Further to our statement on 13 June, we learned last week that end of season playoffs will take place in National League South, subject to the competition rules and the applicable government guidance on the phased return of elite sport.
We are pleased to move from a period of uncertainty into one where we can get our players safely back into training and begin to prepare for what will be a very unusual matchday against Dartford at Arbour Park on the weekend of 18-19 July.
The decision to participate in the playoffs was not completely straightforward and the club’s Steering Committee had to consider the additional costs involved, balanced with the reduced opportunity to generate income from the games. We would never jeopardise the long term future of the club in making such a decision and whilst this situation is not ideal, we believe we can manage to compete and put all the required measures in place to keep our players, staff and volunteers safe whilst doing so.
Now we are reassured on this, we are committed to giving our fantastic players and management every opportunity to be successful in the playoffs whilst keeping them safe and healthy before, during and after games. We believe the club deserves its shot at promotion this season.
Unfortunately, the game will be behind closed doors and we will involve the absolute minimum number of people, for obvious reasons. We must ask that supporters do not entertain the idea of attending Arbour Park at any point during proceedings, as this could jeopardise the game and you could risk a ban from the ground. However, we are determined to find a way to ensure that supporters can still watch the match. The National League has been in talks with BT Sport around televising the playoff games, but we know little more than that at this stage. That would obviously be the best solution for us, but if it does not materialise, we will arrange for the match to be streamed - and we have begun planning for this should it be required.
Having considered the criteria and protocols for staging playoff matches, and further research into the associated costs, it is clear that participating will come at a large additional financial cost to the club. This not only includes the cost of testing for the entire squad and management team, but also the associated costs required in order to be fully compliant with the Government’s COVID-19 regulations.
In addition, we have been unable to generate any income from home matchdays since March, including ticket sales, food, drink and bar takings, and until matches can be played with supporters present, we will continue to face the same issues.
Whilst the club is run on a sound financial footing, we had started to plan and budget for next season well before the COVID-19 pandemic brought football to a halt, and competing in the playoffs risks potentially leaving ourselves with a large shortfall.
We are therefore calling on our supporters and local businesses to help at this critical time.
We have launched a GoFundMe page to raise crucial funds for the club, with a target of £25,000. All donations will be very gratefully received and will help the club through these tough times. Any funds not used during the playoff campaign will be put towards the club’s budget for the 2020/21 season, during which we expect further financial challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact non-league football.
We are also actively working on a number of other fundraising activities, including some fun ways for supporters to participate on matchday without being there in person, and offering match sponsorship packages. Look out for more details on these in due course.
Finally, we would like to thank our fans for their patience and support since the football season was curtailed, and for supporting Rebels Rewind, Ade Asks, Quiz Night every Tuesday evening, and our Virtual Matchday shop which has brought in donations of over £800. We now need one last push to see us through. Look out for details of how to watch the Dartford match and cheer on the Rebels from a safe distance, knowing we will all be back together soon - possibly in a whole new league!
Image: Philip Benton
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