Swindon Town Aussie owner is a breath of fresh air
Three months ago, UK football club Swindon Town was relegated to the fourth division of professional football in England with just nine contracted players on their books.
Bills were unpaid, supporters were disillusioned at best and outraged at worst, while the former English Premier League club’s pending kit deal with Puma even looked to be under threat as a result of festering overheads that were unattended to.
Enter Australian Sydney-based businessman Clem Morfuni.
Morfuni had previously held a 15 percent stake in the club having sponsored Swindon several years ago when he took his first steps towards a major investment in the English game.
Morfuni told FlowSports about how he became Swindon Town’s sole owner in an exclusive radio interview.
“Obviously I and (former owner) Lee Power had a fallout, there was a legal case...he was trying to sell the club to another consortium which he wasn’t allowed to do unless it was approved by me and then through the court procedures, we took over the club about two months ago and took 100% ownership of Swindon Town.”
Upon becoming Swindon Town’s critically-needed white knight, Morfuni rewrote Australian football’s history books by becoming the first-ever Aussie owner of a professional overseas club.
Since Morfuni purchased the club, Swindon has gone from strength to strength, contending for the League Two title this season.
The club, under manager Ben Garner, now possesses a talented squad boasting the likes of Welsh international and former Crystal Palace midfielder Jonny Williams.
From a club with a downwards trajectory and uncertain environment, in just three months, Swindon Town is now not only well-placed on the pitch but also off it. Morfuni is to thank for much of that.
He recently spent two months in Swindon on a relentless drive to promote the club’s matchday experience under new ownership.
In August, he personally drove a truck around the town to engage with fans and promote the club's target of 6,000 signed-up season ticket holders.
It’s not just fans recognising Morfuni’s pedigree as a caring football chairman.
Morfuni revealed that ex-Socceroos stars Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill also reached out to him recently, as the Swindon-Aussie connections continue to gather momentum.
“I’ve been well trained and well-groomed to it; I caught up with Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill when I was over there in England and they said ‘listen, there’s a lot of sharks over here’, and it’s true, there’s more sharks on the streets of London than there are in the waters of Australia.”
There’s no doubt Morfuni feels the weight of owning a big club that once played in the English Premier League back in 1996.
He says fans in the County Ground still remind him of that time and fantasize about how special it would be to get back there.
Morfuni, the owner and founder of the AXIS group, has a sound long-term plan to eventually have Swindon participating in the world’s most-watched football league again.
“I think if we could get into the Championship, is probably a really big goal for us...can we get into the Premier League? You don’t know, once you’re in the Championship anything can happen.”
Undoubtedly though, the most mouth-watering prospect of Morfuni’s takeover of Swindon for Australian football fans is the potential pathways that his Chairmanship presents for players based down under.
“There is an opportunity for kids out there to have a career in football in England, but it’s a tough, long journey and if you’re prepared to work hard and you’ve got the discipline, you can get there.”
“I’ve seen a lot of kids that do it but this is probably an easier way to do it because you’ve obviously got an Australian that owns a football club and not some other people that are trying to get you in there which is going to be a lot harder.”
“There’s opportunities for the Australian kids to go to Swindon.”
It’s an exciting and restless plight for an Australian football fan with Italian roots who grew up in Sydney, thousands of kilometres away from the English game.
Despite this, Morfuni is making all the right moves at the helm of Swindon Town so far.