at Islington Boxing Club.
His mate had a few hundred She Wore A Yellow Ribbon badge pins made up and asked did want any?. So i got them and put some yellow ribbon behind them and sold them on.
The 1st batch went in 20 minutes, so I got some more, and some more, and some more again. I then did a polo shirt and from there the She Wore Shop was born.
I have no secret. I have always just produced stuff I like and I’d wear. I have been blessed so many have also loved the items too. But without that call from Mick i’m pretty sure my young family would’ve lost our home.
in 2015 I got grassed up. Someone wasn’t happy that an Arsenal lad was making a few pennies. My online shop was closed down. I had emails from the Premier League’s lawyers, Arsenal’s in house lawyer and the tax office.
Now I am no idiot. I had registered at the tax office long before that.
There has been a certain amount of cat and mouse played in the 2 years since then between the club and I over the old logos and badges and trademark infringement.
When the current badge came out the club said it was due to being unable to trademark the old ones. I can tell everyone now the club do enforce the old trademarks that they claimed they could not, and as of 5th December 2017 I have had no choice but to agree never to use the old 30s crest and old cannon again on merchandise. Of course, I’d never use the current cartoon one.
It is frustrating that the club changed the badge, etc, due to being unable to copywrite the old one. Yet are they are, force-ably stopping people using the old one. If anything, the latest letter may slow down the club copying my ideas.
It’s been a good ride, from the day I fell in love as I walked into Highbury for the first time in 1985, to going home n away from 1988 till all-seater.
Junior Gunner-Northbank (middle) – Clock end, The Arsenal Tavern, The Woodbine, The Bailey, The Wig, Piebury Corner, The Gunners, The George (Best Arsenal pub), The Riders of the Night, Euro aways, meeting life long friends on Rivals, dealing with my dyslexia, meeting the BSM lads, that Rocky night, the Islington Boxing Club lads, the Bergkamp Wonderland Podcast, meeting my darling better half and producing the 6th generation Gooners, my lovable monstrous kids and of course all the wonderful people who have helped me run She Wore, either on the blog (big shout Keenos, your a C**t, but you’re our C**t) and those who try and moderate the Facebook page.
To everyone who has used my little shop, helped me promote it and everyone who I have engaged with online and drunk with in the pubs….A long time ago I was warned Arsenal is a small place, how true, THANK YOU ALL. Here’s to the next 10 years…
WHAT DID SHE WEAR ????