South Shields FC owner Geoff Thompson has warned that he can’t get the club into the Football League on his own – and that he needs the whole town to back his vision.
Mr Thompson has overseen a remarkable transformation of the club’s fortunes since becoming chairman in 2015, with three successive promotions and a FA Vase win at Wembley.
His ambition is to get the Mariners back in the Football League, and has called on the community to pull together to help realise his dream.
Speaking at the launch of Project EFL yesterday, the 56-year-old businessman told a group of businessmen and sponsors from the borough that they had a vital role to play.
“I can’t do this by myself, nor would I ever be so arrogant to think I could,” he said.
“We need the support of the business community, sponsors, fans and everyone to achieve this dream.”
South Shields are playing in the Evo-Stik Premier League, three rungs below the Football League, and averaged crowds of 1,500 last season.
Mr Thompson believes they will need to double their average attendance, however, to sustain a full-time football club that can push for further promotions.
He is determined to make the club sustainable and not reliant on personal investment from himself, having funded the redevelopment of Mariners Park out of his own pocket.
And with the club potentially looking to go full-time in the next couple of years, the launch of Project EFL is geared to putting a long-term strategy in place.
Mr Thompson, who founded energy supplier Utilitywise, added: “The pressure on me is if I can’t marshal and engender the support of both the business community and fans coming in greater numbers, how do you fund the club post season 2019-2020? How do you fund a full-time team?
“As a ballpark number if you look at a million pound for first team wages, our budget is obviously lower than that, so if we are to succeed as a Conference side or above, we need to be able to fund that.
“I’m only going to be able to do that with the support of businesses and fans. I know that’s a statement of the obvious, but I wouldn’t want to be someone who throws loads of money at this and it be a white elephant and unsustainable.
“I don’t want to be the bloke who blows millions of pounds on a project and for it to fail.
“There’s a lot of smarter and wealthier people than me who have failed, so it’s how you prevent that.
“In my view, the only way it is going to work is with the community, fans and sponsors.”