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Motherwell – the members’ club

Motherwell – the members’ club

When Motherwell supporter Alan Burrows set up a fan site for his beloved club 15 years ago, he never expected it to land him the role of the club’s CEO. And now, he’s transformed the club. How?


Transcript

Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker. 

One story every day to make sense of the beautiful game. 

Today, how Motherwell chief Alan Burrows is the fan’s CEO.

***

“You mentioned Peter Lawwell there, I’ve asked Peter on countless occasions how difficult it is to make a decision if you’re a fan but you’re also Chief Executive?”

“Yeah I think you have to learn that very quickly and it’s one of the things that I had to learn really really quick in a job that you know you can’t let the heart rule the head all the time. I think there’s some good for, particularly for a fan-owned club like Motherwell that the people running it are people that believe not only in the model but in the club and want the best interest of the club…”

Alan Burrows speaking to Peter Martin on PLZ Soccer

Let me introduce you to Alan Burrows. He’s the Chief Executive of Scottish Premier league side Motherwell.

And he’s definitely not your typical football board member.

He started out as just an ordinary fan, who trained in hospitality and decided to make an unofficial Motherwell fan site in his spare time. 

While there’s nothing unusual in that per se, in the summer of 2007 – after he’d travelled under his own steam to Austria so he could cover Motherwell’s pre-season – the club said they were really impressed with his work and offered him a job running their official website.

That’s something most fans could only dream of.

Fifteen years later, after having worked his way up through the ranks, he is in charge of the whole operation, and won the CEO of the year award from the SPFL in 2019.

A similar rise to the top… well it simply wouldn’t happen at other clubs. 

But Motherwell? Well, they’re different. 

“It just feels like a good day for supporters to return to Fir Park. It’s the start of a new season, it’s about 25 degrees, and 2,000 fans are back in their second home this afternoon for the first time in 500 days.”

Motherwell FC

In 2016, Motherwell became fan-owned, and a group paid a nominal fee of just £1 to take control of the club.

The supporters’ trust call themselves the “Well Society”, which, as you’ll see, works on two levels.

A recent update revealed the Well Society had grown to include 3,200 members, well above their initial target. 

Thanks to donations, they’re now raising around fifteen thousand pounds per month to keep things running.

It’s a really good example of how fan ownership CAN work, and – having come from a background of being an ordinary match-going fan himself – Alan Burrows is well-placed to take the lead.

And it’s a side well aware of what the club means to people living in Motherwell, a place in Scotland with high deprivation. 

In that city of 60,000, it only took three months of the pandemic for 10 thousand local people to be claiming Universal Credit, a rise of 14 percent from May to June in 2020. 

“More than nine times the normal number of people have applied for Universal Credit in the last two weeks, evidence that coronavirus is now affecting the economic health of the nation. And with the news that businesses are struggling to access government support, experts are concerned the numbers of people claiming will keep going up.”

ITV News

So Alan Burrows backed a plan to make sure nobody is excluded from seeing their team play. 

The team is now offering free season tickets for those claiming benefits or on a low income.

And there’s no proof required. No jumping through hoops. So if a person wants to take the club up on its offer, they just have to fill in a form with their basic contact details, and that’s it. There’s no shame, no stigma, just a season ticket absolutely free. 

And once you understand how a football club and its community go hand-in-hand, you can’t ignore the benefits of filling the stadium with local people.

“I really can’t wait, as a safety officer here, there’s been challenges over the years at matches but give me every one of those challenges and get the fans back in then face another season with no fans… I’m really looking forward to being able to follow a match by the sound of a crowd and that sounds silly until you’ve not got it. That split second silence as the ball leaves Tony Watt’s foot and then the cheer… the screams for offside whether they’re right or wrong, even seeing it in the faces, the kids that hang over the white wall at the front of the Hunter stand, for their heroes or trying to get on the camera… will be good to see someone move… just looking forward to seeing fans enjoying themselves and filling this place again.”

Safety officer for Motherwell FC

When Motherwell face Dundee in their first home game of the season, the roaring crowd will be filled with those who have been gifted a season ticket. 

They will be there because others didn’t ask for a refund when stadiums stood empty due to the lockdown. 

By not taking their money back, fans have raised sixty thousand pounds – a figure the club is going to double – to give more people the chance to go to Fir Park.

Alan Burrows says that the football industry can use the incredibly privileged platform on which it sits to play a positive role in the community. 

And it’s clear that fan-owned Motherwell know how to do exactly that.

Today’s Playmaker was written by Chloe Beresford and produced by Imy Harper.