THERE has been a growing sense of optimism around the Swindon Town Supporters Trust over the last year, but now it is positively brimming.

Today sees the re-launch of the Trust’s Red Army Fund with a new focus. Previously the Fund has been associated with dire times both on and off the pitch, but now it is being harnessed as a tool to make hay whilst the sun shines.

TrustSTFC have been working hard over the last year to build their profile as a group working for positive change.

Last season the Trust filled the Stratton Bank with 3,500 schoolchildren and parents for a match against Fleetwood. Now, with the Red Army Fund going again, the Trust are marching on with the idea of putting a roof on it and establishing a family-friendly area.

Yet the Fund is not a one-cause collection tin. Trust chair Steve Mytton is keen to stress this is an ongoing campaign to ensure his organisation will be able to work towards their vision of filling a family-friendly stadium with excellent facilities.

“This Red Army Fund, for me, is something that should last forever,” explains Mytton, as he lays out his plans for the Fund to the Advertiser.

“It’s a mechanism that the fans can use for their football club going forward and hopefully my legacy within the Trust to leave for all time.

“With the Red Army Fund in place, it’s a vehicle to raise money quickly and I think it could be a great income generator.

“The Red Army Fund is not just there for the bad times. This is really about the delivery of the Trust Vision, which is spelled out on our website.

“We’ve had financial problems in the past, at the moment the football club is on a sound basis with nothing to worry about. Going forward, you never know what might happen.

“A secure financial footing is one thing, but there are so many other things we want to do to positively benefit the football club. Working with the club we want to do great things.

“We want a nice slush fund of money that is external from the club itself that we can spend on the club to take it to the next level off the pitch.

“We want a full stadium, we want family facilities, we want families to be able to spend a full afternoon at the football, we want disabled facilities to be improved, we want different ethnic groups coming to games and to build those bonds with the community to make the ground something to be proud of.”

The first goal is the £500,000 needed to raise the roof on the Stratton Bank. That sum might seem daunting to some, but Mytton takes confidence from the fundraising efforts of other clubs and causes closer to home.

“I think the £500,000 target should be very achievable for Town fans and in a short space of time, if I’m honest,” he added.

“We had healthy donations without even asking last year. This is something that people will get behind.

“If you look at what Portsmouth did, admittedly in darker times, it shows how communities can pull together.

“Portsmouth raised £2 million from their fanbase. FC United of Manchester have also raised £2million through theirs, in what are obviously very good times for them. Grimsby Town have raised more than £80,000 in just over 50 days this close season.

“Jay Collett (Town fan, who set up the STFC mosaic at May’s play-off final at Wembley) raised £5,000 in two days. That’s a great example of what fans here have done already.

“We signed up 1,500 outside the ground last year, mostly in the half-hour before kick-off and doing that week in, week out, you get to meet and talk to a lot of people. There was a recurring theme from those conversations, that people want to do things for their club and this is the vehicle for that.

“With the Fund packages you just pay in what you can afford, from £1 to £25, with some great benefits to get something back for your donation.

“I’m really proud of what we’re offering and I hope other people take to it. We’ll be campaigning outside the ground, giving out flyers and leaflets promoting it every week.

“This is not a one-off campaign, it’s something I hope will run for many years to come and I hope it will raise millions of pounds. I truly believe it should be doing that. We’ve got a huge fanbase, maybe not everybody goes to a game, but there’s a lot of Swindon Town fans out there.”

Though the Stratton Bank roof is the first project, it is not the extent of the Trust’s aims for the Fund.

There are plans for further ground improvements, as well as the Fund being used for charitable causes. Whatever the money is spent on Mytton and the Trust want it to have a lasting impression for Swindon Town, to help grow the club and benefit the wider local community.

“The Stratton Bank roof is the first thing we can contribute towards, but there will be more,” adds Mytton. “We’d like a club museum, family zones, a community garden is something we want to do, it’s just sprucing the whole place up.

“It’s a good ground for the level we’re at but we could do amazing things with it on a very limited budget. We’ve just got to be a bit more inventive.”

The Stratton Bank project is the first part of a concerted effort to grow the club’s fanbase by focusing on a new generation of supporter.

In creating a new family friendly area at the Shrivenham Road end, rather than starting with a revamp of the facilities used more frequently by Town fans, the Trust hope to capture the imagination of young fans by giving them somewhere to watch their local team in a welcoming environment.

“The Trust is not just for now, it’s for the future. We want a healthy football club as a whole and unless we make a conscious decision to chase that, it’s not just going to happen by itself,’’ adds Mytton. “It’s vital we have some funds to make those things happen.

“Very early on into our membership campaign I noticed in the first half of the season we had a very ageing fanbase. That’s what clicked it for me that we need to get younger people in.

“At the Trust Family Day against Fleetwood it was more interesting following that day as we added between 500 and 700 people to the gate. Standing outside the ground for the remainder of the season there was a noticeable difference in the amount of kids going into the ground.”

A big part of the Trust’s plan is to create a sense of identity around the fund and among Town fans in general by offering a signature black and red polo shirt as part of their silver and gold Red Army Fund packages.

It is aimed at the Town fan who perhaps does not feel comfortable in replica shirt, but would like to visibly show their support for their football club.

Mytton hopes it will also help create a sense of pride amongst supporters of the Fund and in their club generally.

He said: “I’m really keen for people to show their support as well, hence the benefit package we’re doing. It’s something people can show off, there’s a shirt, badge, mug, they’re all showing people you’re behind the Fund. It’s about showing people you’re proud to be a Town fan.

“The Trust shirt was influenced by Bath Rugby. I went for a day to the Rec and I couldn’t believe how many people had their Bath colours on. It’s totally different to what I see at Swindon, young and old were all in matching gear. So the Trust shirt’s been designed to have that multi-age group appeal. It gives people a sense of identity.”

It is clear this is no half-baked plan to rattle buckets in order to bail out a sinking ship. This is thoroughly thought-out campaign with the aim of giving fans an opportunity to be actively involved in lifting up their club.

Mytton best summed it up with these words: “The overriding message of this launch is to Swindon Town and the wider Swindon community: ‘Let’s all get together, raise some money and do great things with that money that’s to the benefit of Swindon and the community.’ “We can do some amazing things that makes the rest of the country stand up and take notice.”