“Our Football Ethos Will Be To Develop Gibraltarian Talent” – New Lions Gibraltar FC Owner Speaks Exclusively To Euro Football News

 A few weeks ago, it was announced that Mark Palmer, current CEO of Solihull Moors in England, had purchased Lions Gibraltar FC.

Playing in the Gibraltar Premier Division, Lions have had a pretty torrid season as they sit bottom having not a won a game in the first half of the season. However, their recent results have been improving, after a win against Glacis United and playing out a goalless draw against Europa Point.

Lions have a rich history. A club founded in 1966 by a group of fans inspired by the English World Cup triumph, they are the only club in the world with special dispensation from the FA to include the iconic three lions on their badge. The original Lions FC, merged with Gibraltar United a decade ago. The league on the Rock has 11 teams, all sharing one stadium, and vying for the title, but also over the last ten years, the clubs are now vying for European spaces following the nation’s UEFA accreditation.

Palmer’s reputation in football and business speaks for itself. A Bournemouth fan, he spent years in North America building the biggest medical trade show in the US, before selling the business and heading back home. His path into the business of football started at his hometown club, but he has also spent time at Rochdale, Yeovil Town, Wycombe Wanderers, and Grimsby Town as well as being part of the project at St Josephs.

We spoke to Mark exclusively following his acquisition of the club..

“I didn’t know that Gibraltar had such a big football scene. For me, there was no other choice than Lions, with the history of the club,” the former Wycombe CEO told us. “We want to take a club forward, keeping its culture and community. Lions is a fantastic community club, with the largest youth setup in the league, and a flourishing women’s side. The community work is probably the most important thing the club do. We want to improve the great work that has already been done, helping get more kids into sport.”

“We want to really help Gibraltar improve its profile on the football landscape and the quality of the league, through player development and the way we look to set up the club. That has to be through a professional English-style model, with full daytime training. Our football ethos will be to develop Gibraltarian talent, using the links we have in English football.”

Talking on short-term objectives, the new owner has accepted that their league position is unlikely to improve this season. “We’ll be looking to sustainably restructure the squad in the summer, put in the full-time model and make some coaching appointments. Next season, we want to be competitive, hoping to qualify for Europe. Our football outlook is not just to qualify for Europe, but sustain it.”

When asked on the state of the league, and whether improvements needed to be made, Palmer specified that it would make sense having more teams. “More competition can improve the standard of the league. It would be great to see all three Gibraltar teams progress through the rounds in Europe.”

The current Solihull CEO also touched on how his work there could benefit Lions and vice versa. “There’s two elements to this. There is a player development opportunity. That could see academy prospects at Solihull heading out to Lions, give them a season in men’s football, and take that opportunity. On the commercial side, there is also a great opportunity within this. Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK, so any Lions sponsors could utilise this new market, and that could work the other way round too.”

There’s a clear ambition within the new model at the club, and it will be an interesting one to watch over the next few seasons. Lions are next in action when they face Manchester 62 in the quarter final of the Rock Cup on Wednesday Evening.

Site Opinion

Investment in the Gibraltar football scene is not new. Many have tried to create projects before, yet many have failed as owners have tried to rush what needs to be a slow and patient process. From speaking with Mark, he comes across in a totally different way. There’s a clear wish to not just improve the club on the pitch, but also invest in infrastructure, create a professional model, and understand the importance of improving home-grown talent. That last point is the most significant, as the league currently adopts a rule that means four Gibraltarians must be on the pitch for each team at any one time, therefore simply bringing in foreign talent without investing in the development pathways in the small nation is ultimately pointless.

I attended their 0-0 draw with Europa Point on Sunday afternoon, and the biggest thing that struck me from the players on the pitch was their togetherness and fight for the badge. There is of course no saying where that specifically came from, however, it would be wrong to suggest that this change in ownership, and the ambition being shown, had nothing to do with it. Provided Palmer follows through on his pledges, do not be surprised to be hearing the name Lions Gibraltar FC more in the continental football scene.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.