In our regular feature, we hear from Elliott Stanley who is involved at both the Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust and Nottingham Ice Hockey Supporters’ Trust.
See the Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust website or the Nottingham Ice Hockey Supporters’ Trust website for further information on the Trusts and their work.
You’re an active member at both Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust and Nottingham Ice Hockey Supporters’ Trust. What trust did you get involved with first and why?
ES: I got involved with NFST after attending the open meeting held back in April 2016. It came at a time when my patience with Forest was being severely tested (not for the first time!) and it came as a way of trying to, in some way, do something positive in the face of the turmoil at the club. Initially I went along out of curiosity but, to cut a long story short, ended up assuming the role of Chair the following February.
The other element of the ‘why’ for me is that the trust movement is driven by values that I subscribe to. Sporting clubs are community assets and, run properly, they enrich not just those that turn up to watch the senior side every week but the community around them.
When did you become involved with the second trust
ES: Toward the end of 2016 I was asked to give some insight into the NFST journey by the group setting up NIHST.
I’ve remained largely on the periphery of NIHST, primarily because there are only so many hours in the day! After speaking at a couple of informal meetups tt was a real pleasure to speak at the open meeting that resulted in agreement over the need and desire for NIHST to be officially set up.
What are the main issues facing your Trusts at the moment?
ES: At NFST it’s less ‘issues’ and more just trying to match our capacity to get stuff done with our ambition for the Trust to grow and evolve. As with most things at Nottingham Forest over the past couple of decades we were late to the party and while other trusts have many years under their belt we are only just over a year old. Our focus is very much on getting more people involved to help us drive that evolution forward.
We’re very lucky that the landscape at the club has changed dramatically since the Trust was formed and that has meant our initial concerns over the viability of the club as a business have largely been mitigated.
At NIHST it’s a bit of a different story and times have been turbulent to say the least. A point blank refusal for engagement from the management of the Nottingham Panthers has left the interim board of NIHST with a lot of hard work to retain the drive and enthusiasm that was originally so prevalent. Their focus now is very much on recruiting new people to get involved and forming their first elected board. While this might paint a bleak picture I really do believe that ice hockey is an area of huge potential for the trust movement. It may be seen as a niche sport, but is actually the most watched indoor sport in the UK with some of the most passionate sports fans you could meet. Compared to many European countries the exposure and commercial value of the top ice hockey league in the UK is not among the elite whereas it really should be. Embracing, and building on, the strong base that the sport has with such loyal, dedicated fans should, in my opinion, be central to the growth at all levels.
What have been your major achievements at both Trusts over the past year?
ES: I’m really delighted at the growing relationship we’ve developed with the new executive board at Nottingham Forest. With new owners and an entirely new executive team joining the club it was an opportunity to move forward on a positive footing and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Our conversations with Nicholas Randall QC, Chairman of Nottingham Forest have been open and honest, laying the foundations for a strong ongoing dialogue between our members and the club.
We also secured, with the backing of the club, Asset of Community Value status for The City Ground which was a monumental step, not least the fact it was welcomed so warmly by the club itself.
Can you tell us about the first ice hockey match you attended?
ES: I can’t tell you much other than I was very young and the rink stunk but I was hooked by the whole experience! I have no idea who we played or what the score was.
Before we had a shiny, multi-purpose arena in Nottingham we had a very traditional ice rink, full of wood benches and usually a sort of ‘mist’ that would hang over the ice. It was an atmospheric place even if it wasn’t the most comfortable. Many people tell stories of games that finished early because Torvill and Dean were ready to practice, so the game had to stop there, as you can imagine they carried some (metaphorical) weight in those days!
Hockey is very much seen as a niche sport, but when you are from Nottingham that is a bit of an alien concept. This is a hockey town and has been since 1946 when Panthers were formed.
Can you remember and tell us about the first football match you attended?
ES: My first game was Forest vs Leeds on 22nd December 1991. It was a 0-0 draw but I remember being totally in awe of everything – the sounds, the smells, the cold! I think there is something about your first game being in winter, when it gets dark at half time and the floodlights come on, accentuating the mist that is rolling in from the Trent – how can any child not fall in love with Forest when presented with that?
I should add that I quickly racked up my second game, a 1-1 draw against Luton at the The City Ground on New Year’s Day in 1992. A fairly unremarkable game on the face of it, but it did give me the first chance to see a Forest goal and not just any goal. Forest equalised in the 89th minute through Des Walker. His only ever goal in his 801 senior appearances. I think it was the sheer jubilation following the goal that really cemented my love of the game and of Forest.
When you’re not watching football or ice hockey do you follow any other sports?
ES: I’m a big boxing fan. I love the raw theatre of the sport as well as having a strong belief that, as a sport, it offers real benefit at a community level, especially for young people. There is obviously a lot of bravado and hype but when you get in that ring it’s just two people and some gloves, that’s it.
In recent years it’s obviously helped having Carl Froch, one of the greatest British boxers of all time, illuminating Nottingham with his fights. Carl is fiercely proud of his home city so seeing him finally take his place on the world stage was incredible. I actually always got much more nervous watching Carl than I ever have Forest or Panthers. I think it’s probably the fact that it’s just him, that it’s such a raw environment that can all end with a single punch that drives that.
I’m also partial to both Gaelic Football and Hurling. Having spent some time living in Ireland you can’t really avoid Gaelic sports and once you start watching them you are hooked. The sense of pride is huge for the players, representing their counties on a national stage. The fact that there is so little commercialism, yet it’s still such a huge sport across all of Ireland in terms of TV exposure and live spectators makes it almost unique. Seeing Dublin play at Croke Park in front of 80,000 people is something to behold!