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July 1, 2009

Football at the heart of community

The current recession has dragged many football clubs into the financial mire.  Many are at risk of folding altogether and when that starts to threaten it starts to become clear how important these clubs are to the local community. In an attempt to save their local club, supporters of second division side Stirling Albion, are aiming to become 100% community owned. Local hero and soon to be crowned Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray was one of the first 1500 subscribers to pledge cash

The organisers of the Buy Stirling Albion campaign have revealed unprecedented plans to aid their bid to take control of the club.

For the first time in the history of Scottish football, the naming rights of the team will be offered to businesses. In a similar situation to foreign clubs such as PSV Eindhoven, a winning bidder would have their company title incorporated into the club’s name for a five-year contract.

The announcement marks a new phase in the Buy Stirling Albion initiative, which aims to make the second division side the first club in Scotland to be 100% supporter-owned.

Paul Goodwin, a campaign spokesperson, said: “Given the perilous financial position of the club, we’ve investigated every possible and innovative avenue that we feel could encourage both individual and corporate participation in the campaign.

“We believe that naming rights to the club is an attractive and unique proposition to businesses not only in Scotland and the UK but also worldwide, owing much to the huge media attention and exposure football continues to command.”

Goodwin and his team have already forged other contacts with the business community. Two major Stirling firms have signed up as founding partners, pledging a significant amount of money to the club if the campaign succeeds. An additional 47 companies have purchased Business Bonds.

“The message we’re sending to the business community is to come and talk to us as we have packages from the naming rights all the way down to basic £75 Business Bonds,” said Goodwin. “We are confident there is a level for all firms interesting in supporting our venture.”

The Buy Stirling Albion initiative was launched in May. Its goal is to encourage 20,000 people to buy a £40 stake in the Stirling Albion Supporter’s Trust, which would then make a bid to purchase the club with the money. With 1500 people – including Cristiano Ronaldo, Andy and Jamie Murray, Gary and Stephen Caldwell, Stephen Hendry and Nick Nairn – having signed up, the campaign is progressing well, but it is income from the business community which is likely to determine whether or not it is eventually successful.

Should the campaign fail, the future of Stirling Albion will be far from certain. For many years the club has been almost solely dependent upon the finances of Peter McKenzie, the chairman and majority shareholder. He is now 83 and, despite announcing his desire to sell his shares last year, has failed to find a buyer.

Without McKenzie, the club might well have folded. If the campaign fails, it may still do so. It’s a reality of which Goodwin is all aware.

“The city of Stirling needs Stirling Albion Football Club because having a team is a way that the people of this city can say We’re big enough and important enough to have our own club,’ ” Goodwin added.