I am not sure what to make of Forest Green Rovers’ ascent to the Football League. It’s a great achievement, for sure, given that the club is essentially Nailsworth, population less than 6000. There are some things I admire, like its eco-friendly policies and the way in which the club has embraced the community. And there are some things I should admire, like its vegan-only catering, but I don’t because I am unprincipled and backward and because I like a pasty or burger, the latter with cheese and plenty of onions, please. Above all, I’d like a choice between a chunk of dead cow and a plate of nourishing tofu. I am not going to get that at the New Lawns.
I have no idea if the club is financially “doped”, as the footballing hipsters describe any club that receives funding from anyone other than supporters or TV companies. I have no idea if chairman Dave Vince keeps an unsustainable club sustainable by a large wedge of cash every so often. If he does, he’s not alone. That’s how football works these days. I have heard it suggested too that Vince is using the football club in order to boost his Ecotricity business based in nearby Stroud, the implication of which being he might end up being a here today, gone tomorrow owner. Well, that’s FGR’s problem, not mine.
FGR’s chairman does seem to be a little on the arrogant side, claiming after yesterday’s play off final in which they beat Tranmere Rovers to enter the football league that securing a subsequent promotion to League One would be “a piece of piss” (he may not have use those exact words, but you get the drift). It comes across as a Johnny Come Lately disrespecting clubs who know rather more about the Football League than he does. He has certainly put added, and I would suggest unwanted, pressure on his players as they prepare to line up in League Two.
Vince is not without ambition, either. Having now moved from the Lawns to the New Lawns, he talks of moving the club again so it’s near the M5. This, he believes, will attract passing support. I would think holidaymakers returning to, say the north of England from Cornwall, could probably do without breaking their journey to watch a lower league football match, but he’s a millionaire and I’m not. But it does draw into question the community aspect of the club I previously crowed about.
Those local Nailsworth citizens who have helped propel the smallest of small clubs into the football league will not, I suspect, welcome a move several miles away from their club in order to gain the attention of passing trade. It seems a bit of a contradiction to me. And there’s the aspect of a club outgrowing its potential.
Vince talks of getting into the Championship which takes a bit of imagining. There is no current fan base capable of sustaining that level of football, not, in truth is there potential of acquiring it, unless Vince takes the club to a big city, in which case, what’s the point?
I won’t make negative noises about the new kid in town just yet. It could just be that FGR will survive and be sustainable, both business-wise and ecologically. If the club becomes, if it isn’t already, an ego trip for its owner, I suspect it won’t last long.