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George is a wow with Worthing

Many boys dream of being a footballer when they grow up – but if life threw them a curve ball, would they then want to become a football club chairman?  


This is the reality for 23-year-old George Dowell, who was involved in a life-changing car accident six years ago that left the talented young footballer paralysed from the chest down. 


“There were no other cars involved. My friend was driving, lost control of the car and it spun off the road," said Dowell, who found fame earlier this year as a star of The Undateables TV show. 


The accident failed to put him football and last year, Dowell was looking for land - his own field of dreams. 


“I was looking to start my own football centre with a 3G pitch in Worthing that other local teams could use to train and basically give myself a job in something I like doing – essentially killing two birds with one stone.  


"As I began looking into this, I read in the local newspaper that Worthing FC were struggling financially and were pretty close to having to shut up shop.  


"I used to play for Worthing and I still knew some of the guys who played for the under 18s and some guys on the board. 


"I was told to formally write my business plan and bring to the board as a viable idea." 


After approval by the club's board, Dowell became the majority shareholder in the Ryman Isthmian League Division One south club, with 75 per cent of the shares.


“I took on the debts, laid my 3G pitch and started my football development centre. It was all perfect timing," he continued.  


“I thought most of my time would be taken up by the football centre, mainly centred around pitch bookings but there are so many rules and regulations that you need to get your head around with the football club. 


"For example, for every game we have to complete and send off three different sets of paperwork to a deadline.  


"Once you get used to it, you get into a routine. It is hard work but I wouldn’t want to be involved in anything else. I have a passion for it which helps."  


The club finished third in the league and last month won promotion via the play-offs. They also secured a Senior Cup final, which is making the chairman’s job somewhat easier.  


Dowell said: “The reaction to me so far has been good but a successful season helps. If it wasn’t so great, maybe they would have been saying that I’m only 23 and don’t know what I’m doing.  


“Our five year plan is to get into the Conference South, so two divisions above where we are. The fans always want more, which is understandable, but many of our fans are realistic. Money doesn’t grow on trees at this level and we rely on gate money and some local sponsors."  


Non-League football continues to play a significant role in the football pyramid, particularly in producing gems that go on to have success at a higher level. The most recent success being Leicester and England striker Jamie Vardy, who was playing for Fleetwood Town just four years ago.  


“Last year, Hull signed a player from a team in our league and one of our Under 18s has just signed for Ipswich. We’ve always tried to bring through youth players and in turn that brings the scouts down. Our team is young – we only have a few players over the age of 23.  


"There is so much more interest in lower league teams now because they are trying to find the next Charlie Austin or Jamie Vardy. 


"You might not receive a huge upfront fee for the player but they might pop down for a pre-season friendly which brings people through the gates. That early bit of cash can ease the pressure financially." 


The local community is a key focus for Dowell and the Worthing team and this has been reflected by a boost in gates. 


“We’re always trying to find new ways to engage the community. Before I joined, crowds were around 150 to 200. Now they are 5-600. The club was maybe a bit stuck in its ways before and not that welcoming.  


“The same faces were there every week and in the nicest possible way, it was very much an old boys club and not particularly geared towards young people. Young supporters are the future so we try to engage with the kids by getting them on the 3G pitch after the games and they are often here training with their own clubs midweek.  


"We know most people are going to support a league club, but we are trying to encourage people to support us when they have a free weekend."  


Worthing FC facts 

Ground: Woodside Road 

Capacity: 4,000 

Best league performance: 2nd in Isthmian League Premier Division, 1983–84 and 1984–85 

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