Posted by sean on July 22, 2020 at 11:00 am in Bath City with No Comments

While I was enjoying a weekend celebrating Leeds United’s promotion, my other club, Bath City, also had a very important event on the Sunday.

Due to finishing the football season in a very respectable fourth place, City were invited to enter a play off competition alongside five other teams.

The prize for winning the play offs is promotion to a higher division; competing with stronger opposition, from all over the country and not just clubs located south of Gloucester.

City won promotion to the same national league exactly 10 years ago, where they spent two seasons – the first allowed me to watch my local side play some incredible football. The less said about the second season, the better.

As well as finishing the regular season between second and seventh place, every club wishing to take part in the play offs must ensure all their players are regularly tested for COVID-19.

Considering how dangerous the virus is and how the nature of football means that it is impossible to social distance, making such tests mandatory is fully justifiable.

The biggest problem was that the cost of regular testing. A sum of £35,000 was required to pay for all necessary tests. Bath City would have to find this figure all by themselves.

While a Premier League player like Jack Grealish only has to tie the laces on his football boots to earn 35 grand, non-league clubs need to beg, borrow and steal to even get close to such riches.

Beg, borrow and steal is exactly what Bath City did. Although I feel I must point out that there was absolutely no use of financial loans or theft when raising the cash. Begging? Some could class it as that…

A ‘Crowd Funder’ page was setup, asking City supporters to donate, in a hope that the £35k target would be reached.

Clearly there was a lot of support for the club competing in the play offs, as money came rolling in from all over the world. The support was so strong that the original financial target was surpassed, with the campaign raising over £52k (at the time of writing).

I am sad to say that I did not contribute. This is not because I am a tight-fisted Cyril Sneer. The reason behind my lack of donation was because I was against the club from entering the play offs at all.

Like everyone on the planet, we are living in very uncertain times, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Football clubs, especially those at lower levels are under great financial pressure.

Personally, I think that it was wrong to spend such a large sum of money on a competition where success is far from a certain.

My other concern was that in the event of Bath City winning the play offs and therefore promotion, how could the following season be financially funded? A magic money tree?

Sadly, Magic Money Trees do not exist.
Sadly, the fat blonde buffoon does.

Nobody currently knows when the new season will kick off, and even when it does, will fans be allowed to attend? No supporters through the turnstiles means a lot less income.

Based upon City’s national adventure, between 2010 and 2012, travelling to games hundreds of miles away, is a lot more expensive than what the club is used to. Journeys to the likes of North Yorkshire can be exorbitant, especially when you factor in travel costs and overnight accommodation – a luxury currently not required when visiting Hungerford.

This is not to say I lack ambition. I want Bath City to compete at the highest level possible. However, the club’s long-term future should not be put at risk as a result.

City is a club very close to my heart. I have lost count of the number of other football clubs who have gambled on success. When the glory doesn’t happen, or the coffers dry up, these clubs face financial ruin and even extinction. If this happened to my local club, it would be devastating.

While I am traditionally a Leeds fan, I have attended hundreds more live Bath City games than at Elland Road.

I have travelled as far north as Darlington and Barrow; the furthest east as is physically possible without falling into the Channel, at Dover; and not forgetting Truro, the deep south of Cornwall.

Had I travelled any further East, I would have ended up in the sea!

Most importantly of all, I met Claire, the love of my life and now wife at the football club. Staff from the playing and management side even attended our wedding!

I hope anyone who was in doubt, now appreciates how much the club means to me, as well as a large number of other supporters.

This is why I was against any play off participation. It is not to say that I don’t respect those fans who wanted to enter the competition and dug deep to ensure it went ahead. Just because we disagree on some things, there is no reason to fall out. After all, we all want success for Bath City.

So, the play offs themselves…

There will be no further need for coronavirus testing, as City sadly fell at the first hurdle – beaten 2-1 by their opponents, Dorking Wanderers.

As with all football matches in the country right now, no fans were allowed into the ground to watch the game.

The only way of doing so, was to pay to stream the coverage over the internet. We did just that.

The performance of the stream was awful, resulting in frequent freezing and even the BT Test Card being displayed. Despite the poor coverage, the geek in me thought that simply being able to see the Test Card was worth the £5.99 we paid for the useless stream.

Incidentally, I sent an email of complaints and have since been given a refund.

It would be very unfair for me to comment on the Bath City players’ performance, simply because during the first half, the frequent freezing and lack of signal made the entire thing unwatchable.

BT Sport appeared to step up to the mark in the second half of the game, as did the City players. We managed to watch the final 45 minutes without interference, freezing and (unfortunately) test cards.

The players certainly looked a lot better after half time, managing to score a late goal, resulting in an exciting end to the match.

Alas, it was too little, too late.

I don’t know what could have been done differently. I respect anyone who contributed towards the Crowd Funder page.

I also appreciate how tough it must been for the players, considering they hadn’t kicked a ball in a competitive match for four months. This did show at times, but they also worked bloody hard.

Hopefully it won’t be too long until the 2020/21 season can start – WITH fans in the ground.

I think pre-2021 could be a tad too soon for me to go to a match, as I intend to keep my distance from any form of crowd until I know it’s safe…

See you in 2032, then?

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