South Shields FC owner Geoff Thompson insists his family are behind his ‘leap of faith’ with the football club – despite him ploughing £1million of his own money into the project.
The businessman has built up a large personal fortune on the back of his successful energy consultancy company, Utilitywise.
It has enabled the 56-year-old to buy the Northern League Division Two side’s Mariners Park ground, revamp it and prepare plans for major expansion as he looks to propel the club up the football pyramid to the Conference.
While Mr Thompson is keen for the club to eventually become self-sustainable, he admits it has taken a lot of personal investment to kick-start the plans.
And with more expenditure on the horizon, as the Mariners look to establish a full-size 3G artificial surface behind their main pitch, he admits some people may think he has ‘lost the plot’.
“There’s a bit of a leap of faith,” Mr Thompson said. “If I’ve spent a seven-figure sum getting the football club back into Shields and there’s another approaching seven-figure sum for the 3G, suddenly by anyone’s figures that’s a big investment.
“It’s not about making money. Some people would look at me sideways and say you’ve lost the plot. But you’ve got to go through that and make that investment otherwise you’ll never realise anything.
“If we’d done it on the cheap or not made the right investment I think we would have just fallen short all the time. We’re all different, but the way I’m wired I like to do things the right way.”
And far from having his family question how much time, effort and money he’s putting into the football club, they’re right behind him – even to the extent that they’ll attend games in the club’s colours.
“It’s great fun,” he added. “I’ve even got my mam and dad, who are in their early 80s, coming down in their Shields tops.
“The rest of the family are coming down too. They love it.
“They are all very supportive of it. I think my wife, Andrea, every now and again has looked at me sideways and thought ‘bloody hell, Geoff’ but even she is down here most home games and the odd away match and she’s got her Shields top on.
“My daughter is here as a director of the club – it sounds grandiose, but we pull her leg that she’s the South Shields Karren Brady.
“Both me, the committee and my family are all enjoying it. Like any North East bloke, I like football. If truth be told, I was never any good at playing it – I wish I was better – but that doesn’t stop you from enjoying it.
“I get to most home games and some away games. The passion of our fans is incredible. Some of the singing is hilarious. ’Catherine Cookson, she’s one of our own’ was a classic.
“Our fans are very good-natured. They’re having a good time and there’s a lot of women and kids too. It’s turning into a family thing.
“I think Shields fans should be able to come to the game and enjoy the experience. Have a pint or something to eat before the game and do it with their family or their mates, then hopefully enjoy the football.”