With the lockdown being lifted, football teams in Tier 2 areas are now able to welcome fans to their stadiums for the first time since March.
Despite this, some leagues have not yet been allowed to restart. Kingstonian FC play in the Isthmian League premier division, the seventh tier of English football. They are still waiting to hear when they can restart their league season after a recommendation that it shouldn’t start until at least December 16.
Kingstonian FC chairman, John Fenwick, says it is a difficult time for all clubs involved at this level of non-league football. He said: “It is frustrating, but one has to consider the bigger picture and the effect on all clubs at our level. Because we ground-share, we do not rely on income from the ‘secondary spend’, such as bar takings as well as food and drink outlets.”
“However for other clubs that do in order to pay their players and cover their expenditure, then the lack of income is critical.”
Kingstonian FC play at King George’s field in Tolworth, a ground that they share with fellow Isthmian League premier division club, Corinthian-Casuals.
Plenty of clubs have suffered during the course of the pandemic, with established clubs such as Macclesfield Town being put out of business due to heavy strain on club finances. Fenwick says that the actions of the government have helped during this period.
He said: “The government, through the Football Foundation, provided grants to all clubs to cover the additional cost of being able to stage football under Covid-19 prevention guidelines, and has offered further funding to clubs. The contact is actually between the government and the Football Association, and then between the F.A. and the various Leagues’ boards.”
Founded in 1885, Kingstonian FC, a semi-professional football club, have suffered elongated pauses in their league seasons before. In 1914, the outbreak of World War I caused the club to halt activity for five years. They were once again forced to stop playing for six years in 1939 because of World War II.
Fenwick says that this period of inactivity has been hard on everyone involved. He said: “The pandemic has affected the lives of everyone connected with the club, whether it be players, officials or supporters. In these situations personal circumstances are more important and football is secondary.
“Although it has been difficult we are able to cope with the lack of income and can continue to pay our players and staff through the government’s furlough process.”
The club have tried to accommodate the needs of their supporters, who have likely missed watching their team live. Fenwick said: “We have also attempted to keep in close contact with our supporters by regular communication through the club’s official website or by Zoom meetings.”
The Kingstonian Supporters Club has also set up an email address to allow fans to connect with other supporters of the club so that they don’t feel as isolated from football.
As an ambitious non-league club, Kingstonian FC haven’t taken their eyes off of what can be achieved this season. Last season saw success in cup competitions, including a run to the FA Cup second round. Fenwick says the club is making encouraging progress in all competitions, under their manager Hayden Bird.
He said: “Last season we had good runs in both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy, and were making progress in the League before the season was suspended. Hayden has been excellent for the Club. He has created a team which plays exciting football and which supporters can relate to. He has a good rapport with supporters and is an excellent communicator and ambassador for the club.
“This season we are aiming for promotion, and at the present time are sixth in the league table. We hope that when league football recommences we can push on and achieve promotion either by winning the league or by winning in the play-offs.”
As the league is currently suspended, the club are restricted to playing friendly matches, most recently away to Metropolitan Police. Their next home game is currently scheduled for December 19 against Leatherhead, although this could be rescheduled if the league continues its suspension.