Cheltenham Town: Building for the Future

— 16 minute read

[Accessibility Notice: an audio recording of this page is available here:]

Dear fellow Robins fans,

So close, but in the end it wasn't to be.

After the disappointment of relegation, It's now time to reflect and plan for the future.

As a Trust board, we had been in the process of putting together a plan for what we think the Club's priorities need to be and what the future of our Club could look like.

Thank you first of all to everyone who responded to our recent surveys and who has contacted the Trust directly, we really appreciate and value your feedback.

The recent Fans' Forum brought many of the underlying issues and topics into the open, and it became clear to us that now was the right time to share our thoughts and an outline plan.

So here it is, entitled Cheltenham Town: Building for the Future

We want this to be the starting point for an exciting plan for the future. One that unites and galvanises the supporters, the Trust, the Club’s board and staff and significant shareholders.

In a spirit of openness and collaboration, we shared this starting point document with the club’s board and major shareholders yesterday. And now we are sharing it with you, our members.

Significant work has gone in to getting this document together. The whole Trust board has collaborated on it, and we have received advice from chairs of other Clubs and from business leaders independent of our Club.

It is not a list of demands, nor is it a final document. We want to collaborate and invite feedback and comments from the entire Cheltenham Town family to make this work.

To quote our introduction: We want to take stock of the Club’s achievements and identify areas where improvements can be made to maximise potential and break through the current glass ceiling.

We would love to hear your thoughts, comments – whether they are good or critical, it all helps to shape the narrative.

And if you would like to be part of the process, contributing your unique skills, or simply want to donate time to the process, please contact us at:

Thank you to all of you for your ongoing support - and welcome to our newest members.

The Trust's Statement

The Robins Trust is keen to work with Cheltenham Town Football Club on a strategic review aimed at building on past successes and positioning our club for the future.

We want to take stock of the Club’s achievements and identify areas where improvements can be made to maximise potential and break through the current glass ceiling.

The Trust Board has been working on proposals that we believe will assist the Club in developing an aspirational plan for the future.

Put simply, the more that we can grow the club off the field, the more we can grow on it.


The following document has been produced by the Trust board as a conversation starter and exploration of ideas following the feedback of fans in recent surveys, and elsewhere.

We will continue to engage with, and invite feedback from our members and the wider Cheltenham Town fan base in the coming days and weeks to help frame this process.

We believe the crucial next step will be to commission an independent and formal strategic review of the club’s structure and operations and, following expert advice, we have already identified two experienced football professionals to help with that process.

We have shared this document with the Club’s board of directors and the controlling shareholders and look forward to collaborating with them on the next steps.

The main document below presents our ideas under the following themes:

  • Driving modernisation and becoming proactive - starting with the independent and formal strategic review.
  • Ground development and asset management - creating a timetable for ground development and driving revenue growth at Seasons.
  • Creating a volunteer army - unleashing and valuing the talent and dedication of fans who can help deliver projects and matchday operations.
  • Improving supporter engagement - going beyond minimum EFL and regulatory requirements to make CTFC an exemplar.
  • Being an anchor organisation in our community - an ambition to make CTFC a key institution in the town and county and a hub for business and community networks.
  • Celebrating diversity and reflecting the fan base - steps to make CTFC a more welcoming place to visit because a more diverse fanbase is a larger fanbase.


At the same time as asking for a review of the Club’s operations we have been looking at ourselves and how the Trust operates. This internal review has explored what we do well, what we don’t do well, and what we need to do more of. The invaluable input of fans so far has been an important part of this process.

As a result of the review, we will shortly be revealing our own Robins Trust 2030 Strategy for consultation. The strategy will set our goals and action plan for the next five years on how we can grow membership and represent fans more visibly and effectively.

We also need your help. We want representation across the complete spectrum of the Cheltenham Town fanbase to facilitate our vision for the future.

More importantly, the greater our representation, the more significant our voice can be.

Join us and be part of the journey to take Cheltenham Town Football Club – our Club – to a new level.

Cheltenham Town FC: Building for the Future

Cheltenham Town fans are united in their desire to see a plan for the future. The below is not a list of demands, it is intended to be the start of a discussion that will touch all stakeholders.

Enacting this plan will require a different approach from before and it is likely that there will be pain points in it becoming reality.

But it is our belief that for our club to be a forward-thinking, ambitious and stable club, thriving in the Football League and serving our community, many of the things below must happen.

