The man behind Rotherham United’s rise…
It’s been quite a Christmas period for the Millers owner; last week he received a letter confirming that he has been awarded an OBE for his services to business and the community of Rotherham, this week his club prepares to take on Premier League champions Manchester City in the FA Cup Third Round on Sunday.
Ten years ago local businessman Tony Stewart was approached by the council who were collecting money on behalf of Rotherham United, a club who had suffered administration twice in 18 months and whose future looked uncertain.
After starting out as an apprentice electrician with the Coal Board, Mr Stewart formed Tony Stewart Electricals, which eventually grew into ASD Lighting who employ over 200 people in Rotherham.
Upon investing in the club, he could have lost £3million of his personal wealth but his desire to give the club longevity and self-sufficiency was the start of a ten-year rise.
Since taking over in 2008, he has overseen three promotions, three Wembley trips (including two Play-Off Final victories) as well as survival in the Sky Bet Championship against the odds.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” Stewart said when asked about his OBE.
“When I received the letter from Her Majesty I was just amazed, never did I think anything like this would happen. I got home from work, had dinner with my wife and went to watch TV. She called me back asking me to sit down.
“I thought it was bad news as she handed me this envelope that had been opened, so it really did come as a complete shock.
“I’ve always been a person who prepares for the day but also for the future, so it’s very rewarding and makes me really proud to know that people acknowledge and appreciate things I’ve done.”
His contribution to the town was recognised in 2014 when he was also given the freedom of the borough.
A humble man with Rotherham in his heart, Mr Stewart spoke of not only his love for the town and the football club, but also the people around him who have helped the success of the last ten years happen.
“I’m so pleased with how far this football club has come, but again it’s been down to good people, employing the right people with the right culture,” he continued.
“Football today is about longevity, we live in changing times so I think it’s nice to have local people involved in your local football club. It’s good for the town.
“I didn’t really have any affiliation to any football club at the time of taking over, but I moved my business to Rotherham, I married a Rotherham girl and I wanted to do something for the community.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Rotherham United face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the FA Cup Third Round and a win at the Etihad would round off the Christmas nicely for the Millers owner.
The last time City and Rotherham met, Paul Warne was part of the side that helped the Millers secure a 1-1 draw in 2002 in front of 11,000 fans. On Sunday around 6,000 Rotherham fans will travel to the Etihad in the hope of their side causing an upset against current Premier League champions.
“We’ll try and get a draw at the Etihad so we can bring them back to the New York Stadium but even if we don’t, these are exciting times for this football club," Stewart said.
“It’s a happy club that’s going places and time will dictate that as we move forward. The aim one day is to reach the Premier League of course, why aim for the roof when you can hit the sky!”