Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Scott Heavey
# deep into the forest
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.

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 Scott Heavey 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.

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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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