Although some parts of England will resume with varying levels of spectators in their football stadia, after lockdown 2, unfortunately I will be grounded because we are surrounded by Tier 3 restrictions and there are no local games in the area.
My season so far has been eight games which I have thoroughly enjoyed but I still fear for the many local teams that are unable to generate their usual income streams. There has been support some government but much of it is in the form of loans which if there is no income they cannot repay.
The positive note is that of the eight games it was a joy to see that volunteers had spent lockdown cleaning, painting and improving facilities. Some have laid synthetic pitches that will reduce postponements and can be used by youth teams and rented out for casual users. Like many businesses Non League teams have had to re-assess their payment of players and how to generate future income.
I have followed St Albans City mainly from afar for too many years and they have been a beacon of light to me this year. During the first prolonged lockdown their twitter feed kept me engrossed with some great clips of past games, history articles and updates on their volunteers work schedules. What was very interesting and perhaps a masterstroke was achieved before these pressing times hit them hard.
The well respected Ian Allinson was hired to manage the team in February 2016 after a strong career as a footballer and manager. He has made St Albans into an attractive side that has maintained their National League South status and this year are the only undefeated side in the upper levels of football. Their style of play has meant that even in defeat they have managed to maintain a good level of support that has been vital for income because their grounds position [Clarence Park] is in a very leafy housing area with limited parking which excludes them from generating a good income from the bar facilities that is the life blood of many of their peers. The owners have proposed two strong regeneration proposals to move the club and build housing to pay for the move but as yet they have not been able to get local council approval.
In July 2019 Ian was employed to update their commercial activities and what a transformation. Ian had not only gone into football management after his playing career ended but also carved out a successful commercial business career as well. There have been numerous new sponsorships and commercial activity and the masterstroke this season was their shirt sponsorship. The shirts have been sponsored by Enter Shikari the world famous St Albans based rock band. It has been fascinating to watch City’s twitter feed to see the football and band fans post their delight at owning the new strip, sometimes the second as well. Surely this must have generated good income.
Image copied from St Albans City Shop
To have the football manager also responsible for income generation makes good sense, their commercial achievements can be reflected in the squad that is assembled.
St Albans’ YouTube and match streaming activities have generated extra income that can continue well into the future and give those that watch from afar a chance to keep in touch.
With a vaccine program within reach hopefully I will be able to make a pilgrimage to Clarence Park.
I can’t wait for football to return locally but I hope that any restrictions that apply will be actioned by the clubs. It was patchy at the best with Frickley Athletic being my exemplar of those I experienced.