When a car accident left former Worthing FC footballer George Dowell paralysed from the chest down his life was turned upside down.
At the time the Rebels’ right back was just 17 and had enjoyed a breakthrough season as he had made the step up from the youth team into the first team as well as being put forward for England school trials.
After a trip to McDonald’s George and his friend were on their way home when their car flipped and landed in a field. The accident caused two broken vertebrae in his back, severing his spinal chord and meant George would spent ten months in hospital, with a career in football fading into a distant memory.
However, after battling his way through rehabilitation the hard work is beginning to pay off, as George now owns the club he once played for. “I saw in the paper that Worthing FC were having financial problems and were at risk of going out of business,” he explains.
“I knew a couple of the directors so I asked them what was going on and mentioned what I’d like to do. So they set up a meeting with the people in charge and here we are today.”
Today George owns a 75% stake in the club after using money from his compensation to take over the ownership and clear the club’s debts that had reached almost £200,000.
Yet, it is not his first foray into the world of football since his accident, having founded another local Worthing side, who were recently crowned league and cup double winners in their first season.
“Last year I set up and managed a team called Worthing Borough FC with a group of my friends,” he says. “That was my first experience of being in and around football since my injury and I really enjoyed it.”
After becoming the majority shareholder at the Isthmian League Division One South side, he has big plans for the club’s future, with a 3D pitch being installed as we speak and further plans to improve the stadium over time.
“Our five year plan for the club is to get into the Conference South. At the moment we’re focusing on the pitch and the café and sports bar and getting them ready for the new season. I keep getting told Rome wasn’t built in a day but we have plans to redevelop the front building and we will be improving various other facilities around the stadium in time,” George explains with excitement.
At such a young age and with the club’s financial history standing as a recent reminder of how wrong things can go, the investment could be seen as a gamble. However, that’s not a view shared by many. “I love football, it’s my passion but that wasn’t the only reason to buy Worthing; it’s also a business,” he states.
“Any business is a potential gamble but I feel I’ve done my research and that this won’t and can’t fail.”
George’s vision for Worthing is not just bound by the success of the team though as he is also investing in the community, with access to the 3D pitch and other facilities available to anyone. “There’s so many clubs crying out for facilities to use for training and the like.
“The pitch is pretty much fully booked for next season already which is an encouraging sign. And, when Worthing aren’t using the pitch the rest of the community can come and use it and that’s really exciting, having the football centre that will help the club and people in Worthing.”
For more information on George Dowell and Worthing FC visit www.pitchero.com/worthingfootballclub