‘We’ve lost all income’ - How a non-league football club is fighting for survival after coronavirus hit

It’s no secret that non-league football clubs up and down the country have been struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reporter ABIGAIL NICHOLSON has spoken to Dereham Town FC about its fight to survive.

Dereham Town were sitting 8th in the BetVictor Isthmian North Division league table when the coronavirus pandemic began taking its toll on the UK.

A decision to terminate the season was made on Thursday, March 26, three days after the country went into lockdown.

But not only did the club lose any chance of sporting success, it also saw its income reduced to nothing.

Ashley Bunn, who has been the chairman of Dereham Town for seven months, spoke of the frustrating situation after it was announced the league would not be coming back.

“I don’t think anybody knew what this [coronavirus] would become”, Mr Bunn said. “We lost all income streams immediately – This included the obvious from match days such as gate receipts and bar spend but we also lost the whole of the business side in terms of room hire, meetings and events.

“This needed to be managed alongside the continual outgoings that we had at the time such as utility bills.

“It was a case of looking at how long this could go on for and making sure we could survive and looking at how we can survive this.”

The Magpies have been helped by the government’s furlough scheme along with other grants that were made available by the Football Association (FA).

Mr Bunn said: “The players came to me and said they didn’t want paying in March, which was amazing. I don’t think every club’s players would have done that and I think it shows what culture the club is trying to build.

“There has been lots of support available to us from the FA and government, we have just had to sort it out.

“If we do have to wait longer to get back onto the pitch, then more help is going to have to be available.”

Ahead of the pandemic The Magpies had just invested in a brand new match programme, putting BT Sport in the club house, a new tower system and two new TV screens to enhance the fan experience.

" We have been working hard to ensure the match day experience and atmosphere is as good as it can be for when we get back up and running. “We want to be a huge part of our community and we really do want to give back to its people. “We also need the community to come out and support us and be proud of us. We really are proud to represent both Dereham and Norfolk at the level we do. "

Ashley Bunn, Chairman, Dereham Town FC

Looking forward, Mr Bunn doesn’t know when football might return to Aldiss Park. With this season already void, the club are keeping their fingers crossed for a return by the end of 2020.

Mr Bunn said: “We won’t have the option to play behind closed doors like the Bundesliga do, it would end up costing us more money.

“While social distancing is in place, I can’t see how non-league will be able to return. We won’t be able to test our players three times a week. We’re taking it day by day and week by week with the government guidance.”

Despite the uncertainty, The Magpies are looking ahead and have released season tickets ready for when football resumes.

Mr Bunn said: “We are proud to represent Dereham and Norfolk at the level that we do and we want to make people proud. We are really excited about the future of Dereham Town FC and think that the season tickets represent excellent value.

“We now hope that the community gets behind us and wants to come with us on this journey. Get your season tickets now.”

Season ticket’s have frozen in price and the club will be offering full refunds if the next season does not go ahead.

Original article 01.06.20 (Dereham Times)

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