Former Swindon Town midfielder Michael Doughty has re-joined the Robins as the Sky Bet League Two outfit’s Chief Sustainability Officer ahead of the EFL’s Green Football Weekend.
The 30-year-old hung up his boots in 2020, aged 28, to focus his efforts elsewhere, after two successful loan spells and a permanent stint at the County Ground, making over 100 appearances, but now returns in a new capacity.
Doughty, who also spent time on the books of Queens Park Rangers and Peterborough United, won promotion with the Robins from League Two in 2019/20, when Swindon secured the title.
“We had a chat about things we could do and we seemed to align around the love for the Club and I’ve been wanting to get back into the Club, but not in a traditional ambassador type role. As far as we’re aware, it’s the first-ever role for a former player in this ilk,” Doughty said.
“I’m working closely the stakeholders at Swindon and the fans to try and drive forward a sustainability strategy. We’re going to be working on that over the next six months by engaging fans around various topics and looking to implement some of the measures to improve the environmental impact at the Club and hopefully make it a thought leader in the sustainability, in the EFL and beyond.”
The upcoming Green Football Weekend marks a learning opportunity, according to Doughty, who hopes it will highlight some of the ways in which supporters can help to make headway.
In addition, Doughty will also be signing and auctioning a limited-edition Robins shirt, with the ex-Town star matching the funds raised to contribute towards sustainability initiatives.
— Swindon Town FC (@Official_STFC) February 1, 2023
“Having awareness is important,” he added. “A lot of people underestimate just knowing what the problems are and thinking about the problems and how that can create a subtle shift. When there’s a real dedicated weekend where all the Clubs are talking about it, it becomes newsworthy, and people are engaging with it at the Clubs.
“A lot of the fundamentals of football fall back to the fans and now I’ve stepped away, I realise that. I always had that special relationship with the people of Swindon because it’s a community-led Club. Having that person who is a relatable figure on and off the pitch is important.
“When you’ve got a global problem that’s quite big and multi-faceted, it requires collaboration. Football has always had that team collaboration.”
As part of the role, the 30-year-old will work alongside the Club’s Chief Executive, Rob Angus.
Swindon signed up to Green Clubs – a League-wide initiative launched in 2021 – in October last year and Doughty’s new role coincides with the planned purchased of the County Ground.
“The EFL Green Clubs was one of the first things that initially sparked my focus in this area,” added Angus. “Having Michael on board with his passion, his expertise and his contacts is fantastic for us, and someone for me to bounce ideas off.”
Powered by the independent GreenCode accreditation, the EFL Green Clubs scheme provides a framework for EFL Clubs to improve their approaches to environmental sustainability, offering guidance and practical advice to help implement continual change.
He said: “It’s a unique opportunity for us to start to make some improvements in and around the ground to upgrade the stadium. As part of that, we thought it would be great to join forces with Michael who is a former player for Swindon Town and a bit of a legend with fans.
“We’ve got some big things coming down the line in terms of development but I’m sure working with Michael, there are smaller steps we can take along the way to make us more environmentally friendly and push that agenda.”
Both Doughty and Angus have taken inspiration from other members of the EFL Green Clubs scheme, including local rivals Forest Green Rovers.
“One of the things I really enjoy about working in football is that people are willing to share. On the pitch we have our rivalries but off it, people are willing to share ideas and thoughts,” he continued.
“We want to do this for Swindon first and foremost but are keen to share ideas. Hopefully we can be a beacon alongside Forest Green and others to encourage other Clubs to go on a similar journey.”
And Doughty is hoping his role can initiate a dialogue between the Club and the supporters to ensure a greener future.
“Sometimes it can be quite a scary topic because a lot of the plus and minus maths and carbon emissions and people suddenly feel a bit paralysed,” he noted. “I think my job is to come in and hopefully take away that worry about if we’re doing the right thing and bring the fans on that journey which I can through that relationship by bringing them into the conversation.”