Lancaster City launched a Boost The Budget campaign, open to all, to help the club improve its financial position with vital funds raised going to player wages. However, there are two existing fan-led initiatives that exist alongside Boost The Budget.
The Fans’ Fund was introduced several years ago by Ian Cluney when the Dolly Blues were in a similar position and gives the opportunity for supporters to make a weekly or monthly payment directly into the club account, which is put towards player wages. The Fans’ Fund contributes £170 per week during the playing season to support the player budget, which amounts to a significant sum of £5,920 over the course of this year.
Netbusters involves pledges of small amounts whenever something specific happens such as a goal scored by a certain player or Lancaster progressing in a cup competition, it’s a popular feature in our programme produced for each home Pitching In Northern Premier League fixture. Last year it raised £1,140 and the money was put towards the Veo Camera, which is used by management and the media team. These days, Steve Wright runs both the Fans’ Fund and Netbusters.
We spoke to both Ian and Steve about the story behind the two initiatives, their connection to Lancaster City and their ambitions for the future of the club.
Question: “Hi Ian, thank you for your time to talk about something that often flies under the radar, the Fans’ Fund. I’d like to get your input on what the Fans’ Fund is and how it was created.”
Ian: “The Fans’ Fund is a way the fans can contribute towards the club financially helping towards the players wages. During a downturn financially for the club after the closure of the Dolly Blue Tavern and no bar facilities in the ground at the time a number of us fans would meet in the Vic pub on the Marsh before and after games. At this time I had the thought of starting the Fans’ Fund and ran my idea past some of the supporters. They also agreed it would be a great idea. At this time the Supporters Club was restarted and my suggestion was taken on by Steve Wright the new Supporters Club secretary and the Fans’ Funds was then created.”
Question: “We’ve been lucky over the last several years to have some fantastic footballers wearing a Dolly Blue shirt. It must be a source of pride for yourself to see players on the field knowing you have contributed each month to their involvement at Lancaster City.”
Ian: “Absolutely! With a non-league club also featuring local players you do feel the pride knowing you’ve helped with the cost of the wages.”
Question: “What are your favourite memories following Lancaster City and your favourite players?”
Ian: “Sit tight this could take a while… I’ve watched the Dolly Blues from the age 7 on and off until the game over at Scarborough. The FA Cup replay season in 2004 when we went onto play MK Dons in the First Round proper. Since that game at Scarborough I’ve not missed many games over the last 20 years. Going way back as youngster my favourite players were Lee Koo and Ian Hope. Then later another one of my favourites was Jimmy Graham as he played full-back as I did back in the day. Peter Thompson, can’t forget the guy, in his first spell at the club he was the best non-league player I’d ever seen! At a similar time there was also Ryan Zico Black, what a baller!
“Moving on to more recent times we were blessed with one of our very own in “King Connie” and the day at Glossip when he helped us win the league - unbelievable times!
“Bringing you up to the more present times the two Bailey brothers stand out. For me it’s start with the two Baileys, then pick the team. Thinking back overall the most inspirational player, leader and best captain of all was the mighty Neil Marshall - he’ll always be OUR CAPTAIN!! Finally, my favourite manager of all time is Tony Hesketh, what a guy!”
Question: “You have a fairly unique connection to the club, not only a passionate supporter that follows the team across the Northern Premier League, your daughter Becky is joint-manager of Lancaster City Ladies having suffered an injury last season on the field for the Dolly Ladies.”
Ian: “Yes - as a family us Cluney’s are all passionate about the Dolly Blues. I’m filled with pride to not only see Becky playing for Lancaster City but now fulfilling her role as Co-Manager for the Dolly Ladies. Not forgetting my two sons Darren and Sam who have followed the Dolly Blues far and wide!”
Question: “Hi Steve, thank you for your time, it’s much appreciated. Speaking of your which, a lot of your spare time is dedicated to the Dolly Blues. You’re a man that wears many hats at the club. Ground staff, treasurer for the Lancaster City Supporters Club, alongside running both Netbusters and the Fans’ Fund. Thank you for all you do, Steve.”
Steve: “You missed off doing the Long Marsh Lane End turnstile! Actually, I am training my youngest grandson William (aka The Blob) to take that job on at some point. He told me that he should get my wages as he is doing it, I told him that he could have ten times what I am paid. He's quite good at maths, so it didn't take him long to work out what 10 x nothing works out at. It costs my wife £3 & a bag of sweets per game mind you ? I do what I do because LCFC is my football club. I remember my dad bringing me to the Axe in the late 1960's/early 1970's. Apart from a spell in the early 80's when I followed Blackpool home & away, I have watched Lancaster ever since. To be fair there are a number of people who do much more for the club than myself, but it would be great if more people got involved as volunteers either on match days or during the week. Folk wouldn't need to commit all that much time to make a difference.”
