Stevenage ready for 'Big Brother' selections

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The Independent Football

Stevenage Borough's chairman, Phil Wallace, is hoping to win approval from the Nationwide Conference at a board meeting today for a controversial television documentary in which viewers will help pick the Stevenage team and even make substitutions during Conference matches.

Wallace has already announced details of the programme to a meeting of the club's supporters, but a Channel 4 media briefing yesterday was postponed "because the Stevenage chairman was unable to attend".

The programme, called You're the Manager, is due to be broadcast through February and March this year. "For a six-week period there will be three places in the team each week that will be up for consideration," Wallace said. "We will be looking to find three real genuine Stevenage Borough – passionate, experienced – supporters that will together pick those places that are up for grabs." Once the fans, with the help of manager Paul Fairclough, have selected them, television viewers will vote, Big Brother style, on whether they should be switched before the next match.

Supporters who register will be able to vote for a substitution during home and away games through a messaging service on their mobile phones. If there are enough votes then Fairclough must apparently obey the supporters and change the player that has been voted off the pitch.

Wallace believes the programme will give valuable publicity to his club, who are having a moderate season, and to the Conference, claiming that if the programme goes out four times a week, and up to eight times on the E4 channel, "we will get more coverage than probably the top three Premiership clubs put together".

It seems likely that Sir Alex Ferguson, for instance, would not consider a series in which viewers decide whether David Beckham plays or not. Other officials are also concerned.

"If I was Mr Fairclough, I wouldn't be very happy," said one Conference board member yesterday. "They also need permission to film matches as we have a television contract with Sky." Brendan Batson, the Professional Footballers' Association deputy chief executive, said: "It sounds like democracy gone mad. Perhaps if results go well, the board will think they don't need a manager."

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