With the Euros taking place and the reappearance of fans in stadiums, football as we know it is returning; albeit at a centre back’s pace, but it is still on its way back to normality. CommunityAd had the privilege of having a wind-down with Whitstable Town FC’s Chairman, Steve Clayton, to find out how the club has been impacted over the last year and a half, and how players and staff are ready to make up for lost time on the pitch.
Steve, who took over the role of chairman in 2015, has seen the number of teams under his supervision grow from just 4 to 15 in just three years, as well as merging his team and the senior club in town together in 2019 to create something better for the town and aspiring footballers.
We asked Steve what impact COVID and the ensuing lockdown have had on the club: “Without football and being unable to use our clubhouse for social and members events, there has been no income. Although outgoings are much reduced, a number of regular bills still need to be paid and the ongoing maintenance of the pitch and ground infrastructure is a significant commitment. It has been a challenge, but with support from The FA, our community and volunteers in our club, we are ready for when football is allowed to recommence.”
A fundraiser was created that raised over £5,000, what would you like to say to those who have donated?
“Our supporters set up this initiative and the club was delighted to receive this financial assistance at a time of great uncertainty. There has subsequently been some grant funding made available by The FA to help clubs like ours. Still, at the start of the lockdown, things were highly challenging, and we would once again like to take this opportunity to thank those that helped to launch the fundraiser and everyone that contributed it was a massive help during very uncertain times.”
What are your hopes for the 2021/2022 season?
“First and foremost, everyone is hoping for an uninterrupted season, so that we can return to enjoying our football, from our first team in the Isthmian League to all of our other teams – reserves, academy and youth.
“We have youth teams of all ages, including four girls’ teams and a Saturday morning development centre for the younger ages so if you, or any of your family would like to join, please do contact us.
“Finally, we should mention our successful full-time Whitstable Town Football and Education Academy programme for 16–19-year-olds run in partnership with Football Futures. We now have a purpose-built classroom at the Belmont Stadium where the education is provided by SCL, alongside football training by UEFA qualified coaches with extensive experience and connections with professional clubs.”