Campaign By Former Semi-Pro Footballer Gives Fans Chance To Help Struggling Clubs
A not-for-profit organisation has been set up to make it easy for supporters to help over 300 football clubs in danger of a financial crisis due to the ongoing pandemic.
Support Our Clubs has been created by Gary Conner so fans can pick a club in the Championship, EFL leagues 1 and 2, Vanarama or Bet Victor leagues and provide direct help. Gary tells SPORTbible he felt compelled to act when he realised how seriously clubs were missing matchday revenue - and the bad news is the worst is yet to come.
"I'm a massive football fan - I've played all my life and I managed to drag out a semi-pro career at the lower levels until I was in my 40s. I still play on a Tuesday now, albeit a fair bit slower than I used to!" says Gary, who's clearly Cheshire's own Kanu.
"I thought we needed a grassroots campaign to support local clubs. Especially after I saw an interview with [former FA Chief Executive, now Tranmere owner] Mark Palios and he said that with the lower-league seasons being cancelled, for clubs like Tranmere, 'we're well run, we'll be OK - but if games without fans goes on indefinitely, well, matchday revenue is a big part of our income... so clubs that aren't as well run as us will be in trouble even sooner.'
"Then the FA chairman Greg Clarke made a statement on Sky to say he felt 20 or 30 clubs could be lost if they didn't either receive government help or if fans didn't step in.
"A lot of smaller clubs are ticking over because they've furloughed the players and most of the staff. When that finishes and the season starts in September with no crowds - then it will get much worse because they'll have to bring the players back, they'll have to pay them, but they won't be getting the matchday income."
What Gary discovered was that a lot of clubs, while fearful about their future finances, are unwilling to ask supporters directly for funds. Mainly for fear of starting a panic or sending out the wrong message to investors.
However, a third party providing fans with a quick and easy way to share the money they would usually spend on a matchday ticket, programme, pint or pie would be helpful. Hence supportourclubs.com - a site where any fan can donate to a club of their choice.
"I'm actually a Manchester United fan!" Gary says. "But of course they don't need the money, so they're not included on the website. None of the Premier League clubs are."
Having a centralised hub for giving money to clubs is one thing, but Gary decided there was something else he could do to try to create a continual revenue stream.
"My background is in IT," he explains. "So I contacted a cyber security company and said: 'Would you give your software away to people who donate, as a bit of a thank you?' That way we can build a recurring revenue in the future for clubs.
The deal struck was that anyone who donates (minimum £10) are offered a free, two-month subscription to Wardwiz's mobile security software. If people choose to keep it on, they can do so at £2 a month (plus VAT) with £1 going directly to the football club of their choice.
"This generates a recurring revenue and could work well for grassroots football, as no one misses £2 each month," adds Gary. "Any regular income could help smaller clubs.
"When the furlough ends, reality is going to hit. Where are they going to find the money from? We don't want to see another Bury."
Too true. Find out more information about Support Our Clubs at supportourclubs.com.
All imagery: PA Images