18 February ~ You've only to pick up a paper to know that the economic crisis has precipitated troubling times in professional football. Even smaller clubs that run admirably tight ships are feeling the pinch. In the winter heroic efforts with shovels and covers meant that the majority of Macclesfield Town's home matches survived the big freeze, though postponements will still affect the club's finances. These efforts in December were not the first time that fans have pitched in at the Moss Rose and the club has recently asked them to do so again – away from the pitch.
Each year the club's investors and board of directors try to cover a shortfall in revenue. This time the sum involved is £50,000 and the Silkmen Supporters Trust is answering the club's call for action. This sum is only a week's wages for Premier League players, or a good gate receipt for the majority of Football League clubs. But on such margins clubs like Macc either survive in the League or slip into obscurity – clubs are not bouncing back from the Blue Square Premier League quickly.
The money is not fundamentally threatening the club's existence – a fire sale of players isn't imminent. In this instance the flurry of fundraising is not about reaching for the begging bowl and eulogising the club's proud and lengthy history. It is more about organising activities for fans to ensure the Silkmen have a healthy future.
The supporters' trust was formed by fans to assist with paying off an enormous fine to the FA and the Football Foundation in 2006 following an investigation into the financing of a new stand. It has since become closer to the club and ultimately hopes to attain board membership. In the fortnight since its "Macc to the Future" campaign was launched, the trust has raised over £1,000 almost solely from advertising the cause. As the movement gathers momentum, more activities are in the offing: pool tournaments, mobile phone amnesties, quiz nights, and football and beer festivals. Macc fan Chris Alden is not only running the London Marathon to raise money but is doing so in the Silkmen's notorious neon orange away shirt of the early 2000s – it remains to be seen which of these commitments requires the greater heroism.
Ours is a club that relies on its fans, even if sometimes we swear not to go back and debate if, in fact, we could do better on the pitch. We're not rich. We're not going to get bought out anytime soon. We compete for fans in the same catchment area as the Manchester and Merseyside teams in the Premier League. Our attendances are meagre and often bettered by clubs in the Blue Square Premier.
Nevertheless, we can consider ourselves relatively lucky to be in this position. The doom-and-gloom atmosphere of the FA fine at the start of 2006 is notably absent. While performances on the pitch are not at their most entertaining – the team is currently 19th in League Two – Macclesfield look set to survive and the initiatives might produce more supporters willing to come through the turnstiles in future. Rob Macdonald