AN EMOTIONAL Pete Goodlad says his community’s response to Athersley Rec’s appeal for financial support during these difficult times has been beyond his wildest expectations.
Athersley are no different to the majority of Non League clubs whose cash flows were torpedoed when Government restrictions on non-essential travel were announced on March 16th.
Goodlad, one of the club’s founder members and the driving force behind the remarkable Athersley story, is leading the fight to keep the club afloat and he says he is more positive than he was six weeks ago.
“When the restrictions were put in place I didn’t sleep for a week,” Goodlad told Non League Yorkshire.
“We don’t have a lot of money in the bank, we don’t have big reserves like a lot of other clubs. Clubs like ourselves are going to struggle. We couldn’t keep paying the bills as we had no income coming in whatsoever. Not a penny. So I could see that 44 years of hard work was just going to disappear. I didn’t know where the next penny was going to come from. I was in a right state.
“We’ve lost something like £20,000 in projected income because at the time we were shut down we were due to host all the Barnsley FA finals, all the Junior Cup Finals, all our home games, a gala, a presentation night, a tournament. That’s all lost income so we were panicking because there were water bills, electric bills, insurance bills still to be paid.
“The response from people has been overwhelming and phenomenal. It shows that people want to see this facility keep going. We had a chat as volunteers and we started a GoFundMe page and we’ve been doing the football cards. It is nice to know that when you need help there is people around who respect what we’ve done and are willing to put the effort in to help us out.
“To be fair to the utility companies they have been fantastic with us and understood our situation. We have also had some fantastic donations. We have had people come and pay bills for us. We have also been successful with a grant from Sport England which allows us to pay the bills from March until August. That takes a bit of relief off us. We’ve been doing raffles and online race nights and we’ve got a recycling bank at the club and that’s going berserk with loads of people coming down with their cans and bottles.
“A lot of relief has come off my shoulders and Alan’s (Alan Richardson) shoulders, but we have to keep going (fundraising) as we don’t know how long this situation is going to go on for.”
Once as the situation passes and Athersley are back on a level footing financially, Goodlad admits he has ambitious plans to cement his life’s work as a even stronger focal in the community.
“Our first priority is to get funding or someone in business to help with the refurbishment of the Cabins/roofs etc,” he said.
“That is going to cost, with labour, parts, etc, about £18,000. The BuildBase grant application to do this, which we were unsuccessful with, was for £25,000. I’m a bit disappointed with how they decide applications as it goes to a public vote and we as a club didn’t stand a chance competing against clubs a couple of leagues higher with 2,000 supporters. It is not a fair way of doing it.
“We also have a consultancy firm working with us and we’re looking at having new plans for the new clubhouse and changing rooms drawn up.
“We haven’t had any luck with the council as regards getting a clubhouse because every-time we have put in for one there’s been objections.
“Athersley has the biggest council estate in South Yorkshire and it had ten pubs, five kids play parks and a sport centre with astroturfs. It had everything.
“Every-time we went in for a clubhouse they’d object because we’d take custom off the pubs. We were always up against it.
“When the sports centre was demolished five years ago, things started to change. Believe it or not, the St.Helens area which involves Athersley North, South, New Lodge, has not got one pub now.
“There were ten pubs and there’s none now. All these play parks, gone. No sports centre either. There’s nothing so what are people supposed to do? They wonder why there is anti-social behaviour, kids on street corners with nothing to do.
“That puts us in a good position now. The council can’t object because there is nothing to object to. If we can get our clubhouse, this facility will take off and be sustainable – that’s a fact.
“We’ll have weddings, funerals, Sunday dinners. We could run it properly as a business. We could be like Nostell, their’s is a beautiful set-up.
“That’s for the future, maybe two or years, but we’re more confident about getting it. There’s a long way to go, but we’re sitting down together and the council have helped us get the consultancy firm to help us out.”
You can visit Athersley’s GoFundMe page by clicking HERE