Stephen Cleeve: Owning the club is not a hobby!

Joe Gascoigne applauds the Lynn fans at full-time

Joe Gascoigne - an example of how a club like King's Lynn Town operates at various levels - Credit: Ian Burt

At 5.20pm, King’s Lynn Town have our first home game in front of the TV cameras and in front of fans for 15 years.

Considering recent criticism of the club, this is a good time for a progress report from me and a few home truths.

Running a football club is not for the faint-hearted and I am grateful for the support I receive from our staff and our volunteers. The number of hours that they put into running the club during the week, plus the 90 minutes of game time on Saturdays, is quite extraordinary. 

This season we have hired Reg Clarke as head of media and recruited Steve Plunkett as stadium announcer. While we publish a decent match-day programme, Steve also puts together his own playlist and publicises it before each game. We have also outsourced our catering for sponsors and VIPs to Carousel Catering.   

The next step will be to hire a commercial/strategic director who can lead various money-making projects and once we have filled that position we will employ a more localised sales consultant to talk to local and county businesses about the benefits of being associated with our club.  

As chairman, I am, of course, involved in all of these matters and my days are filled with club business.

Stephen Cleeve before kick-off. Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve - Credit: Ian Burt

To give you an example: on Tuesday  I organised the wages of players and staff; consulted our accountant about the budget; talked to manager Ian Culverhouse about a couple of issues; discussed with Robert Back, our director of football (DoF), several transfer targets and players we are tracking; ensured that the manager and the DoF received scouting reports on our future opposition; unsuccessfully pleaded with the local council not to charge us for BT to park their broadcasting equipment on our front car park the day before today’s game; arranged a meeting at KES School to discuss this season and the improvements that the club wants to make to our academy course; sorted out the legal side of our latest loan signing, Zain Walker from Bristol Rovers; successfully applied for a grant for a new defibrillator; looked at the options through a friend in the music world for some low-key music events which could be held at The Walks; chatted with the manager of an NLS club about possible player deals and with a different club about our compensation claim for a former player.

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The point is that running a football club is not a hobby, it is a full-time job requiring 12 hours’ work six days a week and another four hours on the seventh day!

 I am not complaining about that – I love the club and want to make it as successful as it can possibly be. And there are times - such as Joe Gasgoine signing his first professional contract this week after coming through our junior teams and our football academy - which make it all worthwhile. It is a first for the club that after just 12 months of running an academy in conjunction with KES, we have a player on the pitch who is “one of our own”. Joe created that opportunity himself by listening to the manager and working hard on his game.

Stephen Cleeve on ticket pricing at King's Lynn Town

His grandparents often volunteer to work at the club, and I am sure they are as proud as punch with his achievement. Joe’s girlfriend, Charlotte, also helped the club on match days during the Covid crisis. Indeed, generations of his family have been involved with the club’s coaching staff, the manager and KES school. Joe’s experience is a clear example of how a football club operates at various levels. It is a rallying point for the community and one in which many different people can take pride for being part of the journey.

I accept that we are not the finished article yet, but let us at least focus on the positive things that the club is doing in our community rather than on the negative.  

I do hope that as many of you as possible will be there today to enjoy the moment and support our team.

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