Mike Redwood

Columnist

International Leather Maker


You would have thought it was a scene from one of the great football stadiums of the world, but the celebrations when the Glovers won their league (the sixth tier of the English football league system) felt equally grand, emotionally charged and significant at lowly Huish Park. This was Yeovil Town Football Club in Southwest England only a few days ago. It was not the English Premier League or one of the other great soccer leagues of the world but the National League South, five leagues below. Yeovil have never been in the top tier and season ticket holders have watched them fall through four of the other leagues in just the past decade.

This is beside the point; the passion is every bit as good. Yeovil is not a city with millions of inhabitants, but a relatively small town with about 45,000 people. Its not a wealthy place and rather overloaded with elderly people. Many of these people once worked making gloves, or in the tanneries that supplied them with glove leather. The football club, founded 130 years ago, was soon nicknamed the Glovers and the name has stuck despite the industry decline.

What matters here is that a significant part of the engagement that creates the excitement for small clubs such as Yeovil Town is the way they are embedded in the community. While the branding, the marketing and the efficiencies have their place, such sports clubs can only succeed because of their local citizens continue to support them.

For the Glovers, this has been recently highlighted with a previous club owner who was neither good at business nor local. Things fell into decline. When a new successful local businessman and long-term supporter managed to wrestle back control, the change has been dramatic. Attendance, club income and team performance were all transformed in less than 12 months. The club and the community are moving in the right direction.

Local businesses

We often look at leather as a global business and keep trying to find ways of proving how enormous we are in comparison to other products such as coffee or chocolate. We need to ally that with the essential truth that tanning leather will always come down to a series of local businesses who can only do well over the years and decades if they are fully engaged in their communities. To renovate, expand, add regenerative power, hire, retain, train and re-train means staying close to the people who live nearby. Historically, tanners existed where almost all their requirements were locally available. Scale, specialisation along with urbanisation and the need to have conglomeration to handle water and wastes have forced some change in that pattern, but in today’s changing world, being local is starting to rise in importance once more. We should ensure that everywhere we refocus on our communities.


mike@internationalleathermaker.com

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