Isthmian Premier League club’s quick promotions cause off-pitch problems
9 February ~ Fifteen thousand pounds: two and a half seconds' work at Manchester United for Wilfried Zaha. Half a day’s pay – or possibly the price of an acceptable birthday cake – for Yaya Touré. The cost of ground improvements required to keep Peacehaven & Telscombe FC in the Isthmian Premier Division.
Peacehaven have, to some extent, become victims of their own success. Two years ago they were in the Sussex County League, where they had resided for the previous 43 years. Champions, they decided to accept promotion to Isthmian South, with the ground improvement cost that this entailed, and then concentrate on not going straight back down.
Not only did they stave off relegation, they won the division by a country mile, finishing 18 points clear of their nearest rivals, Folkestone Invicta. They also added the Sussex Senior Cup, with a 3-0 defeat of Bognor Regis Town at Brighton’s Amex Stadium. A second promotion in two years, a league and cup double, and a large amount of joy – but tinged with a sizeable dollop of realism.
While success on the field has increased beyond the wildest dreams of those involved, crowds have not. This season the average is 184, and while the figures show a season-on-season increase, they don’t necessarily allow the club to run an Isthmian Premier League team and pay for the required ground improvements. On the field, and despite the recent release of a number of their highest earners as part of a cost saving exercise, they are 11 points clear of the relegation positions and performing better than a number of clubs with much bigger followings and better facilities. Off the field, they’re struggling.
By the end of March, the club have to demonstrate to the League that they have the funds in place to carry out the required ground improvements. At this point, they are £15,000 short. They have launched an appeal, entitled “Stand or Fall”, which asks supporters and businesses to step in and sponsor the additional seating and standing capacity required. If this appeal fails, then the club are likely to be forcibly relegated at the end of the season no matter their final league position.
Fifteen thousand pounds – perhaps the cost of the little toe on Juan Cuadrado’s left foot. It’s 0.01 per cent of the money that English Premier League clubs spent on transfers during the recently closed window. It seems such a trivial amount, yet for the want of such a sum one of our grassroots clubs may have to give up their hard-won status. That hardly seems fair, in a country where football seems to be run by people with more money than sense. Ian Townsend