I’m Stockport County’s Club President- there’s a real feel around the town that it is a place on the up

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“Stockport is a great place to be at this moment in time, both in terms of a town and a football club”

“I firmly believe that, with the current ownership and those who work at the club, our best years are ahead of us,” Stockport County President Steve Bellis is whole-heartedly positive about the state of the football team. The 2023/24 season ended with County winning the Sky Bet League Two title, their first football league trophy in almost 60 years. 

Steve has seen it all with Stockport County, from a supporter in the 1980s to then working his way through various official roles in the club. He started as marketing manager in the 1989/90 campaign and he never looked back. 

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In a lengthy interview, Steve told ManchesterWorld about his role at Stockport County, and why the club is on the rise at the same time as the town and community it represents. Steve started at Stockport in the late 1980’s, and his career at the club is one of a man who loves his football club.  

“In the 1980’s, I was a supporter of the club and ended up on various committees. When I get involved with things I tend to get very involved, so I ended up on the supporters committee, executive committee at a time when the club really needed support and volunteers. That’s how it all started. 

“Just after the Hillsborough Disaster, every club had to introduce a membership scheme. I had been managing a hotel in Turkey and I’d just come back, the then chairman who knew me through the committees asked if I would come and help. I ended up becoming the clubs first marketing manager at the end of the 1980s. 

“We basically sat down and realised the club needed a total restructuring. Back then we used to play Friday nights. This was because we were in the shadow of Manchester City and Manchester United. This was fine and we got decent crowds, but a lot of them weren’t our fans. We would get a lot of City and United fans, and not enough of the Stockport fans would bring their children basically because Friday night tended to be lads and lasses night out. They’d come to the game and then end the night in a nightclub somewhere. 

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Steve Bellis with the Sky Bet League Two trophySteve Bellis with the Sky Bet League Two trophy
Steve Bellis with the Sky Bet League Two trophy

“We were missing out, and I did some research at the start of the 1990s and less than 7% of our paying crowd were children. We literally had a dying audience. We created a scheme, and this is something I’m very proud of, to visit every primary school in Stockport to give them a one hour healthy living programme that involved the players acting out a drama and teaching the kids about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The schools loved it as it reinforced key lessons in life, and at the end of every presentation one child, their siblings and an adult from their family were invited to our next game in the hope of building our support. 

“By 1996, we had the youngest paying audience in professional football and more than 40% of the paying crowd were children.”

Steve made the decision to step away from the club in 2004 when ownership changed. However a decade later, he answered an SOS call.

“In 2013, the club was really on its backside. It had just been relegated to National League North and was in a real mess. I got a call asking if I would help out, they couldn’t pay me but asked if I could come back as an unpaid Director to try and turn things around as we are in danger of losing the club. I was part of a group that went in and luckily we turned things around. 

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“We persuaded the council to buy the stadium, so this secured our spiritual home. We brought stability and sustainability to the football club and then won the lottery when we came across Mark Stott who became our owner. I went from marketing manager, to commercial manager, to unpaid director to club president when the new owner came in.”

Steve has a hands-on role at the club, and he is in many ways the face of aspects within Stockport County FC. 

“My main role is to protect the DNA of the club and making sure we never lose touch with the club that we always were. 

“I’m the interface with supporters at events with other sections of the club. This includes the ladies team, which I set up back in the 1990s. I’m also the face of the club at games. Mark isn’t one for putting a shirt and tie on and some events are needed. 

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“I do corporate hosting on a matchday, I MC events and host fan forums. I’m the face of things and sometimes the mouth, without being too unkind to myself I can go on a bit. It’s a lovely role to have and it’s not like a job- it’s an honour and a privilege to be able to do what I do.

“I’m a great believer that trophies don’t belong in a cabinet, so I embarked on a tour of the community with the National League North trophy back when we won that. We visited 88 pubs with that. The demand for an EFL trophy is huge, it’s our first football league trophy in 57 years. Last weekend we did 33 pubs and we’re doing another 20 this weekend. We’ll do over 100 pubs.


“The smiles that piece of silverware brings into the community is fantastic. A lot of fans didn’t think they would see us in the league again, the trophy brings tears of joy to older supporters too. Some people ask if I get sick of it, but every smile makes it worthwhile. You never know when your next success is coming, so make the most of it.”  

Steve flagged the two trips to China as highlights of his time at the club. They attracted big crowds, and represented Stockport well.  

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“A highlight was taking the club into China. We did two tours and on the second tour in 2004 we ended up getting a bigger crowd at our match than both Manchester United and Barcelona on their subsequent trips. Every time we went on tour, we reinvested money into supporting underprivileged Chinese footballers, we were one of the first clubs to give something back.” 

On the pitch, it’s been a rollercoaster few years for Stockport. Two promotions in three years fell either side of a defeat in the playoffs at Wembley, and the national stadium is a source of frustration for Steve. 

“Wembley is a bit of a swear word for me. I was here in the 1990s and we got there four times in three years, and we managed to lose on all four occasions. The only time we did win, 2008, I'm over in China so I miss it. Then, when we get back to Wembley and I can go, we lose again. It’s not been a great hunting ground.” 

Developments around Stockport have made it a sought after town, with the borough gaining national recognition. Steve added that this and the success of the football club have gone hand in hand. 

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“If you look at any town that has a football league club, you get mentions in social media. It’s a special thing, you get these mentions. To have a town that is one of the best places to live has been noticeable. There’s a real feel around Stockport that it is a place on the up. We’ve got the stadium development, but then you come out of the train station and you’ve got Bask which has become a real base for County supporters, and the new interchange in the old town. 

Stockport County's players celebrate promotion at Edgeley Park Stockport County's players celebrate promotion at Edgeley Park
Stockport County's players celebrate promotion at Edgeley Park

“Stockport is a great place to be at this moment in time, both in terms of a town and a football club. You can only see them growing and getting better together.”

“I get to host the parade days, which is great. These things take on a life of their own, there were at least 10,000 people out on the streets and it was a carnival atmosphere. People were crying and laughing.We have great connectivity between fans and players. These players aren’t the sort to get off a team bus with headphones on, there's a proper connection. Part of my role is to make sure this never changes, because this connection needs to stay.”

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