Lewes FC is beginning to take on the look of a failed football experiment.
We have all supported the theory of building a self sustained football club by our continued attendance and support, this has clearly been taken for granted.
In tatters lies the original promise of three years until being self sustained. Extended to five, still nowhere near and continues to be far away on the horizon. The openness and transparency appears to be mere lip service. Democracy? well the budget parity bludgeoning of the fans views says it all. Need I say the farcical decline in the first team performances until Darren came in.
People forget the idea of our current model was to learn from the errors of the Elliott years but nothing has been learnt or changed. On the face of it maybe, but the 2015/6 accounts and the recent parity debacle say otherwise. And yes, parity has been an unmitigated disaster. The club may get the sponsors and I hope they do, but getting them or not is irrelevant. The shoddy way it has been achieved has ruined for many brand Lewes FC Community Club. We are now clearly reliant on two sugar daddies on the Board whose commitment and hard work for the club is not in doubt, but whose vision of achieving it lies in tatters. Parity has backfired. As seemingly does the ‘build it and they will come’ approach which was never despite the blind faith put in the idea was never going to work at a non league football club.
The development of Lewes FC should have been driven by the success of the first team. This done properly should bring in financial security and investment in a high profile non league club with a brilliant fan base. Instead year after year focus is concentrated building the infrastructure as the off field running costs accelerate away from the club income.
The percentage of club turnover going to Darren Freeman is shockingly low and the percentage of club turnover going on back room and admin shockingly high. At this point spare me the crap spouted about lack of volunteers. Few places in this country have a better volunteer culture than Lewes as Bonfire shows yet the Board are haplessly either incapable of harnessing this raw material or it does not fit into their vision of how to run a club. The income from catering is disgrace. I know marque Lewes businesses never even approached for sponsorship yet we are told streams for more sponsorship have dried up. Rubbish. Er try getting out and finding it. That is how non league grass roots football works. Not through slick marketing, talking about it and number crunching but through the traditional rolling up of the sleeves and ‘engaging’ with the business community.
So much of what the current set up has achieved off the pitch has been brilliant. But ultimately on too many of the core aims it has failed and the club and vision has now not so much run off course but hit the rocks.
Enormous change is needed at the club and sadly I sense no appetite from many on the Board for this. My deepest sympathies go to Darren Freeman. His squad per game are now paid 40%, I believe, less than the ladies an oversight perhaps in the formation of Equality FC. Don’t tell me, in this crucial season where Darren needs all the support he can get, the focus of the Board has been on him and not the launching a national gender equality initiative. I accept of course Stuart and Barry are as focused as ever as they work closely with Darren, but as a collective body ?
Sorry I don’t buy it. Too many football clubs have been taken over by smart men with great credentials and buggered it up. Too much faith has been placed in the adventures of the current set up. Business and football do not mix and we are beginning to see the venture hit the rocks and at last many people involved with the club are waking up and smelling the coffee. I hope there is now a realization at Board level that things need to change.
This great sprawl of an entity needs to get back to basics and needs a fresh approach. A random well meaning national initiative is not going to build Lewes FC into the club it should be. Charlie Dobres has said we need to be ‘smart.’ Is this smart ? No, it is a failed vision.
Smart is recognising when to change course. Smart is learning from mistakes. Smart is tapping into the volunteer culture the town is famous for and building our club around that. Building a legacy that will span generations not short term initiatives that turn people off. Lewes FC needs to aim to be self sustained and volunteer run. It needs to not have swish ambitions but to set goals year by year harnessing the amazing talents of those currently involved and those who will become involved if, as is the custom, the fans actually feel this is their club and not some footballing experiment.