“Football is a business, and a tough one at that, but the green playing area, well, that really is the field of dreams” a quote from Steve Barnes, manager of Leddersfield Town.
Last week, in an attempt to highlight the social function of football clubs and supporters’ trusts, I drew attention to the events of 1919/1920, when the Crowther family and their hangers-on came within a whisker of moving our beloved “team of renown” to Leeds.
This week, I want to point you in the direction of a more familiar story, one that has equally ambiguous implications.
As many of you will no doubt remember, in 2003, after years of corporate mismanagement by Those Who Shall Not Be Named, Huddersfield Town Association Football Club entered into administration and once again teetered on the brink of financial ruin.
Faced with a swarm of creditors and outstanding debts of around £20m, it looked as though the three-time champions of England were headed for the history books.
But if those history books tell us anything, it’s this: the people of Huddersfield like those kinds of odds, or at the very least, they’re used to putting up with them.
And so, armed with nothing but their Nokia 3210s and a vague sense of hope, a group of determined supporters set about the small task of conjuring a modern-day miracle.
They called themselves the Huddersfield Town Survival Trust, and with the help of thousands of their fellow Terriers, managed to raise enough money — over £120,000 — to keep the club afloat until a new owner could be found.
If they’d failed, it’s almost certain that HMRC would have issued a winding up order against the club, leaving the Football League with little option but to vote for expulsion.
The Huddersfield Town Supporters Association (HTSA) was born out of the experiences of this period.
Its founding members, several of whom served on the committee of the Survival Trust, realised early-on the long-term future of the club - of any club - depends on the existence of a strong, independent body of supporters who are committed to holding the Board and ownership to account.
Today, the good ship Huddersfield Town is in the safe hands of a lifelong fan, Dean Hoyle.
Thankfully, his commitment to the club isn’t in question, nor are his leadership qualities.
When Mr Hoyle first took the reins at the Galpharm Stadium, as it was known back then, he said that he would listen to and work with Town supporters.
As ever, he was true to his word. HTSA and the club have had a positive working relationship during the Hoyle-era, and from the All Together Town (ATT) Panel to the North Stand Loyal initiative, both have got a lot to show for it.
But, if the two fragments I’ve touched upon teach us anything, it’s that supporters and the trusts that often represent them can never afford to rest on their laurels.
In next week’s column, I’ll discuss this point in greater detail.
In the meantime, HTSA are pleased to announce three new initiatives aimed at engaging younger supporters and making away days an affordable family pastime.
First, membership is now free for Under 17s, second, Under sevens can now travel on our coaches for free, and third, for longer journeys where coach tickets cost £15 or over, seven to 16-year-olds can pay their age, or face value, depending on which is cheaper.
Remember, HTSA are the voice of the fans. If you’d like to know more or get involved, visit our HTSA website, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our Travel Line on 07905 580784.