Will Wildes succeed with “community club” plans?

Will Wildes succeed with “community club” plans?

OVF columnist Malcolm Hirst is relieved that the Paul Wildes takeover has finally happened and is waiting “with anticipation” to see how Mr Wildes brings his hopes of a community club to fruition.

I certainly want to see Vale run efficiently and professionally, particularly given the amateur and inept nature of previous boardroom incumbents….

Malcolm Hirst writes…

Phew! It has finally happened. Eight months after MOLD chose to put Vale into administration, rather than allow the fans to decided its future via an EGM, we have a new owner, Mr Paul Wildes. However, what kind of club will rise from the ashes of the V2001 phoenix? On the 17th October the Sentinel reported Wildes as the latest new preferred bidder at Vale Park. The paper claimed that Mr Wildes “revealed plans to build a sustainable community club with ambitions to bring Championship football back to Burslem”.

What does it mean to build a community club or is the phrase itself a misnomer? It would not be unreasonable to assume that a ‘community club’ should be representative of the people that surrounds its location. Should a community club have an ethos that represents the needs, desires and aspirations of local people? Can our club, Port Vale, realistically entertain such a notion? Indeed how can we even identify what are the needs, desires and aspirations of what we might call “the Peoples Republic of Burselm’?

I have listened with interest to some of the ideas emanating on this subject, the flagship seemingly being the bringing of the Wildes training facilities into the club facilities and a desire to use the resources more productively. I certainly want to see Vale run efficiently and professionally, particularly given the amateur and inept nature of previous boardroom incumbents. However, will projects such as a local training facility truly make Vale a community football club or will Mr Wildes have to engage the fans and local community more fully for Vale to truly become a community club?

I have just read the summary of a report by Mick Totten on the relationship between the fans at St Pauli (German Bundesliga 2) and its local community.(1) It would be difficult to find a better model of a community based football club. It is a fan-friendly club where “fans were mostly concerned about issues affecting the district of Sankt Pauli itself including poverty, unemployment, homelessness, low educational attainment, inter-generational issues between the young and old, a lack of opportunities to participate in social life”. Perhaps Hamburg is not a million miles away from City Hall, Stoke?

The current series “The Year the Town Hall Shrank” brings to the fore the challenges Burslem faces. Unemployment, care of the elderly and breaking the cycle of dependency are but a few of these challenges. Challenges exist too for those in employment with salaries in Stoke-on-Trent a third below the national average. Surely this needs to be taken into account when considering season tickets and match day prices.

There are commonalities beyond the socio-economics of Burselm and Hamburg. Vale and St Pauli both have a fan base that are now politicised. I understand why some people don’t feel very comfortable with this, but the reality is, there is no going back. Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly enjoying going to football matches, engaging in discussion about who would be in my first XI and whether Micky’s tactics are right. These are the eternal topics of a Saturday lunchtime. That said, I wait with anticipation to see how Mr Wildes brings to fruition this dream of “build[ing] a sustainable community club with ambitions to bring Championship football back to Burslem”

(1) http://www.playleftwing.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Fan-Power-Summary-of-Findings.pdf

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