Tuesday, May 15, 2018

News: Tony talks of ten year tenure

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Ten years to the day from being introduced to the Rotherham United fans at the final ever game at Millmoor, club chairman, Tony Stewart was discussing his journey with the Rotherham Pioneers.

The exclusive group for Rotherham businesses who want to promote the town, celebrate all that is good, and grow the Rotherham business community held its latest meeting at the New York Stadium - itself a key part in the club's recent history.

Stewart started in business 45 years ago becoming self employed. He admitted that he made no money but made lots of friends. His electrical contracting firm grew to employ 25 people in Sheffield.

In 1981, the enterprising mind saw the potential of PIR and the use of infra red detectors. He combining them with lighting products which made them turn on "as if by magic". After further design and development, and securing start up cash from the bank, it led to the formation of ASD Lighting, a Rotherham manufacturing success story. The dynamic firm grew quickly and moved from Eastwood to its current base on the Barbot Hall Industrial Estate.

Tony (pictured top at Millmoor back in 2008) described some of his mantras for successful business, many of which have transferred into football: "We increase the knowledge we have by employing people - they are the gems. I constantly try to encourage staff - "Don't get down, get up.""

It appears to be working. 2017 turnover at ASD increased 20% on the previous year to £26.2m due to increased sales in the company's street lighting products. Profits after tax were at £3.69m.

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Tony Stewart was one of a number of business people invited to the Town Hall with the aim of finding a way of resurrecting the borough's football league club after it fell into administration for the second time in 2008. He ended up going it alone and brought them out of administration via a Creditors Voluntary Agreement.

Stewart said: "I got the call from the council and having seen the success that Nick [Cragg] and Martin [Jenkinson] had had at Rotherham Titans, I thought I'll go down and have a look at Rotherham United."

He assessed the club's finances and decided that the club's commercial arm, whilst turning over around £3m a season, could be better.

"The plates were spinning at ASD and none were falling off, so I thought "I'll do it." he said. "It was a spur of the moment thing and it has been a massive learning curve."

After the takeover came the decision to play home games at the now demolished Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, after working hard to get a deal to carry on playing at Millmoor, the club's home for over 100 years.

The club was charged with returning to play home games in its home town within four seasons by the Football League and as Stewart told the Rotherham Pioneers with pride: "I came, I promised, I delivered."

The £20m New York Stadium is on the edge of Rotherham town centre and hosted its first Millers game in 2012. Having hosted a number of high profile fixtures, it hosts the final of the 2018 UEFA Under-17s Championship on Sunday.

"The stadium is the big story and I'm also proud of the improvements to the training ground," added Stewart.

Rotherham United is currently battling to return to The Championship through the playoffs and Stewart spoke of the positivity around the club.

The chairman concluded: "This is the best time at Rotherham United I have known. The manager, Paul Warne, is a rookie but he is university educated and bright, and has the right character. Every one of the nine managers I've had here have spoken highly of him.

"We are now doing things right and I think success, whether it's this season or next, is around the corner.

"I've got red and white blood in my veins. I am passionate in everything I do and my passion isn't just on a matchday, it's seven days a week. I want the best for Rotherham and I think the best is still to come."

Jamie Noble, head of community at Rotherham United, also discussed the work of the club's sports trust at the event.

Jamie (pictured, above) said: "We would like to thank Rotherham Pioneers for coming across to the stadium, Rotherham United Community Sports Trust are not only looking to support the local community but also the local businesses with an aim to help make Rotherham a stronger and better community. Rotherham Pioneers group are a key part of the town and I feel the work they are doing in the local community is second to none."

Rotherham United website
ASD Lighting website
Rotherham Pioneers website

Images: RUFC

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