Whilst Sean Paul may or may not have been talking about the plight of a Sussex non league football team in his seminal 2002 hit, his words ring true nonetheless.
The Coronavirus pandemic has had ruinous effect on UK sport and non-league football is no exception.
With many clubs operating on the tightest of all margins game day receipts are bar takings can be the difference between keeping the lights on and having to defend hoofed long balls in total darkness.
Whilst the Premier League has been spun back up to appease soulless sponsors and distract the populace from the complete and utter nightmare that is our life, hundreds of clubs throughout the UK are being faced with a financial burden that many will not recover from.
The complete absurdity of English football’s trickle-down economic model has been exposed and teams that have existed for hundreds of years are having to turn to crowdfunding just to fill their fiscal shortfalls.
Lewes FC is one of these clubs.
The mighty Rooks, Equality FC, the quietest club in Sussex, whatever you want to call them, they need £30,000 for new floodlights and various other facilities or those dark February nights are going to be a whole lot darker next year.
“Like all football clubs (and businesses) COVID-19 has taken its toll,” the club states. “This season’s revenues fall short of us being able to invest in some key infrastructural improvements that we need to do: floodlights, clubhouse toilet facilities, and pitch upgrades. So, we are launching our first ever crowdfunder and hope that you, our local and global fanbase, will contribute.”
Lewes FC is a 100 percent fan-owned, not-for-profit club with a democratically elected board and the only such organisation in the world to pay its men’s and women’s first teams equal amounts.
Whilst the biggest teams in the land chuck millions about like its monopoly money, Lewes has a funding target of just £36,000. The sum that wouldn’t get you a Liverpool player for an afternoon, but it would overhaul a number of critical facilities at The Dripping Pan. Should the target be reached it will unlock a further £40,000 in support, which wouldn’t go amiss either.
The squad, managers and coaches are heading into their seventeenth week without any sort of footballing activity and as one would expect there has been little by way of information from central government as to when they can expect a return.
Football clubs are often maligned in the press, with the stuck-up Etonians waltzing through Government also fond of sticking the boot in whenever they can.
At the start of the pandemic the world’s smarmiest git, Matt Hancock (Undercurrent awards 2020) even went as far to suggest that football clubs were not doing their bit, whilst standing for the very institution that is ensuring their basic survival remains on a knife edge.
Clubs such as Lewes – and any number of other non league entities – are more than 90 minutes on a Saturday. They are economic entities, providing crucial jobs, revenue and footfall to some of the less-than-desirable corners of our land (I’m looking at you, Dartford FC) and they are much more.
These clubs are institutions. They are meeting places. They are lifelines for many.
The Pan on a matchday is a beautiful thing. Sure there are lads in fake Stone Island jackets absolute caning pints, but there is also a great deal more.
A cursory glance around the stand will reveal grandparents sharing an afternoon with their grandkids, players from the youth team getting revved up on Lucozade sport and having a laugh, properly brilliant dogs all over the shop and a load of the old boys meeting up for a couple of pints and a moan up.
I for one cherish these afternoons when the unrelenting tide of misery that is our modern life is forgotten between 3pm and 5pm, and know I’m not alone.
These clubs are a port in a storm for so many. There is a pandemic of loneliness in our communities and such will have no doubt been exacerbated by recent isolation.
What better way to combat this than popping down the Pan for some pints with you pals, whether for the first or four hundredth time.
Our communities need football clubs and right now our football clubs need their communities more than ever.
Support non league football.
Come on you Rooks.