How Stockport’s football club and community are surviving by supporting one another

Smabs Sputzer / Flickr

From playing debates to charitable acts, football has rarely been out of the headlines during lockdown.

But not every team has received the recognition they deserve. 

Stockport County FC – a club that sits seven miles south of Manchester and four tiers below the region’s two top teams – has been hit harder than most by the pandemic.

But they’ve still been doing their bit to help out their local community.

Right at the start of lockdown, The Hatters donated £75,000 at to the Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and have since pledged to donate £3 from every purchase of their new 2020/21 shirt to the trust as well.

When the situation is put into perspective, it becomes clear just how significant the contributions from Edgeley Park actually are.

There are plenty of out of contract players in the lower divisions who are at risk of unemployment.

Some football clubs may even go under entirely.

Things will only get worse if fans are not allowed into stadiums next season, with many teams relying on ticket sales to keep their clubs running. 

That’s why a side in Stockport’s position, making donations in the current climate, is worthy of applause.

Smabs Sputzer  / Flickr

Of course, County know what it’s like to go through financial difficulties. 

The club struggled throughout the 2000s, eventually being sold in 2005 to the Stockport County Supporter’s Trust for just £1.

The club were later placed into administration in 2009 as their situation failed to improve. 

The financial troubles eventually spilled over onto the pitch, with the club sliding down the leagues until they dropped out of the football league entirely in 2011/12 for the first time in their history. 

Fans nowadays, however, about more positive about the future under new owner, Mark Stott.

David, who runs the supporters group @stockport_fans on Twitter, believes the club will be “fine” during this time and has faith in the new owner to do what’s best for the club:

“Mark Stott has the financial punch to keep this club afloat while being sensible,” David tells The Manc.

“He has laid out plans of what he wants to do and achieve already and has put together a team to keep it that way.

“We can survive.”

It’s perhaps no surprise supporters are happy, given that their owner is a longtime fan of the club and recognises the importance of Stockport County to the town. 

Following the takeover back in January, Stott said that he wanted to deepen the club’s “longstanding ties with the local community”, calling Stockport a “unique community club”.

County clearly haven’t forget how the community supported them during their most “arduous” times, and they have been looking to lend a hand wherever possible during the pandemic.

Smabs Sputzer / Flickr

In recent weeks, Stockport have also been putting the spotlight on their local sponsors. 

On the club website, you’ll find a series which aims to “highlight the current operations and offerings of [their] club sponsors during these most difficult of times” in order to “return the favour” for all the support the businesses have given them over the years. 

Despite the financial improvements over the past few months, fans are still weighing in to help the club in whatever way they can – backed by community group Help the Hatters.  

David, a volunteer for Help the Hatters has said the group is all about “getting things done”.

While volunteers primarily provide practical support to help maintain the facilities at Edgeley Park, they’ve also created The Stockport County Museum at the ground – turning an unused space into something useful for the community. 

The group has defied its size to make a definite difference over the past decade.

Just last month, they were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – which is the highest award a volunteer group can receive in the UK. 

Wikipedia

Following their award, Chief Executive for the Hatters, Johnny Vaughan, said: “Ever since I came to County in January, I have been staggered by the amount of work this relatively small group of volunteers achieves on a weekly basis.

“This accolade is deserved recognition for everything they do and we are delighted that they are being honoured for their incredible efforts.”

Community is at the heart of Stockport County, but above all else, fans just want to get back to watch their team play.

As Russ Johnson, founder of the fans podcast ‘The Scarf Bergara Wore’, aptly summarised: “County fans are so because we go to the games, we walk the streets and we know our club inside out.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about that we cannot have our match days.”

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