Back in 2001 when Swansea City football club was sold to the then managing director Mike Lewis for £1, few would have thought the Swans would be competing in the Premier League or be a win away from playing in Europe next season. Such has been the transformation at this club over the last decade or so that a win on February 24th against Bradford City in the League Cup final would see them participate in Europe for the very first time since 1991-92.
Australian businessman Tony Petty, who also owned the Brisbane Lions, bought Lewis’ stakes from him; a move that angered large sections of the Swansea support. And it was this long stand-off between the supporters and Petty’s consortium that led to the eventual takeover by the Supporters’ Trust. The trust owns 20% of the club’s shares and has been the secret ingredient to their metamorphic transformation from a struggling third division club to a mid-table Premier League side. The move to the Liberty Stadium, the appointment of Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and more recently Michael Laudrup, have all been made possible by Huw Cooze, the elected representative from the Supporters’ Trust in the club’s board of directors.
The Swansea supporters’ trust has much fewer members as opposed to Manchester United, who are the largest with over 150,000 members worldwide. However, while MUST have failed to facilitate a takeover from the Glazers, the Swans fans managed to do just that from Petty who was clearly set on taking the club the wrong way. Today, the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust has over 13,000 members and every season ticket holder since 2010 has automatically been granted membership in this trust. The members meet every two years to decide the board of directors, who in turn conduct their own election to nominate one representative at the Swansea City AFC board of directors.
Despite the club being run in partnership with the supporters, who many might argue know little about football, Swansea City have proved to be the perfect model on how success can be brought in a club without selling it off to rich businessmen. The financial stability that was born from this takeover led to the sanction of the Liberty Stadium by the Swansea Council and the eventual shift from the deplorable Vetch field. And this Liberty Stadium has so far proved to be a fortress of sorts for most visiting sides as Swansea have lost just twice at home this season while drawing against league leaders Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Most Swans faithful would not only attribute their recent success to Rodgers and Martinez but also to Kenny Jackett who took over from Brian Flynn and led the club to League One promotion. The club has always been very particular about the managers they appoint and have so far been immaculate with their decision making. Roberto Martinez led the club to the Championship while Rodgers completed the success story by helping them win promotion the Premier League in his first season itself. Just when fans and critics thought Rodgers’ decision to join Liverpool would spell doom for the Swans, the club sprung another surprise by appointing Laudrup, who has galvanized this side into potential giant killers. The club’s board have made sure that the new manager shares their philosophy of bringing fresh young talent into the side before his appointment.
The fact that most of Swansea’s new signings hail from the La Liga is not surprising since Laudrup plied his trade at Mallorca prior to joining Swansea. Michu, who has scored 15 goals already and is third in the list of top goal scorers, and Chico Flores from Mallorca have been among the outstanding performers in the Premier League so far this season.
New signings Pablo Hernandez, the former Valencia winger, and Ki Sung-Yueng have also been equally instrumental in the Jacks’ powerful run of form in the Premier League so far. However, with a key fixture awaiting them a couple of weeks from now which can very well form the basis of judgement of how good this season is, things could go horribly wrong for Laudrup’s boys. Rodgers’ Swans had a poor second half of the season a year back which led to their demotion to the lower half of the table. Laudrup and the fans would be wary of something similar happening to the team with just over a quarter of the season to go.
But from a purely footballing perspective, Swansea are among the very few good things about football at the moment. With Manchester United’s debts continuously making headlines and raising concerns among fans worldwide and Chelsea’s rather flamboyant owner calling the shots at the club, Swansea are guaranteed one thing- they won’t face financial oblivion. With football turning more and more into a profit making venture for billionaires across the globe who know zilch about the game, it is high time that Supporters’ Trust become more involved in the running of every club there is. And that is best possible when they manage to get a significant stake at the club. For people who barely understand finance, the ever inflating figure of United’s debts fails to strike fear since the Reds continue to romp to victory week after week. But there might come a day when the club will be forced to sell off their most prized assets to buy back some of the outstanding debt if they do not reach the final of the Champions League season after season. However, the Swans are lucky to not face that prospect – that of financial instability. From almost on the verge of extinction a decade back to a win away from playing in Europe, Swansea City CF can complete one of the most stunning success stories this February. And football will once again be the winner.Published 10 Feb 2013, 23:36 IST