30 May 2011

The saving of the Swans...

Swansea City fans have every reason to celebrate today (and for some time hence). In a few short years they have gone from avoiding relegation out of the football league, by the skin of their teeth, to the richest (but clearly not best) league in the world.

The club suffered at the hands of appalling off field management with various owners bringing the club to its knees. But supporters of the Swans weren't prepared to lie down and let a series of rich, uninterested businessmen use the club as a cash cow. They set up the one of the first supporters trusts in 2001 with the aim of securing the future of the club and gaining supporters' representation on the board.

One of the driving forces behind the trust in its early days was a friend - Richard Lillicrap - who was also a former Lib Dem councillor in Kingston, an accountant by profession and an all round good egg by custom and practice.

Richard and the trust won their battle and secured the future of Swansea City FC, won supporter representation on the board, facilitated the club's move to the brand new Liberty Stadium and saw the team begin to climb back up the leagues. A fuller history can be found on the Swan's Trust website.

Swansea's story has been replicated up and down the country (and now the globe) by thousands of football fans with the best interests of their communities at heart. It is a little reported, but inspiring example of the type of community action that Liberals have long sought - long before the phrase 'big society' spun into the political lexicon.

Sadly, Richard died on 1 June 2007 after suffering a massive heart attack aged just 55. Although he wasn't at Wembley today to see his team's deserved triumph, I'm sure he was there in spirit - and in the spirit of all those fans who remember football is a beautiful and simple game played by and for the people.

The corruption of FIFA and the big money of the behemoths in the Premiership, won't stop the peoples' game and the achievements of people like Richard will live long after the memories of crooks like Warner and Blatter have faded.

Hopefully any Swansea fans reading this will have a drink not just for their team's victory - but for Richard. It's what I'll be doing.


  1. Thanks Dan, he would have been simply bursting with glee on Monday (and for a long time to come). It's very fitting that AFC Wimbledon made it into the league this year as well - I haven't noticed whether the Swans have ever had to play MK Dons, I think he would have been pragmatic enough to write off the history at some point, but I wonder how long it would have taken? I've become a kind of second order Swans follower - not that I've the slightest interest in what goes on on the pitch, but all that hope and despair hanging on the performance - Wow!

  2. Thanks Brenda - as always it's the despair that football fans can take - it's the hope that's the problem.

    Look out for a slightly longer version on LibDem Voice on Wednesday - which hopefully help to publicise more widely the success of fan ownership.