Teams to stay afloat. It’s a bat­tle for many Non-League to en­sure JOHN LYONS vis­its one club try­ing a bright fu­ture...

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - NON-LEAGUE -

IT’S the last Tues­day in Oc­to­ber and a crowd of 89 have turned up on a mild night to see North­wood host Pot­ters Bar Town in the the Evo-Stik Southern Di­vi­sion One Cen­tral.

The money taken at the turn­stiles, with pro­grammes in­cluded, is £240. The fee to pay the match of­fi­cials is £199.80. That’s one ex­am­ple of why many Non-League clubs are strug­gling to make ends meet, why stay­ing alive is suc­cess in it­self.

North­wood sec­re­tary and trea­surer Alan Evans knows the score. At the age of 52, he’s been in­volved with Woods for ap­proach­ing 30 years. He’s one of those un­sung he­roes, one of those peo­ple who de­votes large chunks of his free time to en­able a club to play in the eighth tier of English foot­ball.

The Premier League it most definitely isn’t. There’s no glam­our here.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult for clubs at this level, and par­tic­u­larly in this area, to sur­vive,” he said. “You’ve got lots of other clubs within three or four miles. The likes of Har­row Bor­ough, Harefield, Uxbridge, Han­well Town, North Green­ford, AFC Hayes and Weald­stone.You are al­ways com­pet­ing for the same sort of peo­ple.

“A few lo­cal clubs were at home tonight and we’ve ended up with a crowd of 89, which is pretty good for us on a Tues­day night in the last couple of years.

“That’s just about paid for the match of­fi­cials tonight.You’ve then got to fork out for lots of other things – elec­tric­ity, bar costs, food costs for the visi­tors, pro­gramme print­ing. The costs are quite high.

“We’ve spent the last seven years clear­ing an old debt that the club had built up and that’s been hard work. It’s been tough to try to sta­bilise the club while pay­ing that debt off. We’re a mem­bers’ club, it was not some­thing we could just wipe off.

“We’ve worked through it, paid ev­ery­body we owed money to and we’ve just about come out the other side now.”

With firm foun­da­tions now in place, the idea is to take the Mid­dle­sex club for­ward and pro­mote it more in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“We felt a good start­ing point would be to re­fur­bish the club­house,” ex­plained Evans. “It’s been brought into the 21st cen­tury with new light­ing, floor­ing, heat­ing – it’s had a com­plete re­fur­bish­ment and it’s got rave re­views.

“We’ve al­most fin­ished ev­ery­thing now and hope­fully it’s go­ing to be used by the lo­cal com­mu­nity a lot more than it has been in the past.”

That club­house re­vamp is es­ti­mated to have cost more than £40,000, with fundrais­ing and ‘gen­er­ous’ mem­bers’ loans help­ing to pay the bills.

An­other ini­tia­tive that has had a good re­sponse has been sell­ing sea­son tick­ets for the princely sum of £30 – yes, £30!

“We prob­a­bly left it a lit­tle bit late,” ad­mit­ted Evans.“We an­nounced it three or four weeks be­fore the start of the sea­son.We wanted to try to at­tract more peo­ple to the club by offering a very, very cheap ticket for the sea­son.We’d have sea­son tick­ets for £30 and £10 of that goes to­wards mem­ber­ship of the so­cial club.

“We’re quite pleased with the re­sults.We are up to nearly 100 sea­son ticket hold­ers now. Last sea­son we had ten so it’s a much im­proved po­si­tion for us to build on.

“If those 100 come just ev­ery other game it would be a big boost for the club. They may have a drink, a burger, it just in­creases the in­come of the club.”

If re­fur­bish­ing the club­house and bar­gain sea­son tick­ets are two ways for­ward for Woods, then there is one other thing that Evans would love to see in the com­ing years – but fears he won’t. Vol­un­teers, peo­ple will­ing to give up their free time to help the club with­out ex­pect­ing any kind of pay­ment in re­turn.

“It’s a big is­sue for the whole of Non-League foot­ball,” said Evans, who works for Eal­ing Coun­cil as man­ager of a fi­nance sec­tion.“I’m here on a match­day and there are prob­a­bly no more than three of us car­ry­ing out ten jobs. We’ve had no new blood run­ning the first team ad­min­is­tra­tion for quite some time.

“I strug­gle to see how Non-League foot­ball in gen­eral will sur­vive with the lack of vol­un­teers. North­wood is a club with 20-odd youth teams which means more than 200 sets of par­ents, but none of them are here tonight. “I don’t see peo­ple giv­ing up their time as much as I have over the last 27 years. I cur­rently do the roles of sec­re­tary and trea­surer and I con­trib­ute to the pro­gramme.“I’m here on match­day putting out the cor­ner flags, do­ing the an­nounce­ments on the tan­noy, making sure we’re stocked up with money and pro­grammes, sort­ing out cups of tea and cof­fee in the board­room but I can’t be every­where. “As a club, we try to show very good hos­pi­tal­ity, and

we do, but there

North­wood stal­wart Alan Evans

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