There are some final details to be confirmed regarding the composition of the National League North and South for next season, however we have been advised that there will be no relegation from Step Two, subject to FA ratification.
Blyth Spartans’ performance on the pitch was not good enough last season and it seems we will get a second chance to put things right. There is only one thing that the Executive Committee of the club is focused on, and that is the survival of our special football club.
It was hoped that the appointment of experienced defender Michael Nelson as manager at the end of last season would rescue the club, but the virus interrupted that plan. We are now looking to Michael to take the Club forward next season. Michael is talking to many players about next season and we hope to make further announcements regarding the squad soon.
With so much uncertainty about next season, even down to when it will start, putting together a budget has been very difficult. As most people are aware, there are three main elements to financing our football team – sponsorship, our social club and most importantly our supporters.
We are in discussions with our main sponsors but because of the huge financial uncertainty caused by the virus and the uncertainty about what we can actually offer sponsors, this is not easy. We are confident that most sponsors recognise the importance of the club to our town and county and that they will be supportive.
As with all entertainment businesses, our social club is in the same position as other licenced premises. The club had a full program of bookings over the summer but these have all had to be cancelled. We do not know when the restrictions on licenced premises will be lifted and what conditions will be imposed. The social club does have some advantages in that it has large rooms and space outside. Work has been taking place to improve the efficiency and appearance of the club during the lockdown. All lighting has been upgraded to LED saving over 70% on electricity costs. The gent’s toilets have been upgraded and work is starting on improvements to the décor in the Club foyer using volunteers.
The most difficult area to quantify is how many supporters will attend matches. This is the most significant element of income. As I have stated in the past, if we could achieve an average gate of 1,200 the finances of the club would be transformed. Some of our loyal supporters are elderly and the potential risks of gathering at sports events in the light of the virus will be hard to judge. We have a capacity of over 4000 and there is talk that a limit of 25% of maximum capacity will be implemented. The simple answer is we just do not know.
There was talk of playing behind closed doors but for football at our level this is simply not financially viable. Equally, if the opening of the social club is not synchronised with the commencement of football the offering available to spectators will be seriously reduced. If the season starts late, there is talk of running a compressed season with two games every week. If this were to happen it would have a serious impact on income because, in a lot of cases spectators, understandably, may not be able to afford two matches per week.
For all of the above reasons and in frank discussions with the manager, we have set a very modest budget to ensure the survival of the club. This is a theme running through not only non-league but League One and Two as some clubs may fall next season.
Our financial year ended on the 31st May and under normal circumstances, we would have held our AGM in early August. At this time, we are uncertain when this will happen but we would hope it can be arranged before the season kicks off. We will keep you advised on all developments.
Finally, the Executive Committee wishes you and your families well in these difficult times and look forward to seeing you when the season kicks off.
Chairman of Blyth Spartans