These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Printed in the FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying round replay v Hendon Tuesday 28th November 2017. We drew 1-1 then lost 3-0 on penalties in front of 626 people.
There isn't a week when the Non League Paper doesn't report on another football club in crisis. Before the Southern Premier League season even began we knew Gosport would be relying on youngsters to try and avoid this seasons one relegation spot, while Dunstable Town became a supporters run club after their main backer left the building.
Now it's the turn of Merthyr Town who last week announced an 80% budget cut with the majority of their players leaving. Their youth players stepped up and were duly battered 13-1 by Chesham United. Merthyr were resurrected not so long ago as a fan owned club, but as one of the committee members said “Being fan-owned means that finances can sometimes be tight and mistakes can be made. Two and a half years ago we tried to increase spending on and off the pitch after our successful promotion. At the end of last season we increased that again. Again there was the hope that income would increase significantly. Unfortunately that just hasn’t happened hand we’ve lost thousands of pounds since.” The club now have a £25,000 tax bill they are hoping to pay off with a crowdfunding page, collections and increased attendances at their Pack the Park promotions.
Dulwich Hamlet are one of the best supported teams at our level but have found themselves caught between property developers Meadow Partners (who set the playing budget) and Southwark Council over plans to build houses on their ground. The developers promised to build a new ground and hand the club over to the supporters if they got permission for new houses. Southwark quite rightly said that not enough of these houses were affordable and so the Hamlet are on the brink being used by property developers as football pawns to get their own way.
Meanwhile they are up against Billericay who have been allowed to get away with spending a totally unsustainable wage bill by a chairman with an ego that would swallow a lion. And we all know what happens to clubs when big-ego chairman lose patience and walk away.
We also have 135 year old Skelmersdale United locked out of their ground, Clapton Ultras boycotting home games because of the actions of the clubs chairman and Waltham Forest plunged into uncertainty after the death of their chairman. Waltham Forest is run by volunteers with players paying their own travel expenses. They have set up a crowdfunding page in the hope that they can raise enough money to celebrate next seasons 150th anniversary.
While football clubs should be run properly, running a football club isn't like running a business. Liam Hickey is Dulwich's club chairman and a supporter for nearly 50 years. He has found Meadow increasingly difficult to deal with. “At nearly every level of football, people invest money for the love of the game...What is very clear in discussions with certain people at Meadow is that they don’t get this concept at all. They can’t understand why anyone wants to put money into football. It is completely alien for a property company to try to run a football club.”
Even when you are doing well fans still like to have a pop. After years in the doldrums, Slough Town are flying but some people are moaning that season ticket holders and those that actually go to a game are rewarded with the first chance to buy tickets for the Rochdale cup match! Imagine that, rewarding people who support the team.
It takes an enormous amount of work to build a football club, but a couple of poor seasons, the wrong manager, a chairman blinded by their own pig-headness, and fans impatience and you can see all your hard work come crashing down.
So what is the answer if even supporters run clubs can find themselves in a financial mess? Or will it ever be that some football clubs will find themselves flying too close to the financial wind? And how is it with the Premier League awash with cash that grassroots football is in such a mess?
Thankfully non league re-organisation will cut the travel bill for many clubs but I would like to see the FA level the playing field with financial fairplay and a wage cap on teams. Our planning laws need to be strengthened to protect football grounds from property vultures. But probably the most important thing you as a supporter could do, would be offering to volunteer for your local non league club.
* If you want to make a donation to Waltham Forest campaign


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