Decision time looming for Exmouth Town
- Credit: Archant
Lack of football coming at a cost
The further suspension of Western League football will have a serious impact on teams across the division.
Exmouth Town, like all clubs, have been forced to find a financial pathway at a time when crucial revenue through the clubhouse is not available.
It is also damaging to the social aspect of watching football and a genuine worry for Town manager Kevin Hill.
“Clubs at our level do have a difficult balancing act when it comes to finance,” said Hill.
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“The higher you go in the football pyramid, the more travelling required and, therefore, the bigger the cost for a club.
“Local clubs can manage a little better because people will travel in their own cars.
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“When you have a game north of Bristol in our league, or in the Southern League, where games can be played in the London area, it all involves significant cost.
“Clubs are having to do that with no income, with bars and clubhouses not open.
“It has a knock-on effect for clubs because we would have decent crowds if we were able to get back playing but we can’t make the extra money from serving drinks. “Socialising is part of the match-day experience.
“People are coming to watch the game and then just go home again.”
The further concern for Hill and Exmouth Town is the potential for players to seek regular football elsewhere.
It is a conundrum the Western League has to solve quickly because, if games are happening down the pyramid, it places teams like Exmouth in an impossible position.
Hill is hoping to find a temporary resolution by playing friendlies to help maintain enthusiasm.
“We are trying to arrange friendly games, perhaps with Tiverton or Tavistock, but we don’t really know where we stand on that,” said Hill.
“We’ve got to make sure things are done properly and a game with Tiverton, for example, would mean 100-odd people paying to watch.
“The players wouldn’t be getting paid, so it means finance for the club. “At least you are getting something and the players are keeping their fitness.
The fear I have is that if we don’t play in the Western League but games are still happening in the Devon League, players might drop down just to have a game.
“I’ve already had managers contacting me from lower down, asking if they can use some of our players.
“I can’t stop people from playing because all they want is to play football.
“A player might drop down a level for a game and when the Western League does restart, they have to make a decision on who they want to play for.
“The schedule is going to be so busy and we might end up playing in Bristol twice a week, which is simply not viable.
“Players have work commitments and it is hard to maintain their enthusiasm.
“We will end up fielding weakened teams just to fulfil the fixtures.”
One option for the next six months could be a more localised ad-hoc tournament involving teams from Devon.
There are plenty of clubs at a similar level to Exmouth based in Devon and, therefore, in the same tier of Covid restrictions.
It is something Hill has proposed in the past and a route clubs might be forced to take if the Western League does not resolve matters quickly.
“It could be a way forward to arrange some sort of mini competition with local opposition to give the rest of the season meaning,” added Hill.
“We would obviously love to complete the Western League but there will come a point when a season is no longer viable.
“If that happens, we could possibly play fixtures with the likes of Tavistock, Willand, Buckland, Plymouth Parkway, teams in Devon for a mini tournament.
“We could play a little round robin and teams will at least get some money from fans coming to watch the game.
“It keeps players and supporters interested.
“Somebody could even introduce a small trophy and give clubs something to play for. It is up to the Western League to find an answer from a difficult situation. “I had doubts the season would be completed from the start. We’ve only played ten games and it’s almost Christmas. “One possible answer is the FA extending this season.”