Every month the Football Supporters’ Federation features an affiliate or associate member to highlight good work carried out by fans – if you’d like to appear email firstname.lastname@example.org. This month it’s the turn of Derby County group RamsActive.
RamsActive is a self-funded Derby County supporters’ group, an Associate Member of the FSF for over two years, which has its foundations in voluntary and heritage work spanning well over a decade before the group was formed.
Co-founder Paul Mortimer explains: “Myself, twin brother David and fellow co-founder Paul Sanders had several decades of experience in sales, administrative and educational roles. We’d already put that to active use with the Derby County supporter trust for many years”.
They became primary fundraisers by establishing a range of Rams-related merchandise, sold mainly at regular supporter events. They also helped to progress the acquisition of the giant ‘Super Rams’ flag seen at Derby County matches, and participated in significant DCFC heritage achievements, including the Steve Bloomer memorial fund and the Clough & Taylor statue project.
During that decade, there were challenges to Derby County’s ownership and administration. Supporter protest campaigns, ‘board out’ demonstrations and petitioning of the club’s bankers ultimately led to a club takeover, with convictions and custodial sentences for several ex-directors.
“Those experiences brought more awareness of governance issues – Derby could easily have fallen victim to financial ruin but for supporter intervention. We don’t carry old political baggage though do promote the national supporter groups. We’ll publicise issues like safe standing and fair ticket pricing, alongside our heritage and charity activity”, adds Paul.
Awarded life membership for their services to the trust, the twins left the board in 2012. “We handed back responsibilities in order to devote time to family matters – so the trust needed to find new blood”, explained David.
In due course, Paul Sanders encouraged the twins to re-start their activity on an independent basis. Their motivation was to continue supporting the clubs’ heritage among fans but also to benefit local and national charities.
“Paul reminded us that we had the knowledge, energy and network to make a difference and so RamsActive became an identity that club, fans and other partners could recognise and support”.
Mr Sanders passed away in August 2014 in his native Solihull at the age of 74. He had been active until the end of his life, despite multiple disabilities.
Paul continued: “He was a great example to others and refused to let his lack of mobility halt his active involvement”. After serving the supporters’ trust, he contributed to the RamsActive effort beyond his 74th birthday, also attending FSF & SD meetings and DCFC fans’ forums. Mr Sanders also chaired several Council and community bodies.
RamsActive’s early participation included supporting the Kick It Out campaign’s ‘Weeks of Action’ and presenting a stall at ‘Derbyshire Day’ (BBC Radio Derby’s annual outdoor community event, pictured above) at Hardwick Hall. They contributed a Steve Bloomer exhibition to ‘Cradley Day’, a heritage festival held in the West Midlands town that was the birthplace of the legendary Derby and England striker.
In November 2012, RamsActive promoted their own ‘Rams, Radio & Writers’ football forum, featuring BBC local radio presenters, football authors and journalists in support of The Stroke Association and Diabetes UK.
Regular events followed, including heritage and charity fund-raising activities, as well as a book launch and involvement in high-profile football forums at the iPro Stadium and other venues, featuring a host of ex-Rams stars and sports personalities.
Their activity-based philosophy and targeted merchandise policy ensures that RamsActive can sustain participation in the community, celebrate DCFC’s heritage and support favoured causes. They also hosted a matchday collection on behalf of Diabetes UK at the Derby vs. Charlton Capital One Cup tie by arrangement with the club.
RamsActive is a truly independent fans group; as an Associate FSF Member it does not operate a formal voting structure or fee-paying membership. Their growing network has provided resources such as a website, merchandise range and a substantial mailing list, compiled primarily through meeting fans in the public arena. There’s also a dedicated RamsActive Pinterest photo-site.
“It’s not an anonymous or static record of email addresses; we’ve met or worked closely with most people on our contact list, from regular fans and local media to Faye Nixon, Derby County’s SLO”, David said. “We have a good working relationship with DCFC; they identify with our charitable aims and appreciate our heritage work”.
An example of the proactive approach is participation in Derby Telegraph’s “Roar on the Rams” campaign in April 2014, to pump up the excitement among fans as Derby took on Brighton and then QPR in the Championship play-offs.
“We struck up a ROTR image on a fridge magnet which the Telegraph publicised, amongst their many features about other supporters who also got involved”, David explained. “The fridge magnets went viral and meeting demand became quite a task – but sales helped us to donate more to charity”.
RamsActive is clearly not a short-term ‘pop-up’ group destined to vanish after one hobby-horse project, nor is it beholden to a formal committee structure that might become remote and moribund if it cannot retain or refresh its active membership.
The group now has a busy diary that includes frequent matchday events, football forums and memorabilia fairs – an involvement in Rams-related activities that has taken them from Cradley to Matlock Bath, from Burton-on-Trent to Kedleston Hall.
“In a nutshell, we want to sustain a heritage presence for fans to enjoy, combining that with the encouragement to support charities”, explains Paul. The group’s donation from their Derbyshire Day 2014 proceeds went to the British Heart Foundation, in accordance with the wishes of Paul Sanders’ family.
The group will also help Derby County’s charity target of £25,000 for the club’s nominated 2014-15 charity partner, Macmillan Cancer Support.
Derby County could soon be back in the Premier League – then it will be onwards and upwards for the club and their ‘active Rams!’
For more on Rams Active visit their website – www.ramsactive.co.uk