League promises to help Croydon’s homeless football club

NON-LEAGUE NEWS: Croydon FC kick-off their league season tomorrow with no certainty about when they will be able to start playing home games again at the council-owned Croydon Arena – if at all.

Even in past seasons, the pitch at Croydon Arena has looked rough and not very ready

Croydon Arena, which is operated on behalf of the council by GLL, has been closed since the start of the covid-19 lockdown in March. While some of the borough’s other leisure and sports facilities have reopened for use, the Arena – which is in council leader Tony Newman’s Woodside ward – has remained firmly closed.

Tomorrow, Liam Giles’ Croydon side start their Southern Counties East League Div 1 campaign in Kent, where they will play Elmstead. With the agreement of league officials, they will be on the road for all their other matches this month.

But there are well-justified fears that they could be in exile from Croydon for much longer, too.

Sources close to the club suggest that there are serious concerns about the lack of pitch and grounds maintenance conducted at the Arena during the covid-19 lockdown.

Even before coronavirus, the pitch at the Arena, which also serves as the infield for athletics field events, had a well-earned reputation for being bumpy, poorly maintained and even having divots which visiting clubs complained could be a danger to their players.

As with many things, the coronavirus lockdown has not helped the situation.

Meanwhile, neither Croydon Council nor GLL have offered any updates about when they plan to re-open the Arena. Croydon Harriers, the athletics clubs who use the venue as their home track, seem destined to go the whole summer season without being able to stage even a training session there.

In a worst-case scenario, homeless Croydon FC’s league status might even be placed in jeopardy because they have no available home ground up to the standards required by the league, although today SCEFL officials moved to offer reassurance.

“We will do everything we can to help Croydon,” Andy Short (pictured above), the SCEFL secretary told Inside Croydon.

“We’re in uncharted territory with covid, and we won’t allow a club to fold because of circumstances created by the virus.”

Options that may have to be considered include temporary ground-sharing arrangements, Short said. “We will provide all our clubs with support and advice to try to make football work in these difficult times.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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