Sutton ‘lost £200,000 be­cause of lock­down’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By Jim White

The regulars will find Sutton United’s Gan­der Green Lane ground look­ing very dif­fer­ent when they turn up for the first home game of the Na­tional League sea­son in Oc­to­ber.

There will be one-way sys­tems, no-go ar­eas and a host of hand-sani­tis­ing sta­tions. In the main stand, only one in eight of the 750 seats will be avail­able and any re­fresh­ment out­lets al­lowed to open will be cash­less. Ad­mis­sion will be bought in ad­vance on­line and ev­ery­where will have sig­nage in­di­cat­ing where spec­ta­tors can – and can­not – go. An army of vol­un­teers has worked on the club’s ground be­com­ing Covid com­pli­ant.

“We had to ap­point a Covid

oper­a­tions of­fi­cer,” says Adrian Barry, the Na­tional League club’s vice-chair­man. “We have spent an enor­mous amount of time and en­ergy get­ting the place up to speed. But at least we have got foot­ball back again.”

Sutton’s last match be­fore lock­down was a 1-1 draw with Hartle­pool on March 14. Since then, the place has been closed.

The 3G pitch, nor­mally in use seven days a week, was not avail­able for hire. The club’s bars were shut, the hos­pi­tal­ity suites no longer able to host func­tions, and the com­mu­nity pro­gramme, in­volv­ing two women’s sides, three dis­abil­ity and 20 ju­nior teams and an over-50s walk­ing foot­ball squad, put into abeyance.

“We es­ti­mate the fi­nan­cial hole over the time since lock­down be­gan to be around £200,000,” Barry says. “Given our play­ing bud­get is £300,000 a sea­son, that is quite an amount.”

Barry is hop­ing that close to the usual home crowd of 1,300 might be able to at­tend, be­cause with­out them, he sug­gests, the ex­is­tence of the club will be en­dan­gered.

“Let’s not beat about the bush here, the re­turn of sup­port­ers is crit­i­cal,” Barry says. “We have es­tab­lished what we be­lieve is an ap­proach that will al­low us to go for­ward. But that is en­tirely de­pen­dent on fans com­ing in.

“Un­til we can get back fully to that po­si­tion, it is go­ing to be tough, tough, tough.”

To­mor­row Why Covid could ac­cel­er­ate plans for Euro­pean Su­per League

New ball game: Sutton’s Gan­der Green Lane is to be Covid-com­pli­ant

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