SWINDON Robins appear to be in safe hands away from the track after appointing a former Swindon Town goalkeeper as their new commercial manager.
Phil Smith made over 100 appearances for the Country Ground club over six seasons, before moving on in 2012, with his finest hour coming in 2010 with a man of the match display as Town progressed to the League One play-off final at the expense of Charlton.
Since leaving Town the 34-year-old has played for Portsmouth in League Two but has continued to live in Wiltshire with his children settled at school, and while a return to Swindon is probably something he would have always considered in his playing days, a move to the speedway version of the Robins was not high on the agenda.
However, with the Abbey Stadium club sub-contracting their commercial business to local IT firm Verelogic, where Smith works as a business development manager, the footballer has made the unlikely jump between the two sports, but insists he is staying well away from the track.
The keeper has been charged with bringing new sponsorship to the Blunsdon club, as well as providing a link for fans to air their views about areas in which the club can improve, with plenty of plans already on the table to help attract new business and supporters to the club.
While admitting speedway is not a sport with which he enjoys a long history, Smith has quickly been bitten by the bug and is excited to have the chance to help the club progress.
“This is fantastic for me because I have been in Swindon for about seven years now, it’s my home and Swindon Speedway is a big part of Swindon life so it’s great to be able to get involved in it,” he said.
“When I was playing for Swindon I came up a couple of times but I’ve been up a lot recently and immersed in it, and I have to say I’m catching the bug. I live in North Swindon and have been only a mile away for seven years without knowing anything about it, so my aim is to let people like me know what’s going on and to help them get involved.
“It’s going to be a big couple of years for the club with the new stadium and things like that so it’s a very exciting time for the club, and it’s great for me to be a part of that.
“We are going to be having text competitions, ticket offers, kids clubs and things like that, which are all ways of getting people through the doors. We’re also hoping to go into schools, too, because that’s a real good way to attract the youngsters who are the next generation of supporters.
“We’re going to meet with some of the hardcore supporters who have been here year in, year out, and talk to them about what they like, what they don’t like and how we can improve the experience for them and how we can help get people through the door.”
Having competed as a professional footballer for his entire adult life, Smith also holds great admiration for what the likes of Peter Kildemand, Troy Batchelor and Nick Morris do on the track.
“It’s unbelievable and they really do have the wow factor once the bikes get going,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to watch a few races from inside the track recently and it’s amazing, you don’t realise how fast they’re going and how big and powerful the bikes are. They put their bodies on the line every week and just pick themselves up when they come off so it’s amazing to watch.
“It’s been a hard season with a few interruptions but if we get things going and have a good run with the weather then it should all be fine.”
Kevin Metcalfe, CEO of Verelogic, has a long history of sponsoring sport in Swindon, including Swindon Town and boxing, and is excited to have the chance to make a real difference to one of the town’s best-loved sporting institutions.
“We’ve sponsored plenty of sports across the area and Rosco, a good friend of mine, approached me with Terry Russell and said they needed some help in terms of everything to do with sponsorship,” he said.
“I’ve seen how people have sponsored sport and what they get out of it so it was a bit of a no brainer to get involved in a largely untapped sport like speedway, which has massive coverage across Sky Sports and things like that.
“It needs cash and more sponsors, be it a small business with small sponsorship to multi-national companies, and that’s what we are going to do.
“Phil’s done a good job already with new sponsored and new ideas and ways we can use modern technology to promote the club.
“We don’t want to say loads of things we’re going to do and not do them, we want to take it step by step and see what we achieve.
“We have had a sponsors open day already and got some really good feedback from people who haven’t been to speedway before and fancied getting involved, it’s really like an untapped resource.”
Robins team manager and co-promoter Alun Rossiter is pleased to have someone with Smith’s sporting background on board to help the club grow, and is excited to see what he can come up with in the coming weeks and months.
“Having Phil on board for us makes real sense and it’s great to have him here,” he said. This is something we need because we need to be going into schools and promoting the club and things like that, because when you do get people coming for the first time they really enjoy it.
“He knows Swindon, having played here for so long and it’s great to have someone with a sporting background involved and I’m sure he will bring something new and fresh.
“Our biggest criticism is that there’s nobody there to answer the phones and reply to people, and that’s somewhere we really need to up our game, so this would help us do it.”
Anyone wishing to get in contact with Smith regarding sponsorship can email firstname.lastname@example.org.