Chairman of Ilford FC discusses lockdown life at non-league level
PUBLISHED: 17:05 12 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:05 12 November 2020
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“I think we’ll be ok if it’s only a one month lockdown — any longer than that and we run into problems.”
Those are the words of Ilford chairman and manager Adam Peek, who could have scarcely factored a pandemic into his first year in the job.
However, that’s where he finds himself, with the 35-year-old pragmatic in the face of the circumstances.
“We are in a good financial position because we planned well,” he said. “I knew before, in the first lockdown, that we needed to be cautious.”
Such financial stability is hardly a given at non-league level, with Peek adding that “as of yet, no new funding has been announced for the second lockdown”.
Regardless of whether the situation changes, the Foxes boss is clear that the club’s survival doesn’t rely upon it.
Financial sensibility has limits, especially when the ability to generate income is strangled while outgoings remain.
“The council has given us a period of rent-free support, but we still have rates to pay, insurance, league fees,” Peek said.
“We miss the gate money; when things reopened, we pulled in around 300 for one game, but the average is between 60-80, which has gone up since last year.”
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Money concerns form one part of a wider picture. For Peek, financial stability is simply the vehicle required to ensure he can fulfil what he considers to be a community responsibility.
He said: “For the players, volunteers, people who come and watch, Ilford FC is a massive part of their life. If we lose it, they lose out. I’m very aware of that.”
The potential mental impact really sits with Peek, as does the physical risk presented by the stop-start nature of the season.
He said: “We’ve only played 10 league games, with the boys already playing twice a week since September just to fulfil fixtures. We have to finish our season in May because our pitch is used for athletics in the summer. But the players all work — they can’t afford to get injured.”
Peek is hopeful that the lockdown will be over come December 2, but if not, the club’s survival is not in jeopardy.
In fact, he hopes to expand the youth set-up from four to 10 sides next season; ambitions that are a far cry from where the club was when he took over.
However, he said this healthy position isn’t reflective of non-league football as a whole, adding: “In 10 years I’m not sure there will be grassroots football as we know it now. I hope I’m wrong — it would be a huge shame.”
*Ilford slumped to a 6-1 defeat at Enfield in their last Essex Senior League outing before the latest lockdown last Wednesday.
Having secured progress in the FA Vase with a 4-1 home win over FC Clacton a few days earlier, the Foxes found themselves trailing by the same margin at half time at Saffron Walden’s Catons Lane ground.
Frederick Agyemang netted the Ilford consolation goal.
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