Woking FC: Coping with Covid

The start of the football season has been like no other and the financial pressure on all leagues is increasing rapidly. How are National League side, Woking dealing with the pandemic?

From the start of the lockdown, no one has known what was to come. However, the club are now playing every week but there is always the question of whether a COVID case could strike a team. ‘We don’t know whether the season will even be completed’ stated Rosemary Johnson, chairman of Woking Football Club. Even with government financial support and fundraising campaigns like ‘#cards re-boot’, a campaign in which fans regularly donate to the club with a target of £150,000 for the season, uncertainty persists. 

With the banning of fans the club loses a massive part of its funding. To accommodate for this, the National League has been awarded £10 million from the government to support the 67 clubs for the next three months. ‘This money has not yet been distributed by the National League board and of course we do not know how much we will be receiving, but all clubs are grateful for this support’ Rosemary explained. ‘Going forward it is clear that the way football funding works will have to change.’ As you go up the leagues commercial deals and TV coverage are large funders. So surely the main focus should be to get fans back into the stadiums? To add to the frustration, people are starting to be allowed back into indoor events. ‘I find it very hard to see why we can’t have limited fans within the club.’ Rosemary remarked, ‘For several weeks a team of volunteers spent hours measuring the ground, marking out who could stand or sit at a socially acceptable distance.’

The club is a big part of the local community and this is shown by the voluntary work that keeps the club running. ‘For the club, the community is of great importance’ Rosemary explained. ‘Fans volunteer and save the club money. During the six months of no football they have painted, cleaned and cleared through the club and of course there is the COVID-19 officer, who has spent 100’s of hours sorting out all the protocols as a volunteer.’ Woking have also received grants from the council. Without the community efforts, the club could be in a much worse place.

Ultimately, times are still complicated for Woking despite the support the club is receiving. ‘The key is to keep talking and working and looking for any funding stream to help the club’. ‘We are incredibly lucky to have a manager with great contacts and who is able to work within a very tight budget’ However, the club hosts an old stadium which needs considerable work every year and meeting that challenge is yet another added cost. But Rosemary concluded with the message, ‘The club has survived for many years and I expect it to continue for many more.’