BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
New Dunfermline Athletic general manager Michael Mlotkiewicz insists he is living the dream after swapping his beloved seat in the North-West Stand for a chair in the boardroom.
Mlotkiewicz, 29, succeeds Ross McArthur, who was named the new chairman of the Pars this week, and completes a remarkable rise to the top job for a lifelong fan who simply offered a helping hand to the club little over three years ago.
In a voluntary capacity he helped to overhaul the social and digital marketing at the club, improved their graphic design, launched sales campaigns and was named vice-chairman of the Centenary Club Lifeline.
He also founded one of Dunfermline’s biggest fans’ groups, The Elizabethan Pars Supporters Club, which now boasts more than 400 members. In short; born and bred in Fife, he did whatever he could to help the Pars emerge from the ashes of administration.
However, the notion that he could ever be effectively running the place never crossed his mind.
Indeed, as Mlotkiewicz – who has spent the last six years working in the marketing department at Fife College – completes his first week in the job, his head is still spinning.
He told Capital City Press: “It is all very surreal, I could never have imaged myself being the general manager of Dunfermline Athletic. I think the hardest thing might be giving up my seat over in the North-West Stand, which I was in right up until the end of last season.
“My dad, Michael Sr, started bringing me to East End Park when I was four years old. I vaguely recall going to those games, but my dad tells me I didn’t really enjoy it!
“I stopped going for a couple of years, but then I really got the bug for it. My favourite players back then were Norrie McCathie and big Andy Tod, around the Bert Paton era. So to sit in the Norrie McCathie Stand in this role is something really special and I can’t describe how proud I am.
“The place has such a feel-good factor at the moment. Everything is so positive and this is a dream come true for me.”
Mlotkiewicz, like every other Pars’ supporter, feared for the club’s future following their descent into administration in 2013, as the excesses of the Gavin Masterton reign finally took their toll.
However, it is a trauma which has fostered a togetherness at East End Park under new owners, fans’ collective Pars United – something he is determined to build on during his tenure as GM.
He recalls: “We were told we were around an hour from potentially going out of business, which is a sobering thought.
“But coming so close to that – not having a club to support anymore – brought everyone together. You can see that to this day. We have volunteers coming along to clean the stands, help with small repairs or chip in any way they can.
“When I think of how far the club has come in the last three years, it is incredible. We have come through really tough times – now we want to keep progressing and improving in every department.”
With season ticket sales well on course to beat the 2,500-mark of last season – and surpassing 3000 a possibility – Mlotkiewicz is able to build upon a feel-good factor from last season’s League 1 title triumph.
The presence of a Hibs side managed by Neil Lennon, Dundee United and local rivals Falkirk and Raith Rovers in the Championship will only serve to heighten excitement levels.
However, Mlotkiewicz will not allow anyone to rest on their laurels.
He added: “There was a disconnect with the supporters a few years ago and it was important we opened the lines of communications, brought an air of positivity to the club and got everyone puling in the right direction.
“We want that to continue, through social media and any other way we can involve supporters and keep them excited and informed.
“We need to market the commercial side of the business as well. We have great facilities here for conferences and functions, match day hospitality and we want to get that message out and connect with the community.
“My aim is to continue improving all aspects of our club. From marketing to press and media. Our club has vastly improved in the last three years but we need to continue our recent success in order to get this club back to where it belongs.”