The Robins Trust provides some thoughts for the club’s matchday programme for each home game. These were our notes for the visit of Exeter City on Saturday 26 August, 2016:
The match against West Ham United was a fantastic occasion. It was a beautiful night, with all four sides of the ground packed and the only disappointment was the result.
I’m guessing around 3,000 of the people here that night will not be inside the LCI Rail Stadium this afternoon, which is an eternal source of frustration but make no mistake, those supporters are key to the club growing their regular fanbase over the next few years.
With a little luck those people will have enjoyed the occasion and begin to come back a little more often over the season, and we will warmly welcome them when they do.
Exeter City are League Two’s sole supporter-owned club, and I really admire them. Their Supporters Trust became the majority shareholder in 2003 after they dropped out of the league with the club millions of pounds in debt. The organisation kept the club afloat in tumultuous times and that’s something, thankfully, we have never had to face here in Cheltenham.
They have handed over the best part of £2million in that time through fundraising initiatives, including the ‘Red or Dead’ scheme to begin to clear the debts in which supporters chipped in with £500 a time to raise almost £150,000. The subsequent 1931 Fund, Pitch in for City and Light Up The Park campaigns have added a further quarter of a million to the club’s coffers which is, quite frankly, a staggering achievement.
My career has taught me that when people work together, amazing things can happen and I’m trying to bring a bit of that to Whaddon Road. The Grecians are a prime example of what can done when everyone gets together, and I applaud them. I think we should take inspiration from it.
It’s vital for the club to have a robust Trust, ‘just in case’. Effective fan mobilisation at the likes of AFC Wimbledon, FC United of Manchester and Exeter City is borne out of a crisis and we’re so fortunate to have swerved one our own but that leaves us here with a bit of an identity crisis.
That sense of ownership is key to greater levels of engagement at every level across the club and we should aspire to that in some form. Remember as a Trust we’re the fourth largest shareholder having invested around £240,000 of our own but our level of fan involvement is nowhere near theirs. Why don’t we buy the club one day? We’ve seen in recent campaigns the impact that supporters can make.
Having that level of financial and emotional investment brings an added responsibility of care for the club, and a greater community around it all. Everyone becomes an ambassador and plays a part in its success, on and off the pitch.
We’ll be announcing plans to drive recruitment at our AGM on October 12, when we hope to share our plans for the next 12 months. We want to treble our membership to become more representative of the wider community. If you’re not a member already, we urge you to sign up. You’ll find us in the bar, where we’ll talk all day long about what we want to do. Come and say hello and get involved.
Fan Elected Director