THE RISE OF SUTTON UNITED
The Rise of Sutton United
AS SUTTON UNITED HEADS TO PLAY AT WEMBLEY IN APRIL, DAVINA HYDE LOOKS AT THE REMARKABLE HISTORY OF THE LOCAL CLUB AND AT THE DEVELOPMENT OF ITS CHARITABLE FOUNDATION.
Sutton United Football Club delighted fans last year when they got promoted to the ranks of the English Football League at the end of the 2020/21 season, after 123 years spent in the lower leagues.
They haven’t disappointed their fans this season either, being up amongst the promotion places in League 2, with some fantastic wins in the first half of the season. A cup final at Wembley would have been beyond their wildest dreams at the beginning of the season, but they will be there to contest the Papa John’s Trophy final in April.
They have a history to be proud of, making national headlines on more than one occasion. In 1970 they hosted the then mighty Leeds United in the fourth round of the FA Cup at their ground in Gander Green Lane, although sadly they lost 6-0. In 1989, they caused a sensation when they knocked out top division side Coventry City in the third round of the Cup with a 2-1 win. Then, in the 2016/17 season, Sutton United reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, a run which included victories over AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United – but ended in a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal.
The club’s promotion to League 2 has required a lot of change, including ripping up the artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane and replacing it with a grass pitch. It has also meant that the club needed to enhance both the nature and the scale of the services it provides to the local community. The club had, in 2018, set up a small independent charity called Sutton United Youth and Community Foundation to provide activities such as Disability Football and Walking Football for the over-55s. The Football League, however, expects its member clubs to develop a broad range of community services, particularly those involving young people.
A new Head of Foundation and Community Development, Duncan Muller, was recruited last September to lead the Foundation’s growth and to ensure it complies with a detailed Football League Code of Practice which governs every aspect of its activities. He is working hard to build links with local businesses, the council, schools and other sports clubs in the Sutton area.
The Foundation is also looking to work with London United, an informal network of all the London-based major football clubs which benefit from being able to tackle community projects together, thereby hoping to secure greater financial backing.
Besides Disability Football and Walking Football, current projects of the Foundation include an outreach programme at a local school for children with severe learning difficulties, and girls’ football for ages 5-11.
Duncan Muller, Head of Sutton United Youth and Community Foundation, said: “Although we are really new as an organisation we are very excited about the future and looking to work within our fantastic community”.
The Football League provides annual basic funding to the charitable foundations run by its member clubs. Other income for the Foundation is coming initially from sponsorship by local firms and small subscriptions from participants in Walking Football. Full adoption of the rigorous Football League Code of Practice will enable the Foundation to apply for new funding streams to finance a variety of community activities. This will include work with the National Citizen Service which provides personal and social development courses for 16-17 year olds and the KickStart programme for unemployed young people.
Some clubs in the Football League, many of which have been members for decades and are based in populous cities, have an annual turnover of millions of pounds within their charitable foundations. By contrast, the current annual turnover of Sutton United Youth and Community Foundation is yet to reach six figures.
Despite its small size and humble beginnings, the achievements of this club just keep on racking up. Watch this space! In the meantime, we’ll be cheering them on at Wembley on April 3rd as they take on Rotherham United.
History of Sutton United
1898 Two local football clubs amalgamate to form Sutton United
1910 Nicknamed the U’s, the club compete in the South Suburban League (West)
1921 The club move up into the Athenian League
1928 The club win the Athenian League title
1945/46 and 1957/58 The club win the title again
1963/64 The club is elected to the Isthmian League
1967 The club win the Isthmian League title
1986 The club is promoted to the GM Vauxhall Conference (now the National League)
2010/11 The club win the Isthmian League title
2015/16 The club win the National League South
2020/21 The club win the National League – promoted to the English Football League
Main image (c) Paul Loughlin