Less than 2 months after Grecian hearts were broken at Wembley, and Exeter City are running out at Twerton Park for a pre-season friendly with Bath City. The entertainment is slightly different too; no ticker tape and fireworks but a half time penalty shoot-out with supporters and mascots to decide who wins, if the game ends in a draw.
As it turned out the Exeter City supporters can take a much better penalty than both Bath City supporters and players, with a missed penalty at 0-0 robbing Bath City a chance at their first silverware in a new chapter of ownership at the club. In the end, the Devon side were comfortable 2-0 winners but this was about far more than just a game of football, there was a cup to play for.
The SD Cup is an annual fixture held between two Supporter-Owned football clubs to celebrate the role supporters play in owning and supporting their own football clubs up and down the country. Running since 2002 the first winner of the SD Cup was AFC Wimbledon, as they beat Enfield Town, 3-2. When AFC Wimbledon were being starting out they received a great deal of help from Enfield Town. That support was cemented in a friendly game and it was the first time two supporter’s trust-owned clubs had played each other. Since then, two more clubs meeting this requirement have been invited every summer to take part in that event.
The match was renamed the “Brian Lomax SD Cup” in memory of the former SD Managing Director, considered to be the “founding father” of the Supporters Trust movement, after becoming the first elected Director of a professional football club at Northampton Town FC. Honoured with an OBE in 2009 for services to the game, Lomax’s life touched and inspired many people before he sadly passed away in 2015 at the age of 67. FC Business recently recognised the role he has played in the game naming him the 24th most influential person in football business, since the magazine started.
Although he did not want fame, by renaming the Cup our aim is to make everyone remember him and we are very proud to honour his memory annually with this fixture. The trophy has Jock Stein’s maxim inscribed “Football without fans is nothing”, and it was fitting that Brian’s partner Catharine was on hand to present the trophy at Twerton Park.
The invitational match provides an opportunity to celebrate two of the 50+ supporter owned clubs, and this year it was great to see one of the oldest and most successful supporter owned clubs, Exeter City, play one of the newest in Bath City.
Exeter City are proving to be an inspiration to clubs around the country with their strategy of supporting and developing talent in the local area. The club continue to benefit from a team of talented volunteers mobilised by the Supporters Trust showing that supporter ownership even in professional football can be a competitive advantage, outshining many of their better resourced rivals. A narrow play off defeat at Wembley last season, a squad containing a number of young home grown talented players, and infrastructure developments at the Cat and Fiddle training ground and St James Park bode well for next season and beyond.
As for the Romans, there is a buzz back at Twerton Park who are about to embark on their first season as a club majority owned by the supporters. That was largely thanks to a fantastic campaign, ‘The Big Bath Bid’ which raised money and profile for the club (even Mr Cantona got behind it), uniting supporters and the community. Attracting more people up the hill from the City is the aim, a prize that dangles from the terraces containing surely one of the best views of the City.
For all the hard work in Bath over the past year I think we can let them off a few missed penalties.