Jamie Swinney achieved one of his key objectives just weeks into his new role as chief executive of Stenhousemuir FC - the club was promoted.
But he’s quick to interject “the ambition of taking the club up has been fulfilled already but I’d like to place on record, that is not my achievement – but I certainly enjoyed it!”
It is though, a huge plus point for the club, as is the recruitment of Swinney.
A former community coach at Ochilview he strengthened the programme and local links with Larbert High and the Tryst Sports Club before moving to the Forth Valley Football Academy. Upon its controversial closure earlier this year, Swinney was about to take a Head of Youth position at a Ladbrokes Premiership club, before Stenhousemuir stepped in and strengthened their off-pitch team.
Strengthening Stenhousemuir, is now what Swinney seeks, after the step-up in division last month. On the pitch and off it. Now it’s commercial rather than coaching, balance sheets as well as team sheets, but community links remain important.
“The closure of the Academy gave me the timing and opportunity to come back to a club I loved working at previously in a different capacity but this is a learning curve. Less coaching – no coaching but the opportunity to work with and support the first team manager as well as be involved in the community programme and everything else in terms of the club like facilities and commercial – it is a good challenge for me at this point in time.
“The commercial side is new, the sponsorship and income generation is new, although I’ve been involved in fundraising before, it’s fairly new to me. It’s a lot more significant to the football club and there are more component parts to how we generate income whereas the previous programmes have only two or three streams of how to bring money in. There is a number now and it’s up to me to drive these forward and identify new ones.
“From strategic management of a project or programme I have enough experience behind me from the community programme here, the Tryst Sports Club and the Academy. What’s new for me is the working at first team level, and supporting Brown Ferguson in player recruitment and identification. That’s similar to what I did when identifying and assessing young players but these are senior professional players.
“I had a lot of good years here, in terms of the community football, involvement in the club overall and you become attached to clubs like this. It’s a small club and there’s only so many people involved in it so you get to know them staff, players, supporters, parents.
“You grow with the club. The impact it has on the community is a highly positive one.”
That’s something Swinney wants to build upon and strengthen. We speak 24 hours after the Warriors fun day saw more than 3000 attend Ochilview – generating the sort of income streams he’s looking for, but more importantly for Swinney, placing the club at the heart of the community.
“We need to keep the good work we’re doing in the community and improve on it. There are other areas outwith participation that we can work on. We already do employability and do some work with mental health but there are other avenues and people we can have an impact on. We have enough kids playing football but can we develop our outreach? Can we do a little more to positively impact other areas of the community and have more people buying into the club ethos or coming on a Saturday?
“Generating support on a Saturday is a difficult task for all clubs. If we can do that, that’s two positives for the next few years.”
The winning and successful team on the park will help that too. But so will one of the pilot projects implemented by the new CEO – the Stenhousemuir singing section.
“I remember standing on the terraces singing with my pals, great fun. If we can get that going positively, ensure they continue to create a positive atmosphere it is an area we need to improve. The terrace is empty the majority of weeks so the plan is for a singing section.
“For a number of years the team was competing towards a playoff place at League One but we kept falling at the final hurdles. That’s the aim, to make that step and become a play-off League One team as opposed to a bottom of the league side. You have to look at the part-time teams making to to the Championship, is it possible for us? Not right now is the answer but is it possible in a few years time if we got the infrastructure together?
“We have a three year plan which I’ve been working closely with our new chairman Iain McMenemy on. It’s just about to be finalised. We will look at all aspects, improve on what we need to and improve on what we do well.
“Next is securing funding to replace the smaller pitch pods. Our Community programme does not have a charity status so that could be a medium to long term goal. Plus we need to be in a sustainable position to replace the pitch every six or seven years. We now have the Stenhousemuir amateurs using the pitch every second week so there is another link established there.
“We are in a good position at the moment and if I can help further it and fulfil these objectives it will be good, and we can go from strength to strength and build on the successful promotion-winning season.”