Graham Bailie On Bangor FC, Investment And The Reality Of Being A Club Chairman

Graham Bailie On Bangor FC, Investment And The Reality Of Being A Club Chairman

An interview with Graham Bailie, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You are the chairman of Bangor Football Club, what does that role involve on a daily basis at the football club? 

“We’re really lucky because we have a great team of volunteers who support and help us to drive things forward from a board perspective.

“There is around nine people on the board of directors who run the club on a day-to-day basis. Each of us has our own ownership in terms of what our responsibilities are within that and really without each of those nine people, the club doesn’t really function.

“That in turn filters down to the other 120 volunteers we have involved with the club that all have their own individual parts to play in the operating model of the club and again, to be fair, without all of those people, the club wouldn’t be what it is today.

“As for my role as chairman, I am responsible for engaging with the board as a whole as well as our manager Lee Feeney and his management team by having an overview of the football side of things in addition to the business side of things.

“I have to make sure that the manager, staff and players are looked after as best as possible to ensure that they can be as well prepared as possible to succeed while working in as comfortable an environment as possible.

“Overall, as chairman, I have a small part to play in our aim to continue growing the football club because it would not be possible without everyone who works behind the scenes.

“It is exciting to see that the club is really well connected with our town and the local community as a whole.”

I spoke to Bangor legend Paul Byrne a few months ago and he spoke about the success he had with the club and the hope that the club can return to the top of Irish League football. In recent times, things have changed at the club and there has been obviously a lot of progress made. Can you talk me through the journey that the club has been on over the last five years or so?

“Paul was responsible for the single greatest moment in the club’s history by scoring the winner in the Irish Cup final to see us win the cup in the 1990s.

“Paul knows a lot about the club and when he was here, it was a very special time around the early 90s. There is a lot of that early 90s spirit in what we are trying to rekindle at the club to grow ourselves back to where we feel we belong, by competing in the Irish Premiership and sitting at the top table again.

“That being said, we all know that just because you have been there before, it does not automatically mean you have a divine right to be there.

“We must make sure that we give everything in terms of effort and hard work in order to get there.

“From our own perspective over the last few years, we’ve grown the club from a one club team with the only focus being on the first team to now having around about 15 or 16 youth teams, that cover both girls and boys football.

”We also have a women’s team who are in the Championship of the footballing pyramid. The ambition is to get them into the Premiership, as well as get the men’s team there.

“We have also invested quite heavily in our social club. We want to ensure that there is a really warm, welcoming environment for both our own members and any visiting teams as well.

“Within the local community, we are integrating things like walking football into what we offer and we have a team that are using the club on a Friday morning.

“We have worked hard in recent years to be there for the community rather than thinking that the community should automatically be there for us.

“We have had fantastic business support from local businesses, which is obviously vital in order to push the club forward from a financial perspective.

“However, within the aspect of financial support, we are also looking to build, partnerships with businesses to ensure they see the value of what they are putting into the football club and getting the reward back from that.

“Moreover, we want to be as successful as we can be on and off the pitch in order to find as many people that want to be involved in helping drive Bangor forward.”

In recent years, there has been an array of investment within the Irish League. Larne have had investment from Kenny Bruce, Coleraine have just secured fresh investment and Carrick Rangers are another who have attracted investment from the US. There have been rumours surrounding potential investment at Bangor from overseas investors. Is there any truth in those rumours and and what are the aims of the club in the coming years?

“As you’ve said, it’s certainly an exciting time for the Irish League pyramid as a whole with more interest in the league from fans, media and investors alike.

“The work that Kenny Bruce and the guys have done in Larne in creating the model they’ve created is inspiring and I’m very thankful for the advice they have given me and the open-door policy that they have in terms of sharing their knowledge.

“They’ve raised the bar for clubs in Northern Ireland and the Irish League has benefited from that because we should always aim for the highest of standards.

“In terms of investment into Bangor, we are still in talks with the guys from North America around the potential investment.

“I think that investment boost would be able to, I suppose, fast-track the club to where would like to be.

“We are looking at the likes of Larne, Glentoran, and Linfield, looking at that full-time model and thinking how it could work for us in future.

“Does it look like a complete full-time model or is it a hybrid model you need to go for? These are questions that we are asking ourselves because ultimately, that is the ambition of the club.

“Obviously, capital injection into the football club allows you to do a lot more in a quicker space of time however, everyone at the club knows that the key thing for us is that we’ll do the best thing for Bangor Football Club.

“That will always be at the centre of any decision we make, we do hope to have some more clarity over the next four to six weeks around how that looks and what it looks like for the club and then, we can integrate that in the business plan if the investment proposal right for the club itself.”