BEN ROBINSON ON RISE OF BREWERS AND HOW HE’S MADE CLUB THE
HOW much water do elephants drink?
Ben Robinson, chairman of profitmaking Burton Albion didn’t know once. And it cost him. Big. “People have asked what my biggest mistake has been,” Robinson said. “And those elephants are the honest reply.
“How did it happen? Well, the surface of the car park at our previous ground was ash. It was perfect for the circus and, when they came to town, we did a deal to host them – for a fixed fee.
“They arrived one Sunday night and I got a phone call from the bar steward at the ground.
“Ben, you need to get down here to let them in,” he said.
“The circus people wanted electricity because they needed to keep their pythons warm – and they needed water for the elephants to drink. So I went and let them in and sorted them out. The electricity wasn’t part of the deal – but that wasn’t so much of a problem. It was the elephants.
“We were on a water meter. Do you know how much water they guzzle? There were six of them – getting through about 200 litres each, every day for one week – I almost fell over when the bill arrived.” Robinson, 72, can afford to laugh now. After promotion to the Championship in 2016, the Brewers not only stayed in the division in their first term last season, but also posted a £1.3million profit.
No mean feat, given the club’s resources and the manner in which money is being splashed around in the second tier.
QPR have just been fined £40m for breaching Financial Fair Play rules. Cases against Leicester City and Bournemouth remain outstanding.
Aston Villa paid John Terry (right) a £2m signing-on fee and agreed to £3m-a-year wages. Yearly salaries of £1m – even at this level – are becoming the norm, not the exception.
And then there is Burton, where a first-team budget of £7.5m pays for everything – salaries, travelling, coaches, the lot.
Robinson, who first became a director in 1972, has performed an outstanding job in this quaint corner of Staffordshire.
The club has just opened artificial pitches for the community trust.
A grant helped offset the cost, but, as Burton’s first-team have the facilities at St George’s Park, there was no reason to build these other than an altruistic one. At Burton they are generous in cherishing the contributions of others too. Plenty of good managers have passed through this club. Peter Taylor – right-hand man to managerial legend Brian Clough – Neil Warnock and Gary Rowett to name three. However, it is Nigel Clough who Robinson clearly holds most dear. “We wouldn’t be here today without him,” Robinson said. “He’s his own man, Nigel. “When he came to work on his first day, he was driving a big Mercedes. We were still in the Southern League then. “Nigel decided it wasn’t right for him to be seen in such a car – so he traded down. It sums him up. He’s a superb m enough how importan
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THE BREW CREW Burton boss Nigel Clough and team celebrate promotion to the Championship in 2016 Picture: Nicolas Bowman