6th April 2017

West Allotment Celtic’s resignation may have been a political gesture designed to illicit a response from their Landlords, Northumberland FA, in the hope they revise or rescind their proposed large rent increases.

As the club can withdraw their resignation at any time until June, their resignation draws a line in the sand like a Footballing game of ‘chicken’. Your move, Northumberland FA. I hope they come to a compromise, any club resigning is a great shame.

While we await the FA response with our fingers crossed, readers should note this financial tight-rope walk is the reality for most grassroots clubs these days.

Northern League ticket prices are £6 for a full adult ticket (£5 in Division 2), £3 for a concession and £1 for kids. Naturally many fresh-faced 17 year-olds sneak in for £1 and equally some elderly looking fifty somethings (or favoured regulars) convince the gatekeeper they are concessions. Others come in for free in the second half when some clubs open the gates. This all affects revenue.

Players demand match fees ranging between £20 and £100 with the better players needing to be kept on contract to avoid them leaving. It’s sometimes puzzling how clubs manage to survive under these circumstances.

The truth is, many clubs don’t and get by relying on the ongoing (and always temporary) personal generosity of a well-heeled benefactor or a community minded sponsor. But neither lasts forever (remember Celtic Nation?)

A six-game run in the FA Cup can net a club £15,000 or more. If you are lucky enough to get T.V. interest during the cup run, add a zero to that figure. This is why you see angry Chairmen stomping around after watching their team wheeze their way to defeat in the first or preliminary qualifying round, not yet fully fit after the summer break. It takes a lot of sponsors to make up that difference in tough economic times and many clubs simply cannot do it.

Lots of clubs are now ground sharing and this is papering over the cracks of a potential Northern League crisis. Clubs need to get their players into the community fundraising.

In what is perhaps the subject of a future post, the prospect of more fluid leagues with enforced promotion into higher leagues that means more travel and higher running costs casts a further cloud over the long-term viability of our local Football clubs.

I would hate to think we reach a point where clubs dread winning a key match because promotion would see them face closure due to increased financial pressure. I am told it would cost an extra £30,000 for a club to get promoted from the Northern League Division 1.

West Allotment need the support of their FA to keep going and I hope they get it.

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