Most of the actions below require the club to operate a new staffing model, one that puts greater emphasis on what goes on off the pitch.

We are realistic enough to appreciate that this will come at an expense - at least in the short-term - to the playing budget.

But in the long-term we are confident all these initiatives will create long-term payback and value.


Cheltenham Town is an outlier in the EFL in that it is one of a small handful of clubs without anyone in a senior executive management position - a CEO or Managing Director.

Instead, the Club operates with a mostly voluntary Board of Directors and with a small number of full-time staff performing certain specific functions.

We believe the appointment of a senior executive is essential if the club is to become the modern, forward-thinking and aspirational football club we all want it to be.

A senior executive will deliver the step change needed around commercial performance, which is vital for realising long-term potential, if not survival.

A senior executive will also bring together the commercial and football sides of the business and have daily management oversight of budgets and target.

It will also be the facilitating factor in helping all of the initiatives below to become reality.

We recognise that the appointment of a talented senior executive will cost money, at a time when the club is forecasting a loss.

However, there is plenty of evidence to show that a talented individual in such a role can significantly drive up revenue.

We can point to a recent example where a CEO doubled a club’s (a similar size and turnover to Cheltenham) annual revenues while simultaneously overseeing significantly increased attendances and elevating community and fan engagement.

There is a wealth of untapped potential for the Club to develop in this area and we see the appointment of a senior executive, reporting to the Board of Directors, being the key to unlocking that potential.

A good senior executive will develop the Club’s culture and be responsible for leading an energised and productive team of staff and allow the Board of Directors to spend their valuable time on other activities to grow the Club.

We have no doubt that the right appointment will pay for itself and then some (and quite quickly) and will enable the Club to better achieve its other objectives.


It is the widespread view of the fanbase that developing the stadium is key to the future financial stability and success of the Club.

The current financial mode means that the redevelopment of the main stand has to be considered - realistically - as a long-term objective.

The Trust have made attempts to move the project forward, utilising the strength of the contacts we have with the Football Supporters Association (FSA).

Through the FSA the Trust were introduced to a firm of master-planners and architects who have a rich experience in stadium development.

Meetings were held and documents detailing the site were shared, we introduced the firm to the Club and an onsite ground survey of both the Main Stand and Prestbury Road end was carried out.

The Club Board have chosen to speak to another company. It is not clear what steps have been taken since.

The Trust have also campaigned for the increased and improved provision of cycling facilities, including securing external funding to contribute to the improved provision, and we anticipate that this will be in place before the start of next season.

In terms of the improvement of Whaddon Road, we would also explore financing options to scope out what is possible - ranging from private investment, making the most of grants that might be available to potential joint venture partnerships with Cheltenham Borough Council and/or other entities.

A senior executive at the club would be key to these enquiries being followed up and acted upon.

Depending on the outcome of those lines of enquiry, we will be in a position to update the supporters as to realistic timetables, rather than it being left lingering as a long-term pipe dream.

If significant ground redevelopment is not presently viable, we shall explore what can be done to the Main Stand to bring it to a sufficient level to maximise commercial opportunities.

For instance, refurbishing the interior, exploring options to make the most of the car parking space (for instance, pop up units), and/or improving the communal facilities.

What is clear to all is that the Main Stand is currently not fit for the high standards that modern supporters are entitled to expect in the modern day.

We would also undertake a similar assessment for the Training Ground. The Training Ground is an asset wholly owned by the Football Club which has potential to generate more revenue. Credit must go to the Board of Directors and shareholders for facilitating this purchase.

Apart from the training pitches and facilities, modest investment in, and marketing of, the commercial and corporate offer can help embed the Club in the regional business ecosystem and provide a steady revenue stream.

This needs to start with the lick of paint (to quote Darrell Clarke) and a dedicated website, and seeking investors, so that one day we can create a new-build commercial, hospitality and education spaces as well as sports facilities.


It could not be more obvious from the surveys we have undertaken that there is a considerable appetite for fans to volunteer their time and expertise towards our club. For a club that has been built on the foundation of the hard work of volunteers, there is more we can do to widen our base.

We plan to formalise this by putting together a programme of works and activities and opening this out to the fanbase to see who is ready, willing and able to contribute towards certain projects.

In addition, we would also ask willing volunteers to input on where they feel they can add value and see what other projects can be developed by combining the time and skillsets of our fanbase.

