A rough guide to... Forest Green Rovers

Cod Almighty | Article

by Richard Hallam

31 July 2017

The Ecotricity-funded Forest Green are in the Football League. How did they do it, and what are their chances?

Who, who, who are you?

Never trust a football club that play in hoops, especially if it includes the colour green and they used to play in black and white stripes. Forest Green Rovers are owned by Dale Vince*, the Ecotricity millionaire. Their ground doesn't quite hold 5,000 and it only has stands on three sides. Dale is a vegan, so therefore everyone else has to be to. They do sell beer though and the Badger Pasty is actually quite nice.

They once roughly ejected a Grimsby supporter for playing with an inflatable football, which subsequently resulted in a 76.7 per cent increase in Town's away support at every away game ever since. Thanks Clown Security**, we owe you everything. The last time we played them they hired a London bus for us with a bar on it and Craig Disley made us very happy.

* Yes those electric car chargers at Donny services with the green union jack on are owned by Dale Vince.
** Clown Security no longer provide security services to the club.

What have you been up to?

FGR been around since 1889, founded by a man of the cloth. They pottered around the lower echelons for over a century until the 1998-99 season, which was their first in the Conference. They avoided relegation twice in the noughties due to other clubs stadium/financial problems, before reaching the play-offs in three consecutive seasons.

Financially Forest Green are a very different animal to our own club.

Forest Green financial data

Dale has ploughed over £5 million into FGR over the two seasons from 2014-2016. Over the same period Town made a modest profit of £6,128! It’ll be interesting to see if the FGR wage bill for 2016-17 beat £2.1 million.

Dale's Ecotricity Group had sales of £126 million in 2016 and made a profit of £7 million; how the other half lives, eh?

What kind of season did you have?

After serial play-off failures, Forest Green finally made it to the Football League last season by defeating Tranmere 3-1 at Wembley in May. Through the league season, they had finished 11 points behind Tranmere, but that's the way it goes [and we can hardly talk - ed].

Where are you from?

The village of Nailsworth, where the club is based, has a population around 6,000. For comparison, that's half the size of Immingham and just 1,000 more than the capacity of Forest Green's New Lawn ground. Stroud, five miles away is home to 13,000 souls. There is potential for big crowds at Forest Green, but only if they play clubs with huge away followings.

Dale has plans for an "Eco-Park" at Junction 13 of the M5 including a 5,000- capacity stadium; that, to give Dale credit, is about right as the three nearest major conurbations - Cheltenham, Bristol and Swindon - all have their own football clubs.

If you are planning an overnight trip to the New Lawn on 5 May 2018 for our closing fixture, I recommend Bristol, having tried Gloucester and Cheltenham. You won't be getting back to Grimsby from Nailsworth by train that night; that is a fact.

You must be so modern?

On a recent trip to watch Town at the New Lawn, a floodlight failed. It was still brighter than Southport with four floodlights but the referee sent us all home, despite the fact that Lenny had scored and its 213 miles from Blundell Park. Rumour has it that the floodlights are powered by you know what.

To get into the New Lawn, you'll need to scan a bar code. How very modern.

How are you feeling?

FGR are 7-1 to get promoted and 14-1 to be relegated this season. "The chairman is an ambitious man and has made it known he wants championship football eventually," says John Palmer of Gloucestershire Live, "but no time frame has been put on that ambition.

"That said, hopes are quite high because of the money he has invested, and nobody expects them to struggle this season. Keeping hold of Doidge and Noble would make a big difference, however.

"The promotion had been coming for a while, and although they are well-funded, it was still an amazing achievement for such a small place."

The FGR players have been on their holidays to Browns Sports Club in Quarteira, Portugal. I leave you with some of their holidays snaps from the club's Twitter feed, without comment other than to ask the question: how old is too old for a shaved-side haircut? Mark Cooper is 48.

Forest Green preseason tour


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