Football club chairman praises "Norfolk community spirit" and looks to future
- Credit: Ian Burt
The chairman of a local football team has said his club is still facing financial challenges eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, but praised the “Norfolk community spirit” as a potential key to their salvation.
Dereham Town FC chair Ashley Bunn said that the club was now in a better position than it had been in the early stages of the pandemic.
“The difficulty was always going to be the unknown,” said Mr Bunn. “We didn’t know how long it was going to be before we could play football again… and we would never play without fans because it’s just not financially viable.”
Mr Bunn said the main challenge was a loss of revenue from the lack of room hire and private events, as well as a drop in secondary spending at their bar due to table service and a one-way system.
One issue Mr Bunn identified was the possibility of some clients never booking rooms again, as hosting events online was so cost-effective.
“With this second lockdown", he said, “I’ve been conscious that we need to come out of it better than we went into it, just like the first one.
“So we’ve all got round the table and we’re looking at our vision, our values and where we’re going. It’s part of that bigger picture of us as a football club. Doing the same thing won’t produce the same result anymore.
“It’s difficult but we’re all seeing it: the world is going to be a slightly different place, so we’ve got to move with that.”
The club had reopened to fans after the first lockdown at a limited capacity of 400 spectators per match in September, with Covid-secure measures in place, and Mr Bunn said that numbers had levelled out at roughly where they had hoped they would be pre-pandemic.
“Everyone has been really good,” he said, “and I think that’s a Norfolk thing, in terms of looking after each other and that community spirit. You could see that people were sitting in their bubbles with clear gaps between them, so I can’t knock anyone.”
Provided that Breckland, if not the whole of Norfolk, was placed in one of the lower tiers, Mr Bunn said the team was preparing to play again on December 19.