‘Kent’s biggest beer garden’ can save club
Resourceful volunteers at Faversham Town are transforming a spare pitch (above) into “Kent’s biggest beer garden” to help plug a £50,000 hole in club coffers.
The beer will be flowing from Sunday, and those who attend will be toasting the club’s survival, secured by the Government’s pledge on the grass-roots game last night.
Brian Flynn, 49, one of the directors, says its longawaited return avoids a “catastrophe” for the community. “We’ve got youth sides from the under-sixes, girls teams, powerchair teams, right up to the adult semi-professional side,” he says. “Any time where a club goes bust is a catastrophe within the community because those clubs are providing much more than just football for adults.”
The senior men’s side are not strictly grass-roots, featuring in the Isthmian League South East Division, where players earn weekly fees from £40 to £400.
“We need to be able to play football in front of supporters,” Flynn says. “Semi-professional football survives on people coming through the gate.”
There are about 400 youth players at the club. Kickabouts have been allowed in small groups, each two metres apart, and regularly sanitising as per the Football Association guidelines.
“We’ve worked really hard to abide,” Flynn says. “I was actually furious because some other clubs have been breaking those rules. We know of one game taking place with a referee already.
“As soon as the juniors come back in full, we’ll be holding trials within the next week or two. The kids will be back training. It will be great to get full contact, as the kids themselves have been chomping at the bit.”
During most summers the club’s coffers are boosted by a beer festival and a Pride festival. They also often invite bigger teams such as Gillingham to come down and play friendlies during the close season.
Flynn said the Government handouts had been a “lifeline” in addition to the pub garden initiative, which will now take place every Sunday at the club to raise funds.
As first reported by
the beer garden will run from midday until 6pm every Sunday. It is set to run for eight weeks but will go on for longer if the football season is delayed. Its capacity will be capped at a maximum of 500, to maintain social distancing.
“We, like many other clubs, would have struggled to see our way through to the start of the new season,” Flynn says. “We are just one story which is repeated in towns around the country. The local football club is a source of identity and an important part of the community. We are embedded in the community. The football cannot come back soon enough.”