27 June ~ Cornwall is only two steps away from being represented in the Football League. In winning the 2010-11 Southern League Premier Division and securing their place in Blue Square South, Truro City have now achieved a fifth promotion in six seasons. No one’s clear if it’s some sort of record but either way it quite an achievement. Formed in 1889, the club were in local Cornish Leagues and then the South Western League until seven years ago. Then, property developer Kevin Heaney took over with a ten-year plan to turn the club into a professional outfit. A year into his reign Truro got the first of their six promotions to date and won the 2007 FA Vase final at Wembley. The club were on the up.
However, while the team grew through good management and squad investment (striker Barry Hayles was last season’s star addition) improvements to the ground itself have been stunted – the three stands constructed out of scaffold are testament to this. Problems with the stands, along with rundown toilets and lack of a club shop, are signs of the clubs lowly past; indeed much of the Treyew Road ground wouldn’t look out of place in county level football. The FA's Ground Grading document specifies exactly what’s required of grounds at this level and the fear among many Truro fans is that this lag in ground development could be the club’s undoing.
In the short term, the ground needs to be bought up to Conference standards. But long term it needs to be maintained at this level, which is another challenge altogether. The only way to ensure this happens is by increasing the numbers through the turnstiles. Crowds have grown from sub-100 to an average of over 500, but they need to increase consistently if the necessary developments are to be funded and sustained.
Truro is a small city, but it’s the only community in Cornwall with a club at this level so the potential for a healthy Conference outfit is certainly there. However, there is strong competition from rugby union and many more fans needing to be “converted” from established allegiances to Plymouth, Exeter and Premier League clubs.
The challenges are there for all to see: a club playing at a level never seen before in Cornwall; an underdeveloped ground; and a travel bill for away games which is one of the highest in the country (last year Truro covered more than 10,000 miles fulfilling their away fixtures). All of the above will bring additional costs to the club and it’s only through the engaging of existing local sports fans that Truro can hope to survive in the long term. But getting the ground suitable for play at just two levels below the Football League may prove challenge enough for now. Will Wears