SIGN OF THE TIMES?
This article should have appeared in the Southern League South and
West game v Gosport Borough 7th Feb 2008 but thanks to the
snow, frost and rain, the game was called off.
With the country deep in recession, Beaconsfield have joined the
chorus of clubs to admit they have financial problems. Their chairman
Bob Breen said that they will not survive as a Southern League club
unless they receive immediate help from volunteers and the people of
Beaconsfield. So shall we blame the credit crunch or is this an on
going problem? In a way Beaconsfield are a victim of their own
success. Despite winning the treble last season and now in the play-
offs they are averaging just 116 people for home games. They’ve got a
tidy little ground but it is out on a limb in no-man’s land that lacks
identity and Beaconsfield, one of the most expensive places to buy a
house in the country, is hardly a footballing hot bed. Infact if it
weren’t for the ground-sharing agreement with Slough, Breen admits the
club would be in even more serious financial trouble.
Of course, there are clubs like Beaconsfield up and down the pyramid.
Sponsorship is drying up, but stupid ground grading rules and
excessive travelling aren’t helping matters. Recently Barnstaple
Town’s manager resigned, making the point that in some league games
his players were travelling all day for £30. A director at the club is
now urging them to leave the Western League because of the current
economic situation and the amount of travelling involved and go back
to having a local manager with local players. Despite both Slough and
Beaconsfield playing at level five, we are often travelling westwards.
Of course its worse for league rivals Truro, whose geography means
9,422 miles on the road throughout the season. But rumours of their
imminent demise are never far from the football forums, not helped by
being backed by a property owning sugar daddy who has propelled them
into the highest ranking Cornish club in the country.
The recession means that there is going to be far less football sugar
daddies about – no bad thing in my book, as relying on one person’s
cash is a disaster waiting to happen when the man with the wallet goes
walkabout. But the most interesting thing of the Bob Breen article was
his bemoaning the lack of volunteers.
For football clubs to get more people in through the gates and helping
out on match-days the mind-set has to change, as often they are there
own worst enemies. So aside from breeding, you have to be inventive!
The least clubs can do is make it kids for a quid and free tickets to
local schools and youth football teams. One supporter at Cwmbran Town
told of some of this inventiveness “The turnstile operator and
Chairman let a bunch of lads in for a quid apiece. They were just
hanging around the sports centre and cheekily asked for a discount.
They came in, stayed for the whole game and turned up for the next
home game with a couple more mates. Since then, they have been to
every game, bought replica shirts, flags, hats, scarves etc and also
brought a few more mates along with them. Whether they continue coming
long term, when they are old enough to spend Saturday afternoon in the
pub watching the results come through on Sky, I don't know, but for
now they sing and shout all through the game and frankly have been a
breath of fresh air.” A former secretary at Crockenhill FC remembered
that time when “One of the local youngsters who I could have chased
off the pitch one Saturday for breaking in and kicking around actually
stayed for the game and eventually played for the club.” These are the
sorts of volunteers and attitudes football clubs need to survive!