For Croydon’s longest established non-league football club, their battle for survival just got a whole lot tougher
It’s time to support your local team.
Croydon Football Club’s clubhouse at Croydon Arena in South Norwood has been the target of break-ins, robberies and trashing for two successive nights.
The club, founded in 1953, has been left on the verge of collapse by the vandalism it has suffered.
“The football club is on its last legs financially and with the now added cost of rebuilding the clubhouse, it is an expense that it simply cannot afford,” they stated yesterday.
“Community needs to come together to help. We work tirelessly hard to help young people in our community and they continue to be affected,” they said.
The clubhouse and changing rooms had been rebuilt with the help of dozens of volunteers, players and coaches over the course of last year. But on Wednesday night there was the first of the break-ins, trashing the club’s memorabilia that hanged from the walls, smashing the bar area, stealing bar stock, and making the place all-but-unusable ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s “relegation six-pointer” against Rusthall United.
After a day’s hard work for a small band of volunteers clearing up the mess on Thursday, the clubhouse suffered an unwelcome return visit last night.
The club, bottom of the Southern Counties East Premier League after just two wins all season so far, is already at risk of folding in the summer if relegation makes it impossible for them to afford the costs of hiring the municipal pitch at the Arena from Croydon Council.
Croydon FC are based in a high-crime area. The road entrance to the club is a known as a drug-dealing point. The clubhouse is equipped with CCTV cameras, and the footage is being studied by the police.
But now the destruction of the clubhouse, perched above the southern end of the Croydon Arena, leaves Croydon FC without the means to generate vital additional income through room hire and the bar revenue that the clubhouse provides.
Educational work done by the football and sports coaches of the Kinetic Foundation charity with young people at the site has also been compromised.
Kinetic, who have run the club since the departure of Dickson Gill as chairman, say that they do not have the resources to cover the losses that include laptops, the club’s history in its irreplaceable memorabilia, bar stock, fridge equipment, or for the costly repairs to the new changing rooms in the club house that the local MP, Sarah Jones, opened last year.
An online fund-raising page has seen £825 raised in 24 hours towards a £5,000 target.
Non-league clubs and former players have been contributing. It has been confirmed that the chair of the SECFL, Denise Richmond, will be attending Croydon’s game tomorrow “to meet with officials to see what support we can offer at this very difficult time for the club”.
There’s been a call for Crystal Palace, who have a lunchtime kick-off against Brighton tomorrow, to stage a bucket collection at Selhurst Park in aid of The Trams, and for Eagles fans to turn out at the Arena for the Croydon 3pm kick-off after watching the Premier League action. Those that show their Palace ticket will get a 50 per cent discount on their entry to the Arena.
Shocked by the wanton destruction, Croydon council leader Tony Newman, whose Woodside ward includes the Arena, has offered money out of his £24,000 a year Community Ward Budget.
Croydon FC have been moved by the out pouring of goodwill towards the threatened club noting that there is, “So much love from the community”.
MP Jones has also called the club to express her concern and sympathies.
Fellow league team Glebe FC have offered to raise money for The Trams at their home game tomorrow, a third act of generosity by that club who until last weekend had provided all of the league points secured by Croydon this season.
FC Zenit St Petersburg English supporters are sending a signed football shirt to be used for a charity auction.
Croydon Athletic supporters’ twitter account said that they were, “Sorry to see this has happened.”
Gordon Tennant is a stalwart Croydon supporter of 44 years, and he says of his time following the club that there has been, “A few ups, many downs, but last night’s ransacking and burglary of the clubhouse is one of the lowest downs. It’s been a tough enough season as it is. Any help is appreciated.”
The latest round of the clear up that is needed to get Saturday’s match on was underway this morning, with volunteers from Kinetic and from Greenwich Leisure, the contractor that runs the council-owned ground, on site.
The off-the-pitch trouble could not come at a worse time for the club.
Croydon are now on to their fifth managerial team in less than a year, almost matching their tally of league points. With 27 of their 38 league games played, Croydon have just seven points, and are seven points behind fellow relegation strugglers Rusthall. A win tomorrow for Croydon, and the slim hopes of avoiding relegation will be revived. If Croydon lose, their fate would seem sealed.
Croydon scraped together another point last weekend with a draw at Punjab United.
Club sponsor Giles Scaffolding have, since late last month, been providing the new management team from the touchline, with Trevor Giles and his son Liam. John Gladwin, who has managed Croydon’s successful Sunday team, is also assisting. The Giles team brought in eight new players at Punjab United.
The problem the Gileses face is that the struggling clubs that they need to overtake, Rusthall on 14 points and Hollands and Blair (16), have both started to pick up points recently, too.
Some at the club hope that other club closures will save them from the drop, but the FA these days tends not to reprieve clubs at the bottom of divisions with very low points per game.
In the end, the model of using Croydon to offer playing opportunities to youngsters from the Kinetic Academy, while successful last season, has been a big failure this year.
Harry Hudson, last season’s energetic young manager, took many of the best young Kinetic players who made up his successful side with him to Whyteleafe. Hudson remains a part of Kinetic’s coaching set-up based at the Arena.
Sports clubs, with their clubhouses often located out of sight and sound, and far from residential areas, are frequently targets for break-ins. Crowborough Athletic in Croydon’s league is a frequent victim. Croydon Athletic saw its club house burnt down. Rugby club Warlingham’s big screen TVs were targeted by thieves.
If Croydon FC’s recovery from the trauma of the last two nights, and the trauma of the past season, is to begin, then it needs to start with widespread support of the local and football communities, at 3pm this Saturday.
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