Monday, June 22, 2009

Sharing a Common Goal

We tend to focus on networking as a business tool but should never overlook its power elsewhere. Charities rely on networks to reach the funding targets they need, while I have written about networking in politics on more than one occasion. Community projects also rely on the networks of those in the community to achieve their goals.

Almost twenty years ago I was on the periphery of an immensly powerful campaign that used networking connections to achieve a seemingly impossible goal. The football club I support, Charlton Athletic, had left our home ground, The Valley, in 1985, and soon a campaign grew to get the club back home.

After the necessary finance was in place, the club found the route blocked by the local authority's planning committee. A group of supporters got together under the banner of The Valley Party and campaigned in almost every seat in the area during the local elections in 1990. In an amazing result for a single issue party, they amassed 11% of the vote with almost 15,000 votes. The campaign was exceptional, a lot of which was due to the connections and experience of many of those involved. The Chair of the Planning Committee lost his seat on the Council and the Club soon received the required authority and moved back in 1992.

I was reminded of this campaign when I met Paul Goodwin of BuyStirlingAlbion recently. Faced with the threat of their club going out of business, fans of Stirling Albion Football Club in Scotland are getting together with the aim of buying the club and becoming the first wholly supporter owned football league club in the UK.

Buy Stirling Albion FC -

The aim is not just to work together to buy the Club but to then make it a hub of the local community, bringing a mix of skills together to revive both the Club and connect many local businesses and people.

The project aim to get 20,000 people to sign up Worldwide, far in excess of their average attendance, and have used their networks to get backing from the Sports Drinks firm Soccerade and FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo.

This week, to coincide with the All England Championships at Wimbledon, the campaign have announced the support of Andy and Jamie Murray. Contacts gained, unsurprisingly, through old fashioned networking, with one of the campaign team playing golf at the same club as their grandfather providing the key link.

It's a tough challenge but, as Charlton fans proved, one that is achievable if people pool their talents and connections. Networking is all about achieving more together than anyone could do individually, and this is another excellent example of such a project, and why it doesn't always have to be about business.


  1. It seems another club may well have already been forgotten in the scheme of things, one AFC Wimbledon, formed by fans, owned by fans and still to his day run by fans.

    Only joking!

    Having just won the Conference South, the team will be playing in the Conference National this coming season and rubbing along with the likes of former League big hitters, Luton Town, Wrexham and Oxford United - the excitement can be felt.

    Playing out of Kingsmeadow, average attendances were in excess of 3,000 with a couple of lock outs late in the season, whilst this season has already over 2,200 season tickets sold.

    Day to day entrance may well be at a premium, if the team get off to good start - we shall see.

    More information about the club can be found here

    The club was formed through a tight network of contacts, orchestrated by former Executive Club member, Ivor Heller and Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association Chair, Kris Stewart, and ably assisted by many supporters - all remain involved today. Ivor is Commercial Director, whilst Kris, has become Chairman of the Dons Trust, which ultimately owns AFC Wimbledon.

  2. Don't forget Ebbsfleet, although it sounds like the initial enthusiasm has waned and renewals are down resulting in players having to be released.