Fan to Motherwell chief executive – ‘Winning Scottish Cup would be beyond wildest dreams’

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Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows on his rise from supporter to chief executive
Scottish Cup final: Celtic v Motherwell
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Saturday, 19 May Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC One Scotland from 14:00, Radio Scotland & BBC Sport Scotland website and BBC Sport app

How do you go from being a fan of a football club to its’ chief executive?

Few have made the journey but for Alan Burrows, it began with a trip to Hampden when he was eight years old to watch Motherwell beat Dundee United 4-3 in a classic Scottish Cup final.

That was 1991. Now 35, and preparing for another Motherwell Scottish Cup final at Hampden, Burrows casts his mind back to a pivotal moment in his life.

Fan to Motherwell chief executive – ‘Winning Scottish Cup would be beyond wildest dreams’
Fan to Motherwell chief executive – ‘Winning Scottish Cup would be beyond wildest dreams’

“It wasn’t my first game, but it was certainly one of the ones that I remember,” he tells BBC Sport Scotland.

“I was still an impressionable young boy, going with my dad. I certainly remember the colour, the smells and the noise… sitting on the crush barrier at Hampden and watching the range of emotions from people.

“That really hooked me on football. Not just the sport but the whole element of the day, the passion and the aggression at times as well. I found it quite fascinating.”

Motherwell last lifted the Scottish Cup in 1991
Motherwell last lifted the Scottish Cup in 1991, with a young Burrows celebrating at Hampden

Cup final success ignited his passion. From there, Burrows would start regularly attending Motherwell matches with his father.

“We went through a lot of family difficulties around the time we started going to the game and it really helped solidify the bond between us both,” Burrows said.

“Our first season ticket was 1993-94, which was the last year of Tommy McLean’s era at the club.

“The team finished second in the table. We had the likes of Paul Lambert, Tommy Coyne, Dougie Arnott, Brian Martin, Chris McCart – some really fantastic Motherwell legends. The team were outstanding that season. Many felt the team were unlucky not to win the title.

“So it was easy to see a young boy like me falling in love with the club, because they were such a decent team at the time.”

‘I sort of floated home from Austria’

With the club in his heart, Burrows’ dedication later saw him start running an official Motherwell website in his early-to-mid-20s.

One particular away trip saw his career path spiral in a different direction.

“I paid for myself to go over to Austria on a pre-season tour,” he explained.

“Nobody else was going, so I was backpacking, planes, trains and automobiles getting to Obertraun, which is just south of Salzburg. At that time I was sending pictures and reports back.

“It was Mark McGhee’s first year at the club. Stewart Robertson, the current Rangers managing director, phoned me. He was on the Motherwell board at the time and he left a voicemail saying he really liked what I was doing and would I like to come and do it for the club.

“I sort of floated home from Austria. I was on such a high.”

Burrows started work with Motherwell in September 2007 in the communications department. During that time he worked closely with Leeann Dempster, now chief executive at Hibernian.

Alan Burrows in conversation with Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster
Alan Burrows learned the ropes from Leaann Dempster before succeeding her as chief executive

“I worked for six years with Leeann Dempster. I got to know all the different aspects of how we run on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

“She involved me, in her latter days before she departed the club, in the senior elements – board meetings, strategy, etc. When she left and she asked me on behalf of the board whether I would want to do the job, it was something I debated for quite some time.

“I spent a couple of weeks thinking about it. But in essence I had already made the decision.”

‘Be seen, be visual, be open and be honest’

It has been a whirlwind decade for Burrows in his ascent at Motherwell. Now in charge, his attitude to leadership reflects his rise through the club.

“I’ve never been scared to do anything that needs to be done,” he said. “I’d never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. If that’s being at a board meeting, if that’s clearing snow off the pitch, if that’s cleaning a toilet – I would do it.

“I think that’s proper leadership. Yes, you need to delegate and you can’t do everything, but real leadership – especially when things are difficult – [you need to] be seen, be visual, be open and be honest and give people reassurances that you’re prepared to get your sleeves rolled up and work as hard as they’re going to work. For me, that’s leadership.

“It’s based on my love for the club. I would do anything for this place and people know that.”

Motherwell overpowered Aberdeen in the Scottish Cups semi-final to set up a meeting with Celtic
Motherwell overpowered Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final to set up a meeting with Celtic

His love affair with Motherwell began with Scottish Cup celebrations of 1991, so what would it mean to win the trophy as chief executive?

“It would be beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “It gets me emotional thinking about it actually. This club has only won the Scottish Cup twice – 1952 and 1991 – so it would be a treble of our own.

“To be the person steering the club off the field and winning a major trophy would be hard to put into words.”

Motherwell lost Cedric Kipre to a red card in November's League Cup final loss to Celtic
Ten-man Motherwell lost 2-0 to Celtic in this season’s League Cup final

If Burrows’ rise has been meteoric, his passion for Motherwell remains undimmed.

“My ultimate goal is to make this place better than when I found it,” he added. “I want to secure it long term.

“We’ve moved into fan ownership; we’re the only club in the Premiership that are fully fan owned. Hearts are on their way to it and St Mirren, who are coming up, are on their way to it as well.”

“My legacy I hope will be that from an on-field and off-field point of view, we are secure and stable for many generations of Motherwell fans to come, either at this stadium or a new one.

“It’s leaving a positive environment, a secure and stable environment and an enjoyable environment for people to come and watch the football club they love.”

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