Andrew Warshaw on how things are looking up Enfield Town FC ahead of the new season
In the space of just one month, Enfield Town FC – formed in 2001 as the country’s first supporter-owned club – reached its £10,000 fundraising target to help meet the cost of improvements to Queen Elizabeth II Stadium.
When the season shut down in March, with no income from match days, like many non-league clubs the Towners reached out to their fans for help. They launched a crowdfunding campaign called ‘Shine a Light’ in early June, with a six-week window for contributions, primarily to fund new floodlights and plug the gap in lost gate receipts.
Club officials were astounded when the amount required was achieved with a fortnight to spare.
Indeed, by the time the 21st July deadline came round, contributions had reached almost £12,000, with additional funds likely to be used for further stadium improvements.
The Isthmian League Premier Division club received more than 200 donations from as far afield as the USA, Australia, Germany, Belgium and Israel, by Town supporters who work or have moved abroad. It is precisely this collective spirit and inclusive ethos that makes the Towners, who created the template upon which the likes of AFC Wimbledon were later modelled, so unique.
Director Ram Ismail told the Dispatch: “We have been blown away by the amount of support. The Covid-19 pandemic hit every household hard, as well as the many hundreds of non-league football clubs. The club’s members and other supporters never cease to amaze with their loyalty and enthusiasm.”
Enfield were lying seventh and pushing for a play-off spot in March when all the season’s results were expunged and, although no firm date has yet been set for the start of the new season, the Isthmian League has a proposed provisional start date of Saturday 19th September. With a number of player comings and goings over the next few weeks as the squad takes shape for the new season, club chair Paul Reed is taking a cautiously optimistic approach as he, manager Andy Leese, and other directors and backroom staff, plot a path ahead.
Although the club’s under-23 squad is being disbanded, the decision was not taken lightly. Paul, in a message to supporters, said: “It followed careful consideration around important issues such as pitch use, associated finances, and the strong likelihood of a much shorter season with fewer midweek dates available.
“I can re-assure you the club is still committed to the development of young talent, and this has been demonstrated by our academy being established this summer.”
As for the first team, whenever matches do resume, ambition will be equally strong. “We will, like many clubs, be operating with a smaller budget,” added Paul. “But I’m sure we can deliver a side to challenge at the right end of the table again.”