Local big hitters backing Robins flight to football’s dizzy heights

Altrincham FC (pic by Jonathan Moore)

A quiet revolution is taking place in the most prosperous corner of Greater Manchester, where Altrincham Football Club are daring to dream that they could finally achieve Football League status.

Everyone’s friendly second favourite team in the leafy parts of south Manchester, the Robins currently sit in fourth place in the National League, therefore with a real chance of a place in the play-offs to reach League Two.

Away from his day job as one of the UK’s most prolific corporate financiers with the American owned investment bank Houlihan Lokey, Phil Adams recently led a group of local business people, alongside Shalni Arora, in investing £1.5m in Altrincham FC at the start of the current season. 

Adams, a boyhood Liverpool supporter who has lived in Altrincham for twenty years, said “Shalni and I are both massive football fans and at a dinner last May we talked about how we would love to get involved in a local community football club.

“When we met the board we were blown away by their passion and vision – not only has the football club and team been on the up, they have also built a wonderful Community Trust which runs 40 girls’ teams and 44 boys’ teams as well as doing some inspiring work with some of the less privileged local communities in the area.”

The investment sees a group of over 20 investors, mainly local business people with a direct connection to the local community, own a “significant minority” shareholding.

Altrincham have been one of the mainstays of local non-league football over recent decades, often enjoying cup runs, but never quite having enough to push on to win league status.

“Once we decided to invest, in the space of literally days, we had a group of 25 friends and business contacts, almost exclusively from the local area, who also wanted to get involved. These range from entrepreneurs to private equity investors to professionals and all of us have the common vision to help our local club not just with money but more importantly with our expertise and connections,” Adams says.

Greater Manchester and the North West has seen what can be done when a visionary owner takes hold of a football club and is prepared to invest. Both Salford City, under the Class of 92, and Stockport County, with the backing of Mark Stott from Select Property and the Vita Group, have both climbed out of non-league in recent years.

But the region has also seen the disastrous collapse of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury after poor periods of form, not helped by owners who turned out to be either mad or bad, or both.  

“This is a different model to most clubs who rely on a single dominant shareholder or a small group,” says Adams. “The Alty model completely relies on collaboration and teamwork. The club had followed this model previously so we are just joining an already brilliant group of volunteer investors who make the club tick. How far can we go? The vision is to be the best community football club in the country and keep improving every aspect of the club.  But let’s face it we are all super competitive so we want to help the club to keep winning and see how far it can go.”

Lawrence Looney, Co-Chair of Altrincham, said: “The club has made great progress in recent years moving up two divisions and establishing itself as a full time professional club. 

“Aside from the financial aspect, we believe that this group brings a unique breadth and depth of expertise.  This investment should enable the club to accelerate its growth plans while maintaining its prudent approach to ensure the club has a strong, sustainable and exciting future.”

Shalni Arora, one of the investors, and from the family that founded discount retailer B+M, as well as successfully building DxS, a biotech business, said: “Investing in Altrincham Football Club is more than an investment in football.  It is an investment in our community.  It is such an exciting opportunity to make a difference to those who live, work and play in our local area.  As a group of investors, our vision aligns with the Board’s.  We are a group of shareholders who are passionate about football and how a local club can have a powerful, positive impact on community relations.  The investment will be used to strengthen these relationships as well as enhance fans’ experiences in the stadium.”