Dave Farebrother, Chairman of the Board of Sutton United Football Club Limited, has advised the club’s directors that he will be standing down at the end of this season. Here, Tony Dolbear explores why Dave has made this decision.
Tony: So, you have told the board that you wish to step down from your role. The club is riding high, in the Football League for the first time and the champion non-League team in England last season, on the face of it this might seem like a strange time to want to go ?
Dave: It is actually a decision taken just over a decade ago. I became Chairman of the Board after we sadly lost Barry Aplin and when I was elected I told the directors that I believed posts such as this have a shelf-life; that there is a danger that post-holders can perhaps become stuck in a rut and lose sight of innovation and other changes happening around them. So I think it was actually a prescient decision to make this call ten years ago, as I do now think that it is a good time for a change.
Tony: And what makes you think that ?
Dave: I have been on the management committee for 34 years and on the board for 23. Virtually all of that time has seen us as a non-League club and although the end result is the same, watching 22 people kick a ball around a pitch, everything that goes into making that happen on a Saturday afternoon is very different for a Football League club. We have a proud history as an amateur and semi-professional club run by dedicated volunteers and we are having to transition to being a professional outfit with full-time management. We have started on that journey but it is going to take us another couple of years or so to be where we want to be and it is only right that a new person has the opportunity to steer things in the direction that they want to follow.
I did think of stepping down at the end of last season but with everything else that was going on I did not want to add to the confusion and chaos that engulfed us during the summer. But going forward I do think that we need people at the helm who can bring new ideas and fresh energy. By telling the Board of my decision almost two months ago, I felt that I was giving my colleagues plenty of time to consider the way ahead without surprises.
Tony: Has a new chair been chosen yet?
Dave: No, not yet. As I said, we know we need to change the way we are run off the field and there is a comprehensive review of our structure that has been going on for a number of weeks that will make some recommendations to the Board in the new year. That review has a wide scope and is considering how the Board and different committees and panels should relate to each other and what their responsibilities would be and which personnel would be best suited to which roles.
First and foremost I am a supporter, I have been following this club home and away for over fifty years, and I have to say that if you wanted to trust a group of people to plan for the future you couldn’t do better than those who are currently involved.
Tony: Looking back over the last ten years, what moments stand out for you ?
Dave: Well, we have obviously enjoyed success in the league but from a personal perspective the highlight was reaching the 5th Round of the FA Cup. I was in the ground in January 1970 when we lost to Leeds United and nobody would have contemplated on that day that we would eventually meet again at the same stage of the competition and that Sutton would emerge victorious. But it was well worth the 47 year wait. I also remember the win at Maidstone in our National League South title season, the team played so well in a vital game and that night we just knew the title would be ours.
Tony: We have come a long way in ten years, you must be quite proud of how things have turned out ?
Dave: The success on the field is down to the management team and the players, I can’t take any credit for that. I am pleased with the way the board has evolved, I think we made some good appointments, and I am very proud of the way in which all of the directors responded to the pandemic last year. That was a tough period and we had a lot of challenges to meet.
Tony: You took on the role of Club Covid Officer, how did you find that ?
Dave: I got the role by default I guess, as the only director with any background in Health & Safety. It was quite a complicated and involved role, especially as we came out of the first period of lockdown. The role covered all club activities and so we had to develop procedures to cover all of the club’s teams and anyone else who used the stadium, that was before the first team even returned to training. And I was so disappointed that probably the greatest season in the club’s history was played out without supporters for almost the entire season. In fact, it has been pretty full on since Covid appeared. Firstly we had the economic implications of the shutdown, then developing and implementing the Covid protocols, running a season in an empty stadium and then the exciting consequences of promotion. That’s another reason why I think it is a good time to be stepping down, it has been an exhausting couple of years both physically and mentally.
Tony: Do you plan to stay on the Board ?
Dave: No. I did think it might be nice to complete 25 years on the Board, but, as I said, the last couple of years have been pretty full-on. In fact it had been getting that way since the Arsenal game, and I think I need to re-charge my batteries. I can probably be of more use to the club now carrying out some of the myriad of smaller tasks and helping out on match days. The EFL has just launched a new Green Clubs initiative and as an environmental professional I am taking the lead on that, for example.
Tony: Well Dave I'm sure everyone at the club would want to thank you for all the time and effort you have put in as Chairman of the Board over the past ten momentous years.