8 December 2023
“A bloody rollercoaster!”
Are the first three words from Robin Stanton-Gleaves, Bromley FC Owner and Chairman when asked to reflect on a year that will be remembered for decades to come in the club’s history.
2022 has had it all. Highs, lows and everything in between. Looking back on the past 12 months, Stanton-Gleaves has led the club through some tricky spells, as well as one of the proudest days to be a Raven.
“We came into the year on the back of a super league run, we were certainly in the top four/five, I think at some point over Christmas there was even a chance of us going top. We had a bit of a bumpy Christmas but had some ok results. Then, coming into the New Year, we lost form.
“Personally, I think the team and the Management became a bit distracted by their success and approaches from other football clubs. Then we had a couple of significant injuries which led to us losing our league form.”
Stanton-Gleaves added: “Our target was to hit seventh place, and we didn’t get there, so that to me was a failure. The highlight on the pitch was of course on the 22nd of May. For all the disappointment of the League, it was a superb day out, a well-executed game of football and I was very proud to own the football club on that day, winning the FA Trophy.”
The Bromley FC season was at full pelt off the pitch as well. Despite challenging economic times, investment has continued into the Hayes Lane Stadium to make it the envy of many clubs. Not only in the National League but higher up in the EFL too. Stanton-Gleaves admitted:
“Off the pitch, it has equally been the same sort of rollercoaster because we commenced a new venue at the football club. A seven day a week operation in Broomfields to help keep up the sustainability and value within the football club.
“I’ve never been a restaurant owner, I’ve never been a bar owner, so that was a new learning curve for me. I don’t mind admitting there have been some ups and downs with that but I’m very pleased with what we have today with Broomfields becoming a key feature of Bromley Football Club and a great asset to the wider community.”
Of course, the past few years have been tough for a range of reasons – Covid, the conflict in Ukraine and soaring cost of living have all had and continue to have a huge impact on the club as a business particularly the massive hike in utility costs impacting our supporters, our staff and the wider community too.
It’s been challenging. It’s been tough. And it still is. But 2022 has also seen growth with encouraging signs for a thriving future and there is a sense of pride for Stanton-Gleaves, that the club continues to grow despite obstacles that have presented themselves.
“For me personally, Covid was expensive because the football club had to be run without the income revenues we enjoy. So personally, Covid seems a long, long way away from me and I’m so pleased about that. Our sponsors and partners were incredible during that time too.
“Secondly, the supporters coming back into the ground was a pleasure to see and I think I’ve already forgotten just how it was like when they weren’t here. We need our supporters here and we missed them. Our fanbase has gone up, our average crowd number has gone up, our number of season ticket holders has gone up.
“It’s difficult to draw a correlation between the current times and where we really are at Bromley in terms of our sustainable growth. I do think that we do everything we can to get it right at the football club. Whether it’s the price of the season ticket or match ticket, entertainment on and off the pitch and the key role of our wider community outreach and partner engagement. I am glad some of the initiatives around our club merchandise have been well received.”
Stanton-Gleaves is under no illusions that some of the challenges of 2022 will be around for some time yet. It is therefore more important than ever that the business side of the football club is as critical as the business on the pitch. Bromley’s aspirations are clear. Promotion to the EFL.
“We are operating in a culture of the EFL. The facilities we have here, with the exception of our 3G pitch which we have contingency plans for, means we could go up to League Two tomorrow. I think we are geared up for the Football League; I don’t know when that purple patch is going to happen but know it’s coming.”
A closer connection to the community has already been made courtesy of success at Wembley, the creation of a fantastic Community Trust and an approach to fan engagement which is inviting to new supporters as well as the loyal followers of Bromley FC.
Where the club is in December 2022 is already very different to December 2021 and we’re sure that by December 2023 we will have moved on even further.
When it comes to setting targets and goals, Stanton-Gleaves revealed his approach:
“I don’t set specific goals for the calendar year. It tends to be for the football season, and they are both financial and performance related results. Specifically for 2022, because we came into the year living week by week because of Covid, coming out of Covid and the increase of crowds, it was hard to determine as we weren’t sure when lockdowns and restrictions might get turned on again or off!
“The population of Bromley is 300,000 and I believe we should have 1% of them coming to Hayes Lane for our home games. We are not there yet and that’s my immediate target.
“Having the best part of 3,000 Season Ticket Holders is a sure sign we are on the road to getting there. We all know what happens on the pitch is what attracts people to come. If those 3,000 come and get entertained both on the pitch and off it, then we are going the right way.”
The journey can be unpredictable, but it is on the right track and this time of year offers a chance to slow down (maybe just a little!) into the Christmas period. Today marks the final game of the year here at Hayes Lane but that doesn’t mean the festivities end on the final whistle.
Always thinking ahead, Stanton-Gleaves has a few events planned to bring supporters and the community together later in the month, even if the football fixtures try to determine otherwise!
“Unfortunately, our last home game is on the 10th of December. As holders of the FA Trophy, we get drawn away. I think we should have a right to a home draw. I want to write to The FA and ask for that!
“The 10th feels a little too early, so we’ve put an event on in the lead up to Christmas. We have made them, I think, very reasonably priced for £15 per person to come and enjoy the festivities in Broomfields. It’s a great chance to celebrate with the whole football club after we’ve not been together for a few Christmases now.”
Supporting any football club offers the ride of a lifetime, owning one even more so. As our chat concludes, it felt right to ask Stanton-Gleaves a similar question to the one with which I opened with.
What three words spring to mind, when you think of Bromley FC in 2023?
After much consideration, the Chairman replies.
“Building good habits. He adds, If I can expand upon that point for supporters. In 2023, I want to work hard to get into good habits on and off the pitch and make those good habits better. So, they become a part of the Bromley DNA and our way of being at Bromley Football Club.
“Those finals words leave very little more to say. Except. Buckle up, hold on tight. The ride is only really getting started.
“Have a wonderful Christmas and see you back here on New Year’s Day.”