A Crowdfunding Cry from the Celts

Stalybridge Celtic’s crowdfunding appeal passes £1,700 Mark

In the last week, there has been much talk about footballing activities returning to the fore, following some relaxation of our COVID-19 lockdown. It has been stated that Barclays Premier League sides could finish off their season behind closed doors at neutral venues – giving us all several Game 39s. (Well, in Milton Keynes instead of Marbella).

With the COVID-19 pandemic, non-league footballers do not have that option. Most of them hold down jobs as well as playing semi-professional football. Some of them may be Key Workers or work in professions where social distancing isn’t an option. Some might be self-isolating and having to care for parents or grandparents aged 70 years and above.

The fate of clubs in the Northern Premier League Premier Division and the North West Counties Football League Premier Division is different again. With the season expunged, clubs have seen the loss of critical income streams. Not only from gate receipts but also bar takings and other spin-offs like meat pies and souvenirs. As an additional income stream, this includes the social club’s commercial role and community use – for weddings and corporate events.

In English football’s seventh level and below (or Step 3 of the Non-League Pyramid System), many clubs have had to participate in fundraising schemes. Some of them had already been struggling due to falling gate receipts.

My club, Stalybridge Celtic is no exception to this rule. Had the season played to a finish a fortnight ago, I would have happily taken a mid-table spot in the NPL Premier Division. I would have been pleased for Vauxhall Motors had they won promotion into the NWCFL Premier Division. That after the club’s earlier fall from grace with the threat of Brexit hanging over the Motormen’s future. I probably would have looked forward to seeing Olé Gunnar Solskjaer in a F.A Cup Final – as Manchester United manager.

Following a local side is more than just buying into the ‘brand’, like the commodified autotuned environment of the English Premier League. If you can catch a bus, take a taxi, or walk to the ground of your local side, you feel part of a wider community. People you may have known from school or gone to the pub with for several years. They may be the people you stand two metres apart from in the supermarket queue.

Like another Bridge on the outskirts of Preston (well, without an apostrophe for any pedants reading this), Stalybridge Celtic launched a crowdfunding scheme. The appeal was launched on the 27 April – two days after what should have been the end of the 2019 – 2020 season. Within three days, the initial target of £500 had been reached.

At this time of writing, £1,790 has been raised by seventy supporters. Besides being 358% over its initial target, it is the equivalent of £25.57 per head. The same as paying £10.00 to get into the turnstile then spending your remaining £15.57 on a programme, a pie and Bovril, and a pint and a half in the social club.

Too tight to mention

Divided into ten, it is the equivalent of 179 supporters paying full price admission for a league or cup match. When the season was expunged, the ‘Bridge had five home matches left. Supposing the hardest of hardcore ‘Bridge fans numbered 179 people, that’s a shortfall of £8,950 over the remaining fixtures. Then there’s lost takings from the spin-offs and supporters paying concessionary rates.

Lauren Hall’s JustGiving appeal isn’t the only charitable endeavour that has been launched to keep the ‘Bridge afloat. There has been football cards that has helped to bring in extra money with a £10 stake. Celtic Ladies will be raising money by completing 90k in May, again with a JustGiving appeal page. So far, £125 has been raised, 25% of its £500 target.

With the souvenir shop in its physical form furloughed till August or September, Stalybridge Celtic has taken its souvenir shop online. They have also given their sportswear collection a spring clean with new-look polo shirts, hooded tops and caps. All of which entirely online with postage and packaging priced £4.95. Due to COVID-19, free collection from the ground is not available.

Your move

Stalybridge Celtic is certainly not the only club in the NPL to have crowdfunding appeals. Nor is it the only sports club in Greater Manchester to be raising money that way either. There has been talk of more Football League clubs going to the wall, but economies of scale have an affect on each side. The electricity bill is still the same unit rate for any club depending on their choice of utility company. (Nobody charges AVRO FC a lot less for meat pies than Manchester United, though the latter might pay less per pie due to bulk savings).

Though the figure stands at £1,790, Stalybridge Celtic Football Club are open to further fundraising ideas. As well as making a donation to the crowdfunding appeals, feel free to suggest any reasonable and workable ideas via their website. Share this article like crazy as well!

As well as sharing this article, spread the word around to your friends. Well spread the word around to your friends if you are stood two metres apart from them, and not on a bus. Tell your family, so long as there is only one member of the family stood beside you. Tell them on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. Mention it over a chat on Zoom or Skype (other videoconferencing apps are available).

If successful, Stalybridge Celtic will be able to begin their 2020 – 21 season on a sound footing. Once the lockdown has been fully lifted, the hard work of finding players, arranging friendlies and selling season tickets will begin. Whether the new season would begin in August or September remains to be seen.

S.V., 12 May 2020.

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