The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted finances in football, and this is no exception for North West counties semi-professional side Squires Gate.
Manager Luke Evans spoke to the Match, explaining the financial struggle the club has been through within the pandemic.
He said: “It’s obviously been a difficult time for the club. The sense of having nothing coming in but still having bills to pay, the gas and the electric like everything.”
In attempt to raise funds for the club, Evans and other members of staff worked hard to ensure the club could make ends meet. “We set up a JustGiving page, we obviously went down the route of fundraising as well. I did a couple of football cards to sell which raised a couple of thousand for the club,” he said. “Our club secretary, John Maguire, who’s 61, did a hundred-mile bike ride and he raised about £1500 as well to keep the club going.”
However, the Gate were handed some luck, as their 5-0 victory away at Maine Road FC in the FA Cup extra-preliminary round was televised by the BBC. Something which the manager could not believe. Evans said: “It’s amazing for a club so small to have that opportunity and it’s something for the players and fans alike to cherish for the rest of their lives”
The televised game has meant the semi-professional side from Blackpool has received worldwide attention and has also created more avenues for the club financially. “We have picked up fans in Portugal, Poland and New Zealand. It’s even created us the opportunity to have our own club shop, so now we’ve seen people purchasing replica shirts. We have had to send them as far as New Zealand for people. Which has been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “We have had business interest from people off the back off that. We have obviously had a nice financial boost from the BBC initially, for actually wanting to televise the game. Which once again just makes a huge difference for us.”
While the club has received funds through government grants and have also received help from the FA and the Football Foundation, their main source of income, ticket sales, has took a hit. As recent government guidelines only allows the Gate to admit 30 percent of their 1000-person capacity at the Brian Addison stadium.
The lack of fans is something that has frustrated the Squires Gate boss, due to the emotional and financial impact it has on his side. “You know semi-professional football, fans are the lifeblood of it all. We have guys coming down to Squires Gate who have been going for 30 or 40 years, they can tell me more about the club than I can ever learn. That’s what we do it for,” Evans said. “You’re sending someone home that may need to watch football for their own sanity and sending them home happy. Even if it doesn’t go well and you lose or draw, you’re giving them something to talk about with their friends. It’s just so important to me.”
“We played AFC Fylde in pre-season, we maxed out a 300 capacity but on a normal pre-season we would have been closed to 1000 for that game, which would have set us up for about half a season of football.” he said.
While the season has got a long way left to go, Evans says the club are resilient in their efforts to keep the club going financially through the pandemic. He said: “It’s been really difficult, but the club has worked so hard to try and utilise any money that’s come in, to make sure it’s worthwhile to keep us going for as long as possible.”