Leek Town chairman spells out problems in uncertain times for clubs



Leek Town chairman Jon Eeles says uncertainty about next season makes it very difficult for his club to make plans.

Blues are waiting to hear when they could return to action having had their 2019/20 campaign scrapped in March because of the coronavirus crisis.

Eeles estimates Leek missed out on more than £20,000 income by having the remaining games cancelled and is now focusing on keeping the club running until football can return to Harrison Park.

But he says, until clubs have at least some idea when next season might begin, now is not the right time to ask fans for money.

He explained: “We still have the running costs of the facility to keep going. There are water rates, heat and light, bits and pieces that we are committed to, so it has been a problem.

“I have made the decision not to get the begging bowl out yet. I think it is far too early for us certainly. We don’t know when we are going to restart or how long the season is going to be.

“There are talks of a truncated season in the regional leagues so I am not going to go and ask people to pay for their season tickets early when we don’t know what they are committing to.”

He added: “Fans have been furloughed and the vast majority will be short of money. Football is an important part of the community but a lot of fundraising is going on around the NHS and foodbanks, and I wouldn’t want to take focus away from that at the moment by trying to raise money for us.

“There will be a time and a place for it. I would rather know when we are opening, and what we are doing, and then do some fund-raising around that so people get some value for it as well.”

The chairman fears for the future of some clubs but says Leek are in a relatively healthy position.

He said: “In terms of six to 12 months’ outlook then absolutely. If we don’t have a season, and it is scrapped completely, then we would have to think where we are.

“We are in a fortunate position because we own the freehold so it is just the running costs that we have to cover.

“But if it is any longer than that, or just our league or step is affected  – because there hasn’t been a uniform approach through football in terms of decisions – then that is also difficult.

“Then we would have to rethink it. But we will be there in some form or other, you can be sure of that. That is what I have told supporters.

“But I think there will be some that go, absolutely.”

In the meantime, making plans is difficult. The chairman said: “I have thought of different scenarios we could employ but, until we know a little bit more, it is a bit of a problem.

“We are not unique. I think a lot of non league clubs are in it together. I speak to my peers at Newcastle and Kidsgrove and they have similar views and are suffering similarly as well.

“You can’t plan.  Normally we’d know we’d be kicking off in the middle of August. So, you could do some pre-season things which are part of your fund-raising. I could approach Crewe, Vale and Stoke and ask if they would give us a pre-season friendly. But nobody knows when we could start and what we could do, what football is going to look like at that point.”

Leek were top of the Northern Premier League South East Division when the campaign was scrapped, but were denied the title and promotion when the FA decided to make the season null and void, rather than settle it on points per game as is happening in the EFL.

But despite that disappointment, the chairman says manager Neil Baker and his players should take great pride in their efforts. He’s hopeful of keeping the majority of that squad together for when football can return.

He said: “Neil and the players have done fantastically.

“We have been very well supported on the terraces and through partners and sponsors. We haven’t got the biggest budget in the league, by any means, but I am confident in saying we are the best team in the league.

“Certainly when it finished we had the best record and I am certain we would have got over the line this year.

“But everyone we have spoken to at the club feels it is unfinished business and we will be there again to give it a go.” 





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