Players also getting involved in positive atmosphere
14 August ~ Last Saturday Grimsby Town fans took inflatables to Kidderminster in protest at the treatment of supporter Ken Meech, who was fined last month for assaulting a steward with an inflatable shark at the Conference match against Barnet in February.
That match at Barnet was originally a protest against another inflatable incident involving a different Mariners fan, Bryan Winship, who was ejected with considerable force for blowing up an inflatable football at Forest Green Rovers a fortnight before the Barnet match. Town fans showed their solidarity by taking hundreds of inflatables to the match in north London.
The atmosphere at Barnet that afternoon caught the imagination of Grimsby supporters and spawned several more themed away-days before the end of the season, including “Wigs at Woking” and “Jesters at Chester”. The players got involved in the themes too and the bond between those on the pitch and the fans in the stand grew to an almost unprecedented level, coinciding with Grimsby's excellent form towards the end of the season, especially away from home.
Although Grimsby went on to lose in the play-off final, the positivity continued in the form of a crowd-funding scheme, set up in the days after the defeat at Wembley to try and provide £20,000 in transfer funds for manager Paul Hurst. The target was reached in a day, and £110,000 in total after eight weeks. It's been argued that this was only possible thanks to the heavy-handedness of a single steward at Forest Green in January, and the subsequent influx of inflatables at Barnet.
It’s not clear whether any more protests specifically relating to the inflatable-shark prosecution against Meech have been planned. It seems more likely that fans will keep bringing inflatables to away games to protest the stewarding at Forest Green and Barnet, but new themes will be suggested for each match (although the club have always shared an affinity with inflatables anyway). Thanks to Alistair Mills