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Geoff Thompson discusses South Shields takeover

Born and bred in South Shields, Geoff Thompson completed a takeover of his hometown football club in 2015. 

The Mariners have gone from strength to strength since Geoff’s arrival achieving three consecutive promotions and the club are still in with a chance of making it four this season and reaching the Vanarama National League. The club also found success on Wembley way as former manager Julio Arca captained the side to victory in the 2017 FA Vase Final.

In 2017 Geoff created the club’s charitable arm, South Shields FC Foundation. He continues to provide personal financial support and management guidance to the Foundation, which now plays an increasingly pivotal role in the community and provides health and well-being programmes across a range of age groups.

Geoff became a Trustee of Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare in 2019 and continues to support the facility to ensure its viability as an important charity and community asset.

Despite all of the club’s recent success, Thompson has decided to list the club for sale due to a health scare in recent years.

Kieron has spent nearly twenty years of his life following Shields. I spoke to him alongside Geoff to talk through Thompson’s historic reign at the club. 

Thompson said: “To be honest when we started I didn’t think it would be a near ten year journey! It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve taken the club a long way in these nine years but as I’ve said previously I didn’t really have a long term plan when buying the club. It was all about just saving the club. I was just trying to stop the club from dying really at the outset.

“It’s not just my efforts. There’s been lads here before my arrival who have been crucial for this football club. I’ve just tried to act as a catalyst for things. Yes I’ve had to fund the things that have been implemented here but we’ve got a great team here and many of them have been here years before my tenure.

“I think my favourite memory is bringing the club home. I remember the first home game with several hundred supporters turning up, Gary Crookwell and I were worrying about how much beer to order and then running out of beer! I had my wife running up to Tesco to buy some cans. It’s a strange memory but it made me think at the time that we had done the right thing, bringing the club home and the town got behind the club straight away.”

Thompson was diagnosed with cancer last year and is undergoing recovery which is going positive. This health scare made him realise that his time may be up at his hometown club.

“I’ve had nearly ten years here now and my time is probably just about up. I’ve had my own health scare, I’ve lost my father and that’s been a real driving force behind my decision and I’m quite keen to hand the baton on and give it to somebody else and I’m glad to know that I’ll be doing so with the club in a very good position.

The South Shields native is also keen to pass the club onto the right buyer: “For anyone coming in, the infrastructure is in place, not just the new stand but we’re debt free here and we own the freehold. We’ve got our 3G pitches that our first team used alongside the academy sides.

“My point is, is that for a new owner everything is in place, all of the groundwork doesn’t have to be repeated. We’ve got a good stadium grading for this division. If the club were to reach the English Football League it’ll need a little bit of work but planning permission is already in place to do work on the final stand which would make the ground fit and proper for the top four divisions.

“If you look at it purely from a profit and loss perspective the club has lost money since my arrival. I was prepared to invest to get the club to where we are now, I think we’re on the cusp of some exciting times ahead and many people have said that I’m exiting at the wrong time. If you look at our future forecasts they’re very positive, cash generative and profitable but as I’ve said I think it’s the right time to pass the baton on to the next investor.”

Lifelong supporter of the club Kieron said this when asked about Thompson’s period at the club: “He’s been simply unbelievable for this football club. The investment into the facilities and the infrastructure at the club will be here for many years to come and he’ll never be forgotten for his huge contributions.

“The promotions and the FA Vase win wouldn’t have been possible before Geoff’s arrival and I’d really like to wish him the best. A great owner and an ever greater man.”