Non League Daily

EDITORIAL: Supporter Ownership putting the romance back into football

So here we are, the business end of the season as it is all too regularly called. A place where ambitions are realised, dreams are dashed and nightmares are played out in the hazy backdrop of Spring writes NLD Editor Mark Carruthers

Goals become so much more vital, missed chances are punished that little bit more and refereeing decisions can have a greater impact on the acheivements of a club.

Heroes are cherished, villians are created and memories, both good and bad, are made. Trophy wins are celebrated, relegations are mourned and attentions turn to the summer and the usual hive of activity that every club becomes.

No matter what happens over the coming weeks it will be this week that has had the greatest impact on me. On we have been supporting 'Supporter Ownership Week', an initiative ran by Supporters Direct to promote supporter ownership in clubs and to raise more money to help more clubs go through that process.

I have spoken to representatives of several clubs, from all levels of the pyramid. Some that have grasped their beloved clubs from the brink of extinction and put them back on the path to former glories, some that have witnessed the slow, agonising death of their beloved club and overseen the rise from the ashes of a new phoenix club.

Success stories one and all. Merthyr Town with their hard earned promotion, Chester FC establishing themselves once again in the Conference, Dorchester Town with their focus on their local community, FC United of Manchester moving into their new stadium and one that will benefit their local community as much as the club itself. Wonderful stories one and all and showing that success if not exclusive to on-field matters, although in the case of the latter success comes in both forms.

These are regular, matchgoing supporters doing extraordinary things. Playing a vital role in running their clubs, doing jobs that seemed to be in the monopoly of rich(er) men and women or those who have been around the club for decades.

Now it is supporters, the lifeblood of any club, who are not only the lifeblood but also the organs that function to keep the body alive. They are the heart, the soul and the brains of their clubs. Players, managers and owners come and go but the one constant at a club is the supporters and now, they are the be all and end all of their clubs.

The supporters who clicked through the turnstiles, clutching their Dad's hand in their early years after what seemed like an eternity of pestering him to take them to a match, seeing their heroes in person for the first time. They are now the ones making the decisions, running their club, controlling, no make that defining its destiny.

In the distant, somewhat disengaged world of the upper levels of our national game, supporter ownership is a distant dream, albeit one that many a supporter would love to see implemented. In Non-League it is very much a reality and one that is thriving.

Many say that romance has gone out of football, drowned in a flood of money and cynicism. Supporter ownership shows that romance is very much alive, after all is there a more romantic notion than standing alongside your fellow supporters on the terraces and in the boardroom.

I'm not suggesting that all club owners are a force of evil but simply no matter what happens in the coming weeks, no matter what stories are created by clubs, nothing that happens will be as romantic a vision as a set of supporters who run the club their families have cherished for generations.

Long may it continue to thrive, long may Supporters Direct continue their fine work and I sincerely hope that they receive the support of whichever political party takes over at 10 Downing Street in the coming months.

Mark Carruthers

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