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Brian Lomax

Published in The Times

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Passionate football fan who campaigned for supporters to be given influence in the running of their beloved clubs
Brian Lomax effectively changed the face of British football by championing the unlikely idea that fans could help to run their clubs. He showed the way by founding the first supporters’ trust at Northampton Town in 1992; the development was so successful that there are now trusts at 203 clubs across Britain, with more than half of them owning shares and 75 with a director on the board.
He discovered the power of the fan at a young age. His father had taken him to see Manchester United in 1956 when the “Busby Babes” were the kings of English football, but Brian chose to support his local team, non-league Altrincham FC. The youngster cycled all over Lancashire attending matches and was often the only Altrincham fan at away games. Eventually, he was allowed to travel on the team bus, becoming something of a mascot for the side.
When a particularly dismal run in 1960 brought Altrincham to the brink of relegation and bankruptcy, Brian, then aged 11, wrote an impassioned six-page letter to the local newspaper, pleading for someone to save the club. Two businessman who had prospered in television rentals — Noel White, who later became a director of Liverpool, and Peter Swales, who went on to become chairman of Manchester City — were so impressed that they bought the club. The experience taught Lomax that a fan’s passion could be turned into real influence.
It was a lesson that he remembered in 1992 when he was living in Northamptonshire and supporting Northampton Town. The Fourth Division side were in the lower half of the table and heavily in debt. When Lomax and some friends met for a post-match pint, conversation revolved around the woeful maladministration of the club and how the supporters could do a far better job.
Lomax, who had become chief executive of a charity helping former prisoners to reintegrate in society, was instrumental in setting up Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust — the first of many that would be set up in Britain — to raise money for the club and gain fan representation on the board. The club was saved and Lomax served as a director for seven years.
When Andy Burnham, who is now shadow home secretary, was put in charge of the Labour government’s Football Task Force in 1998, one of its aims was to eliminate racism in the game. Burnham discovered that Northampton Town was the only club to have an equal opportunities policy, which had been launched by Lomax in 1996. “I found that Brian Lomax had started doing all of these progressive things that no other club was doing,” Burnham said. “Brian was a romantic. He loved the game because of what it meant to people.”
Lomax, who read theology at Cambridge, compared football to following a religion. “There is a sense of pilgrimage,” he said, “of going to a sacred place; there is loyalty, sticking with something through good and bad times.” He left the prisoners’ charity in 2000 to become managing director of Supporters Direct, the organisation representing the trusts, which he set up with Burnham and Philip French, head of communications at the Premier League. He was appointed OBE in 2009.
Lomax stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in the general elections of 1970 (Oldham West), 1974 (Knutsford, twice) and 1979 (Rugby) and served as a LibDem councillor on Daventry district council. His wife, Catherine, whom he met in 1971, said: “Politics was one of the reasons we found each other. To find another Liberal was quite an achievement — even in those days.”
She survives him with their daughter, Emily, who is a barrister. Their son, Edmund, died at the age of 32.
At the age of nine, Emily begged her father to take her to a Northampton game and was an instant convert, attending matches home and away. Shortly before Lomax’s death from lung cancer, Emily walked on to the pitch at Northampton before a match against Stevenage to read out a rousing speech written by her father, urging supporters to rally round again as the League Two club faced financial difficulties once again. “You are Northampton Town — not the owners,” Emily told the fans. “Don’t accept tin-pot saviours and two-bit conmen, believing it’s them or oblivion because it’s not.” The crowd roared. Northampton won 2-1.
Brian Lomax, football trusts pioneer, was born on March 26, 1948. He died on November 2, 2015, aged 67

Comments

  • Born on the same day as me, but 7 years earlier...RIP Brian... condolences to family and friends
  • What a wonderful life he led and what a fantastic legacy. A great line from his daughter too.
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