Dorset Premier League outfit Swanage Town & Herston have received a £1,500 cash boost this week, writes Gareth Davies.
The funds have come from a Pitch Preparation Grant, which is backed by the Premier league, Football Association and the government’s Football Foundation.
The Pitch Preparation fund was set up in support of the game, which is currently facing unprecedented challenges because of the covid-19 outbreak. The fund is providing grants to clubs that have lost out on normal revenue streams during this difficult period.
For Swanage, the money will help pay for essential pitch work that had been carried out at their picturesque Day’s Park ground last month, with club stalwart Gerald Dimarco hailing the injection of funds.
Speaking to the Independent, he said: “It’s a strange time for everyone at the moment due to coronavirus and sport has obviously been impacted.
“It’s well documented that we have had terrible trouble with the pitch being waterlogged at the Cricket Club End during winter months. We decided that while there is no football, it would be the perfect opportunity to try and put it right.
“Under the lead of our reserves manager Andy Dunster, we set-up a working party to utilise players to help. We were also thankful to Barry Audley of Kingston Contractors who provided the plant and extra man power too as a good will gesture.
“Although the club is eternally grateful to Barry and everyone else that helped, materials still had to be paid for. We did cover the original cost, but this hit into money had been put by to get us through this period of inactivity. That’s the biggest problem we face at the moment because a lack of football means no income.
“We know normality will return at some point but when that will be is a big worry for the football club. Thankfully, our secretary Alison Newell applied for the grant and we were successful.
“The money gives us some much needed breathing space and I’m sure our situation is one that has been repeated up and down the country at many other football clubs.”
With the pitch needing some much needed attention, Dimarco and Swanage are hoping that this isn’t the end of improvements at Day’s Park as the club are still confident that a £13million redevelopment of their home base will take place.
Swans’ ground is owned by the local Town Council, but leased to the club on a peppercorn rent of £5 per anum. Despite the agreement being covered by a covenant, which states that a team containing the name Swanage Town can use Day’s Parks facilities for the aforementioned amount, this agreement was on a rolling year-by-year basis.
For many years, the security of tenure was never a problem for the club as they were bankrolled by wealthy local businessman Norman Hayward. Such was Swans’ success that they more than held their own in the Western League Premier during the late ‘80s. Hayward had set his sights on Southern League football and despite a move to the Wessex League, that dream was never realised.
Hayward left the club in 1992 and became chairman at AFC Bournemouth, before becoming involved with Yeovil Town until last year.
Without Hayward’s backing, Swans have struggled to maintain their facilities ever since, although this could change as after agreeing a long-term lease with the council, the club have plans in place to totally redevelop their ground into a multi-purpose facility.
“We have seen all the plans and had a very successful evening where local residents could come and view them last year,” added Dimarco. “Although we aren’t sure how coronavirus will affect our project as a large proportion of our funding will come from grants, we are still very hopeful.
“Its been a challenge to get this far because the lease always caused us problems, even though the terms were favourable for the club.
“Once we got that sorted, we were able to put the wheels in motion for the redevelopment which, if it all comes to fruition, will be something that the football club and the town of Swanage can be proud of.
“Our facilities currently are tired and they need substantial investment that the club just doesn’t have.
“From a football point of view, we are hoping that the club once again becomes an attractive proposition for players. I’m confident that with the new facilities in place, the club could sustain Wessex League football once again.”
Along with Swanage, 27 other clubs from Dorset were awarded grants, including Poole and Bridport Town.