By Ilan Herrmann
As the English Football League season reaches its climax, all eyes are on the big six: Man City, Liverpool, Man United, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal. But there is a side many are not watching which is worthy of our attention, both from a sporting point of view as well as from a Jewish South African interest.
Lincoln City is poised to win League 2, the fourth tier of English football. The team is currently 11 points clear at the top of their nearest rival Mansfield and if they achieve promotion they will move into League 1. For a club that holds the record for the most demotions from the League (five times) and which has never finished higher than 5th place in the second division, this marks a new era.
But there is more. Lincoln achieved promotion only two years ago in the 2016/17 season from the fifth tier of English football, the feeder into the leagues. Now just two seasons later and currently with an 11-point cushion at the top and just five games to play, they are about to move up again. It’s big stuff because League 1 is just one away from the Championship league which is the feeder to the Premier League.
Another remarkable feat of that same 2016/17 season was Lincoln’s FA Cup run. They became the first non-Football League side since 1914 to reach the FA Cup Quarter Finals after defeating Premier League side Burnley in the fifth round. Though humbled by Arsenal in the quarters at the Emirates, the very fact that they reached there, speaks volumes.
Lincoln is a classic example of the minnows, the boys on the other side of the fence, rising up and doing something extra-ordinary. The ‘Imps’ as they are nicknamed may have a small stadium (10 120 capacity) and a relatively modest budget, but what they do have is a great management team in brothers Danny and Nicky Cowley, a zealous band of supporters and a team that are full of heart and a will to succeed.
If Dr. Dani Craven’s well known formula of having a Jew on his Springbok team in order to achieve success is something to go by, we might also include a further factor for Lincolns impressive rise. They have not one but three Jewish South Africans on their board.
Johannesburg based Clive Nates a co-founder of Peregrine Capital, a hedge fund management company, invested into the club in 2016. Two of Nates’ friends Sean Melnick, Founder and Chairman of Peregrine and Ashley Mendelowitz, a founder of A2X Markets, decided to invest into the club as well.
All three are avid soccer followers. Jo’burg based Mendelowitz spent many years growing up in Italy where he followed Juventus. Nates also has dual loyalties in that he has been an Everton supporter since the 1960’s. But now their focus is primarily with Lincoln and all have made important contributions to the growth of the club.
They’ve also had ‘a ball’ doing it, as Sean Melnick says, “When Clive Nates invited me to join him in investing into Lincoln City, he hinted that we’d have a lot of fun in the process. I can happily say that the enjoyment and excitement since we invested, have surpassed all expectations.”
It was Nates who spotted the opportunity and reached out to the flailing club in 2015 after they were informed by their bankers that they would be withdrawing their loan. With the formalities completed Nates became a director in 2016 and was then elected Chairman in June 2017.
Nates recalls the backdrop to his foray into English football club investment. “Towards the end of 2011 I retired and then in 2014 my youngest kid was finishing at school. I felt that with my wife being busy the time was right to either go back into the investment world or tick number one off my bucket list, which was getting involved in an English football team.
“Everton was beyond my means so Lincoln City was the natural choice.”