‘Kent’s big­gest beer gar­den’ can save club

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tom Mor­gan On­line, Kent

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.”

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