Question: “We heard from Ian about the thinking behind the Fans’ Fund, you’re the man responsible for it now and it’s an initiative that doesn’t get as much publicity as it deserves. If you were to sell the Fans’ Fund to a new supporter, what would you say?”
Steve: “The Fans' fund is an excellent way to help subside the club's wage bill at the cost of a small monthly amount. Currently the amount people contribute ranges from £5/month to £40/month. I think that these figures emphasise just how important a small amount of money can be. This season we are giving the club £170/week during the season and there are approximately 24 people contributing. At the beginning we had almost 40 people involved and were donating £250/week. I think you are correct, the Fans' Fund doesn't get the publicity it should. It has become a very important revenue source for the club.
“The premise is that we ask for people to set up a standing order and allow it to run all year round. This allows our reserve to build up over the close season, so that we are able to donate the maximum amount we can each week. The money is transferred directly into the club's coffers each month (we pay according to the number of Saturdays) by the treasurer, Amy Evans. If anyone wishes to get involved simply please contact myself for the bank details.
“My part in the Fans' Fund is as treasurer, I simply oversee the money in the account, how much is taken each month etc. At the end of each season I know the remaining balance, how much is expected to be paid in over the coming season and work out what that means we can offer the club each week. Neither I nor anyone else (barring the club treasurer) is able to withdraw any money or access the account other than to view any transactions.
“After Ian's idea of helping subside the wage bill, I believe that the meeting that was arranged was the first semi-formal meeting of LCFC supporters for some time. It was certainly the catalyst for the reforming of the supporters club. On a personal level, the fact that a group of my peers were unquestioningly trusting of me to take care of their hard earned money was quite an honour.”
Question: “You’re a regular columnist in our programme, which is produced for all FA Cup, FA Trophy and Northern Premier League fixtures. All the pledges for Netbusters are contained in there, it’s a really fun way to contribute something to the club.”
Steve: “Oh, I really hope that the majority of our support is already aware of Netbusters. I have been waffling on about it for years now! It was something similar to something I had seen at other clubs in the days when I attended quite a lot of away games. I brought it up at a meeting of some sort and after a while another guy picked it up to organise it. However, after a season he disappeared from the scene and it somehow fell into my lap. It's been there ever since! The basic premise is that people promise ("pledge") a set amount of money for each time that any event that they choose occurs. As examples this season I have said £1/away win and £1/goal scored by Nic along with a couple of others. The only limits to what you could suggest are good taste and your imagination. So much £/point / goal scored/ clean sheet. You're certainly correct, people could have fun with this one, pick anything you like to pledge on. In the past we have had pledges for our goalkeeper scoring from open play, players boots being lost, winning the FA Cup.
“It's possible to pay monthly, weekly, or at the end of the season in cash, by cheque or bank transfer. If you feel that a pledge you have made may end up costing more than you expected, we can always cancel it, simply let me know. All the money raised by Netbusters is given to the club, barring the money taken to pay for the Goal of the Season trophy, which we sponsor.”
Question: “Just finally, you’ve seen some of the best players that the club has had and we’ve benefitted from Netbusters and the Fans’ Fund greatly. Who are some of your favourite players and memories supporting Lancaster City?”
Steve: “Now you're asking! My favourite players are too numerous to name them all, but Keith Brindle stands out, along with the goal scoring duo of Stuart Diggle and Peter Borrowdale. Wolfie is my favourite ever goalkeeper, as a midfield you'd have to go a very long way to do better than Dean Martin and Brian Butler. I'm sorry I could go on for pages on this one. My favourite current player is Sir David Norris, simply because of his stunning blue eyes.... and the fact that he might be able to play a bit and never stops running! My favourite games were the FA Cup First Round ties at MK Dons, Northampton, Scarborough and Altrincham. I would love to see us reach the FA Cup First Round proper again soon! It'd be nice to revisit our Fourth Qualifying Round game against Morecambe in the First Round. Imagine the interest that would generate in our club. I would like to point out here that I am, despite appearances, not old enough to remember the Notts County game!”
To join either the Fans' Fund or Netbusters, contact Steve by emailing email@example.com, by calling 07960062621 or have a chat with him on matchday at the Giant Axe.