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Exmouth Town chairman speaks about the past season and looks ahead to the post pandemic era

PUBLISHED: 12:32 29 April 2020

Exmouth Town chairman Stuart Shaw has spoken about the early end of the football season together with both the immediate and long-term future of the club.

He began with a look back at the closure of the past season owing to the Coronavirus pandemic saying: “Of course it was devastating for us as a club that the season ended as it did. We were well placed for a high finish in the Western League top flight and were confident that we were ‘on track’ with our plan for season-on-season progress in all aspects of the club.

“That said, there can be no escaping the fact that even with the premature end of the campaign it was a tough season in terms of our club finances. We had set a healthy budget at the start of the season, but did take a hit with the floodlights needing money spent on them and we had a run of home games called off owing to the weather and, of course, it is home games where we generate the bulk of our income.”

He continued: “Kevin [Town manager Kevin Hill], has done a superb job in our first season back in the Western League and we were able to enjoy some special times during the campaign. It came as a real blow when things were stopped as they were and it has meant us, like all clubs, having to accept something of a financial hit and it’s a hit that will have long-standing effect for lots of clubs.

“In our case, we have always run a steady ship. From day one of my involvement I have always held the belief that the long term well-being of the club is so much more important than a single season’s success and we began the past season, on and off the pitch, very clear that what we were setting out on was a plan to cover a number of seasons.”

He continued: “I was so impressed with the way that Kev and his management team approached the campaign and they certainly served up a terrific brand of football. We have also seen great strides taken by our two other senior teams which are such an integral part of everything we want to be doing at the club and I thank the likes of Mark Halse and Shaun Cox for all their efforts with the second and third teams respectively. We also have a thriving youth section and so, even though we are left to battle our way through the current problems brought to our door by the Coronavirus pandemic, and are, of course, worrying about our future as a club, we must not lose sight of the fact that so much has been achieved so far that we can, and indeed must, be so very proud about.”

The Town chairman then turned his attention to the eventual return of football when he said: “I don’t think anyone involved in the game is under any illusions that, when we do get a return to regular football, it will, certainly for a time, be under very different circumstances than were in play before the Coronavirus pandemic. I think we will find that the clubs who continue to make progress will be those that are run well and embrace all aspects of their local community - something I am very keen for us to be doing.

“There will be a very serious need for local business to see the green shoots of recovery and we, as a club, will look to play a part in that recovery. When we do get the green light to return to some sort of normality it will be so very important that we all stick together and, from a business perspective, I mean support our local businesses in the way I hope they will be able to support us.”

Key to the continued development of Town as a football club is Kevin Hill staying on as manager and the Town chairman says on that subject: “I am delighted that Kev is happy to carry on in the role. He is such a wonderful manager and also someone who fully understands both the conditions we operated on pre-Coronavirus and indeed the sort of conditions we will be working under post the pandemic.”

The Town chairman added: “I really do feel that grassroots football clubs are going to need some help from the very top of the game if we are to have any chance of making healthy returns to continuing developing and serving our communities, once the lockdown restrictions are eased. Playing at the level we have been performing at commands regular match official costs in excess of £200 which tells you how many people we need to get through the turnstiles just to settle that match cost!”

Stuart then turned his thoughts to the youth section of the club. He said: “What has been done with the Town youth section speaks volumes for the people running that side of things. With Nick James at the helm they have collectively done such a terrific job and we, as a club, are very proud of the youth section. It’s one that I am very confident will play a huge part in the well-being of the club over the years ahead.”

Looking at things away from the on-the-pitch action, the Town chairman says: “It’s a dangerous practise to name individuals for fear of ‘missing out’ someone who has gone ‘over and above’, but I must offer high praise to the work that Adam Fitzgerald has done since coming on board to play a key role. He has come in as a ‘breath of fresh air’ and his efforts, going forward, are going to be invaluable to the development of the club.”

He continued: “As for the MTC (Muff Town Casuals’, well, their efforts have been and indeed are, extraordinary. They really do so much for the club and have become a vital arm of our all-round effort. Their collective energy clearly knows no bounds - they are a real force and have such a massive part to play in our continued growth.”

Wrapping things up on the ‘behind-the-scenes’ effort at Southern Road, Stuart said: “Cookie [Martin Cooke] is another who works tirelessly on matters all things Town – as does ‘Dibs’ [John Dibsdall] on the ground and I cannot say how proud I am to be chairman of a club that has so many clearly wanting to do so much, for the cause.”

Finally, looking to the future and in particular to the challenges that will undoubtedly present themselves in a post pandemic age, the Town chairman says: “We had such good momentum going, on and off the Southern Road pitch prior to the Covid-19 crisis and it has become a real tragedy for so many people. There’s no doubt that, in terms of a lot of folk’s mental health, there’s so much good football can do to help that particular facet of life. I am very conscious of our responsibility, as a community angled football club, that we can play a big part in helping to get Exmouth, as a town, back on its feet once restrictions are lifted and you can rest assured that we will certainly look to be at the forefront of efforts to drive things forward when we get the opportunity.”


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