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Lincoln United look to the future after years of struggling off the pitch

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: August 31, 2012

Lincoln United manager Terry Fleming

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Two years ago Lincoln United was a club on the brink.

Bills were struggling to be met and the immediate future of the 74-year-old Whites was in serious jeopardy.

"Things weren't going well and we were struggling to get finance in," recalled current chairman Malcolm Cowling.

"Quite a few of the people who had supported the club over the years had moved on for different reasons, which happens in football.

"It really was a club in decline and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say we were in danger of not being able to continue at this level (Evo-Stik League)."

Two years on, the Whites are on a much firmer footing off the pitch. A new board is at the helm and the club has vowed to live within its means.

The road to recovery began when former chairman John Dolan and long-serving club secretary and ex-manager John Wilkinson formed a new board.

"They said we had to do something serious, otherwise the club was not going to be able to carry on at this level," continued Cowling, who replaced Dolan as chairman last November.

"That would have been bad for the club and it would have been bad for the people who have put in so much effort over the years to make it what it is.

"They approached myself and people like Allen Crombie and Maurice Bull and we put together a new board.

"We set ourselves some ambitious targets. We set the target of getting promotion, making ourselves a community club and improving the facilities.

"But the fourth unwritten objective was to do everything on sound business principles.

"We wanted to run the club like a business and that's how the new board has worked going forward."

Cowling and his board's plans go much further than merely improving the Whites' fortunes on the pitch.

Creating a social hub to benefit the local community is one of their core objectives.

"We have a vision that in three or four years time when you come down to Lincoln United you'll see an entirely different footprint," explained Cowling.

"You'll probably see a different building structure. We may have a two-tier building. The bottom tier will be our sports area for changing rooms, the top tier will also be hospitality suites which can also double as social activity rooms during the week.

"Obviously those plans depend on what grant funding we can secure.

"But we want to make this club more than just a football club, we want it to be a local community hub where people can and get a good range of activities, both sporting and social.

"Last season was the first season and our four-year plan. It was a disappointing season both and off the field.

"Like a lot of clubs we struggled financially. We managed to finish last season on an even financial base, albeit after some serious contributions from the board."

Cowling admits difficult days lay ahead, particularly after the Whites' poor start to the season on the pitch.

But he does not regret getting involved.

"Becoming involved with Lincoln United at this level has been one of the worst things and one of the best things I've ever done," said Cowling, who is now retired.

"One of the worst, because it takes over your life. You end up doing the same hours you did when you were working.

"One of the best because you meet some fantastic people, like the volunteers who keep the club running. And after all, it is football."

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