Hi, I’m Sally. I’m a football fan. I’ve been a fan for about 30 years, since I lived in Newcastle, so close to St. James’s Park I could hear the roar from the stadium louder than if I turned up my TV. Transfixed by this crucible, and the sight of grown men crying into their pints when they lose, I’ve stayed with ‘the toon’ throughout.
What football means to me
For me football is about two things. First, it’s about enjoying the game. It’s about getting away from everyday life – the difficulties; the good and the bad days. Football is an escape. It releases us and sets us free – in the game, during those moments before and after, in the wins and the losses, as a fan and as a player. It’s muddy, and grubby; it’s hard work, it’s team work; it’s skill and it’s luck; it’s vision and rivalry; it’s ecstasy and disappointment. Football is a struggle, but one where you can transcend yourself and get to another place.
It is also anyone’s game; or it should be. A game open to anyone to play and feel a movement – a sense of trying, striving; of being part of a group, a community of people all motivated by one thing. That’s where football reflects life, and can be the best of it. I’m not a player, but I have talked to a lot, and they talk about this – about the flow, about confidence, and a feeling of growth – from the knocks, the knock-backs and the moments when you break through. Of doing it together.
No matter who you are or where you’re from. Man, woman, girl or boy. Black or white. From whatever side of the tracks. Football is a chance to create something, to make it happen – in the game and in the community around you. You’re already doing that here at LewesFC and I love that.
How football is run
Football used to be a game run by the people who play it. But as most things people like, it became a chance to make money and have influence. That started long ago – the tension between the fans of football, and previously the players, who feel moral ownership of their clubs, and the businessmen who have legal ownership – is as old as the game has been professional. I was reminded recently that the railwaymen’s team of Newton Heath was saved from going under in 1902 by local brewers who bought the club so they could sell their beer, and changed its name to Manchester United. Woolwich Arsenal, the south London military workers’ team, was moved by businessmen to north London, Highbury, in 1913 to make more money from it. What we see in Newcastle today is the extreme point of a trend with very early roots. And you can’t blame the Geordie fans for cheering away Mike Ashley with the prospect of a budget to re-build. The fans have no influence and no control. But they do want joy on the pitch. I want joy at St. James’s Park too.
But it’s not what I want out of how football is run. I want to see fans running their club and taking control of their game. I want us to get our ball back. At LewesFC you’re already doing that. Your one share per fan ownership model allows you to run your club – whether you’re fans in Lewes, London (like me) or Los Angeles. That’s brilliant and it needs to scale.
Helping LewesFC grow
To build the club we need investment. Investment that doesn’t compromise our mutual, cooperative ownership model. I would like to help LewesFC find financial sustainability. But how?
My background is in consulting – I have worked with Premier League clubs and corporate brands on revenue growth, fan development and sponsorship. I helped Man Utd set up their fan database and CRM engagement programmes, and develop digital products and services to reach overseas & UK fans not able to get to the centre circle at Old Trafford. I did similar work with ChelseaFC. Since, I worked with The FA to help them listen to the grassroots needs of their customers – players, coaches, referees, club and league secretaries – so they could better design their programmes around their needs – from kids programmes to affiliation.
More recently I created the landmark partnership between Barclays and the FA Women’s Super League so women’s football could start to get the financial support it needs to grow, so it could be championed financially and be taken seriously as a force in sport, with a voice and backing. The partnership is about financial support but also about backing women and girls football with sponsorship of the Girls Football In Schools Partnership – to help expand it and ‘normalise’ it as part of football culture. The Barclays title sponsorship started in 2019, just after the WSL became pro, and as well as continuing to support the women’s game, it’s target is to make football available to all girls in all schools by 2024. To develop a culture of football for girls it needs to be a normal part of life for girls – in school, among friends and around family. In-school football will create more demand for football among girls outside of school. Having a large sponsor like Barclays taking women’s football seriously also helped The FA to sign the broadcast deal earlier this year.
I would like to join LewesFC as a director to help expand the club’s fan / ownership base and find sponsors to fund development and support the open, equal and community based model you have. I would like to help you find businesses who see the value of what you’re building and see how it can help them by associating themselves with what your ethos and what you do – create equality, community and opportunity through football that is people powered.
Please consider voting for me to help LewesFC grow – a vote for people powered growth.
A copy of Sally’s election address can be found here.