A change in the relationship the club has with volunteers is also vital. There have been too many stories of volunteers leaving posts due to feeling undervalued. We will work with the club to produce a new model for volunteer engagement.

Every year we will report the impact our volunteers have on the Club and the community on matchdays so that everyone can see how important they are and the value they bring.

Recognising and communicating the difference our volunteers make is a crucial part of our story.


Engaging with supporters is absolutely essential to the long-term success of any football club.

Current EFL engagement standards are not fit for purpose and the Trust is already working hard with the FSA to bring around a step change in engagement.

Supporter Engagement is a key facet of the Football Governance Bill and standards of engagement will be a key consideration of the Independent Regulator for Football.

Currently, a club is required to hold two forums per year as a minimum standard, most clubs move beyond that base level.

We propose establishing a detailed engagement standard, that would codify the relationship between the Club and Robins Trust.

If, as expected, Fan Advisory Boards form part of the Football Governance Bill, we will work alongside the club to set the terms of reference for that relationship moving forward.

Supporter Engagement should not be a box-ticking exercise. It should be an exciting method for ensuring the fans’ voice is heard and that decision-makers are accountable.


It is a fundamental role of our Club to be an ambassador for our community.

It is our belief that it is time for our club to play a significantly higher-profile role in that community and become a true ‘anchor institution’ for Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds.

Anchor Organisations are those which have an important presence in a place, whether as a focal point for communities, a hub for business, significant employers, purchasers of goods and services in the locality, or owning large areas of land and assets.

The excellent work of the Community Trust provides a platform for doing more, and supporting the Community Trust to do more is crucial to being a successful Anchor Organisation.

We believe that Cheltenham Town and the Community Trust should be seen as being as key to Cheltenham as GCHQ, the Racecourse, public bodies, and Festivals. This could mean more outreach and engagement with schools, businesses, communities and the council.

Over time this means we should be hosting or even sponsoring business events at the training ground, providing opportunities for young people to benefit from work experience or apprenticeships, making our facilities open for community activities all week and collaborating with other organisations to bid for funding.

The relationships and partnerships developed will help us build support to deliver our other aims of improving the Club’s facilities and finances.

As well as benefiting the Club, by acting as an anchor Cheltenham Town and the Community Trust can benefit the town as a whole.

For example, one of the much larger and more established community foundations reports that for every £1 invested in their work the public purse saves £39 in community benefits (


One of the great successes of the Club in recent years have been the launches of Her Game Too and Proud Robins.

We plan to set up a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sub-committee, who will work with the Board, to ensure that different voices are heard at Board level.

Our club should be welcoming, inviting and accommodating to the entire community, regardless of characteristics or disabilities

We want to ensure that the Club is as inclusive an environment as it can be.

We have worked together with the Club to introduce important measures already – for instance, the discrimination reporting hotline and the provision of sanitary products in women’s toilets as well as being the driving force behind establishing the HerGameToo partnership.

A formal committee will help to build on these successes and to drive up collaboration across all stakeholders. We believe that by building diversity, we build the fan base.

Thank you for reading

The Robins Trust Board

James Young, Dave Beesley, Jenny Hancock, John Cooper, Ryan Grimmett, Jaimie Henderson, Leo Hoenig, Sam Lear, Sam Nair, Simon Watten.

A Robins Trust for the Future

At the same time as asking for a review of the Club’s operations we have been looking at ourselves and how the Trust operates.

This internal review has explored what we do well, what we don’t do well, and what we need to do more of. The invaluable input of fans so far has been an important part of this process.

We will are using the review as the starting point to deliver a tangible vision and strategy for the Robins Trust itself that will guide our work for the remainder of this decade.

After all, what we do to grow the Trust also has to help grow the football club. We will be soon revealing our own Robins Trust 2030 Vision for consultation. The strategy will set our goals and action plan for how we can grow membership and represent fans more visibly and effectively.

Our goals and actions will include how we can better engage and represent all fans and how we can grow our investment in, and influence of, the Club.

We look forward to sharing this with you and we shall be arranging an open meeting to discuss how we can – collectively - take this forward.

The Football Supporters Association will be helping us to facilitate this process and have agreed to help us hold a ‘Strategy Day’ during the summer, to invite opinions from Trust members.

We want representation from the complete spectrum of the Cheltenham Town fanbase to facilitate our vision for the future.

And more importantly, the larger the representation we have, the more significant our say can be.

Join us and be a part of the journey to take Cheltenham Town Football Club - Our Club - to a new level.