Fans of the Future: a small step into an exciting future

Cod Almighty | Article

by Grant Maconachie

11 July 2019

Fans of the Future grew out of a casual discussion among Town fans. But its ambitions are huge

From small beginnings, big things can often grow, and often you don't appreciate just how quickly and bountifully they can often flourish: certainly not at the outset. How many times have we joined a discussion on Twitter, full of ideas, inventiveness and hope, only for it to be dashed by negativity from other comments? How often have we had great ideas, only to let them wither because we didn't have the courage to share them? It is all too easy to live in an "it will never happen" state, accepting the here and now rather than doing something that might just make a difference.

A lazy Saturday morning in mid-May saw the birth of such a thread. It had many of the usual themes, thoughts and ideas as well as the usual suspects. But it had something different: it had positivity, it had enthusiasm, something special. The discussion was taken offline into a group chat and a few more likely characters were added. They all added something different to the mix. The momentum, the positivity and the enthusiasm grew and developed.

Two tenets of the group were unanimously agreed upon. They almost evolved naturally. First, everyone within the group was equal: opinions, ideas, input, and contributions were held in equal regard. Secondly, despite our gripes and grievances with the club, the board, the Mariners Trust and all, there was to be no negativity to distract from our direction.

The roots of the conversation were about how to engage the next generation of Grimsby Town supporters. How to ensure there would be a similar group of eclectic, disparate, committed, driven, enthusiastic (that word again), passionate supporters in the future. What would we need to achieve in order that there wasn't a void left once current generations of fans had grown too old to make a noise?

We discussed similar initiatives at other football clubs, and in other sports, where clubs worked to ensure that their local community was just as much a part of them as they were part of the local community. We approached those clubs and people who had achieved success and had open and honest dialogue with them about their experiences, their endeavours, their dreams. Possibly the most heartening thing was the combination of their willingness and generosity to share their stories because of the genuine compassion they had for Grimsby Town FC.

It soon became apparent that our initial idea of providing free entry to youngsters and children had been tried across the board with very minimal uptake. Who wants tickets to somewhere they haven't heard of, to watch something they have no connection with? Creating that connection had to be the initial aim: a theme copied by all of the successful campaigns, most noticeably at Accrington Stanley. Fortunately, their chairman Andy Holt accepted the invitation to join our group and shared some most incredible insights into the journey of the Accies. He lauded our positivity and applauded our drive and commitment.

His model of giving shirts to kids, inviting them along to the ground to receive them, engaging them in the club, opening the club's arms to invite them in and embrace them, investing in their lives – it all made sense and it all seemed so obvious and simple. Within a few days we had a direction, we had a desire, we had a plan. In fact in no time at all we had a business plan.

Remarkable outcome

By approaching Dave Roberts at the Mariners Trust, we gained an audience with the board of GTFC to present our plan. We held no real hope of it being plain sailing. We had discussed all the likely issues the club may have and we agreed the way we wanted it to work. They not only liked our idea: they agreed with almost all of our thoughts and even suggested that being detached from the board while maintaining a link with the Mariners Trust was the best way forward. It was a truly remarkable outcome and almost took us by surprise.

We polished our ideas, we made sure the media were fully primed and we waited for what seemed an absolute age

We now had to put everything in place as soon as possible in order to launch the initiative. A timeline was agreed, teasers were posted and a launch date was agreed. Then the takeover news hit and the brakes were applied, but we didn’t sit waiting. We polished our ideas, we made sure that the media were fully primed and we waited and waited, for what seemed an absolute age.

That is how the Fans Of The Future initiative was born and I hope by sharing it there will be more positivity and enthusiasm spread among us all.

Our short-term aim is to be able to present every year 6 child in a North East Lincolnshire school with a GTFC shirt on a selected day at Blundell Park, with players, management and staff present. We chose year 6 as they are the big fish in the small pool and others are more likely to follow their lead – as has been proven at Accrington and clubs across other sports. If we raise enough then we can expand our catchment area and perhaps look at the same age children of exiles, both in the UK and abroad.

Our long-term aim, with the support of the club, is to then work towards heavily subsidised or free entry to kids and young adults in order to develop the next generation of Town support. It is all about working together for the greater good: engage and invest in the kids and the youth and in turn they will engage and invest in the club, the town and the community.

It has become very apparent to me and the rest of the FOTF group that this is the start of something very exciting for everyone involved. It isn’t new and it certainly won’t be a smooth ride, but exciting it will be. Perhaps we all need to take a good look and consider how we – supporters, the trust and the club – can reform, like a band who split acrimoniously many moons ago, stating they would never perform again together under any circumstances, only to finally acknowledge that the whole is very much more important and successful than the parts.

To donate, support or find out more about Fans of the Future, get in touch through the Crowdfunder page, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (futurefansgtfc)