By | January 5, 2014

Sefton OwensI’d like to welcome Forest Green Rovers to the Electrical Services Stadium for the first fixture of 2014 and wish both sets of supporters a very Happy New Year.

Forest Green is a club I have personally followed closely in recent years, predominantly from an environmental sustainability perspective (part of my role on the Trust Board covers sustainability).  Many of you may not be aware but Forest Green is probably the most eco-friendly football club on the planet!  Their stadium is powered using renewable energy (solar PV and wind), the pitch is 100% organic and as any Shots supporters who went to the Boxing Day fixture will know, they only serve vegetarian food at their stadium. (It’s actually very tasty though!)

I can also thank the Forest Green Chairman Dale Vince for helping me get home after the game today.  Some of you may not know I drive a 100% Electric Car on my 130 mile round trip to and from a home game and thanks to Dale’s company Ecotricity I’ll be able to re-charge my car batteries in 20 minutes (for free!) whilst having a cup of tea at Pease Pottage Services on the M23 tonight!

Sustainability is an integral part of Trust values, mainly from a financial perspective but I also believes it needs to be seen from an environmental perspective.  The Trust movement is centred on Community and we need to ensure that we not only engage with the community at all levels, but also look at the impact that we have on our community.  At a basic level this could be the impact of 1500 – 2000 people trying to park on a match day but it needs to go far far deeper than this.

Charging my Nissan Leaf at one of Ecotricity’s electric vehicle charging stations

Charging my Nissan Leaf at one of Ecotricity’s electric vehicle charging stations

In my day job I work exclusively with companies in the low carbon sector so am able to see first hand what the possibilities are to reduce the impact the football club has on the environment whilst also reducing long-term expenditure – sustainable in both ways!  I’ll be covering this in more detail in a future programme.

During the financial disaster in the summer I spoke passionately to a group of over 300 Shots supporters about the need to build a new stadium.  Most laughed at the prospect of this, especially as we were perhaps a couple of weeks away from the possibility of extinction.  Whilst I could see people’s perspectives at the time I absolutely believe we need a long-term plan to move to a new stadium and ensure the continued (and ultimately sustainable) existence of Aldershot Town Football Club.

Had we actively tackled this issue when we reformed back in 1992 it’s highly likely ATFC would have taken a different path to the embarrassing and sorry position it ended up in just a few months ago.

Make no mistake, this needs to be a long-term ambition (10, 15, 20 years) for the club but what is imperative it is that it is an ambition and the work needs to start now.  We’ve seen what has been achieved with FC United Of Manchester and I firmly believe that under Community Ownership we could realise the ambition of moving to a new stadium AND of being financially sustainable.  It certainly won’t be easy but the key to the success of a project like this will be reaching out, engaging and getting the buy in of the whole community, and that’s where a community owned club would ultimately excel.

Oh, and when we achieve it, if I’m still involved I’m prepared to give Dale a run for his money for the title of the ‘greenest football club in the world’. (I’ll draw the line at changing the shirt colour though!)

Enjoy today’s game and lets look forward to a successful 2014, whatever the outcome it surely can’t be any worse for Shots supporters than 2013!



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