WOODS ARE AIMING TO BE A CUT ABOVE
Teams to stay afloat. It’s a battle for many Non-League to ensure JOHN LYONS visits one club trying a bright future...
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