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The eco-warrior millionaire, his vegan club and historic Football League promotion

It’s been quite the journey for Dale Vince and his Forest Green Rovers side.

Image: Scott Heavey

IN THE EARLY nineties, Dale Vince was living on a hillside in an old US Army vehicle that he’d found on a scrapheap and that he subsequently converted into a mobile home. He powered his electricity by using a small wind turbine he crafted himself.

He was a hippy, a New Age traveller, having dropped out of school when he was 15.

But very quickly, he found a niche with his self-generating ways and began to sell electricity to the grid. It was 1995 when Vince’s first turbine was installed and not long after that, his own company – Ecotricity – was born.

Fast forward 15 years and he was a millionaire with an estimated fortune close to £100m. He was approached by his local team – Conference side Forest Green Rovers – who were on the verge of bankruptcy. They barely survived the drop in 2010, they had an average gate of 1,012 and were on the precipice, staring into a black hole.

Tranmere Rovers v Forest Green Rovers - Vanarama National League - Play Off - Final - Wembley Stadium Source: Scott Heavey

Vince stepped in and pledged money but he also saw an opportunity. Within a few months, he was carving the club in his own identity. Red meat was quickly taken off the menu and by the summer of 2014, Forest Green Rovers was 100% vegan, with no animal products of any kind for sale anywhere within the organisation. The same green-aware imprint is everywhere, right down to the solar-powered lawnmower used to cut the grass on the pitch.

The chairman is also planning a new stadium within the next few years that will be made entirely of wood.

For the average outsider, it may all seem a little overboard. But, the club have blossomed under Vince’s new direction. There have been a collection of top-five finishes while attendances have ballooned.

And, earlier today, the new regime was finally rewarded at Wembley.

Forest Green Rovers – for the first time in their 128-year history – have been promoted to the Football League after beating Tranmere in the Conference play-off final.

With Vince behind the club, they have every right to feel optimistic for the future.

Speaking to The Telegraph in 2011, he said:

“I thrive on adversity. I like it when the chips are down. When nobody believes that something can be done, I think, “We are going to do this!”

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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