Erith & Belvedere director Paul Springett: Let’s hope when the League has their meeting next week we see a safe return of football possibly even as early as Boxing Day, which is what we are actually preparing for

Friday 11th December 2020

ERITH & BELVEDERE co-director Paul Springett insists the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division club are ready for a re-start on Boxing Day.

The League has been suspended since 27 November after the UK Government put all Kent towns in Tier Three restrictions, meaning any football match has to be played behind closed doors.

Erith & Belvedere and all over teams in a London Borough were placed in Tier Two, so could open up their turnstiles but the League decided to suspend itself until 26 December.

Yesterday, The Football Association put out a statement stating that Tier Three towns can have crowds of 150 and the Southern Counties East Football League issued questionnaires to all member clubs to get their views on restarting.

Erith & Belvedere would like to kick-start their campaign on Boxing Day, when they welcome Erith Town to Park View Road for an one o’clock kick-off.

The Deres played landlords Welling United in a friendly last weekend, which saw the Vanarama National League South side run out 5-2 winners and Del Oldfield takes his side to Isthmian League South East Division side VCD Athletic tonight (19:15) for another run-out, with admission charges at Oakwood, Old Road in Crayford set at £5.

“In regards to the situation at Erith & Belvedere, it’s been a whirlwind of a year, to taking over the club and trying to steer it through this Covid pandemic has been interesting to say the least,” said Springett, a former player at the club who took over alongside James Lyons in February.

“There’s been good times and bad times with the good outweighing the bad.

“In light of the news that’s just filtered through from the DCMS and The FA about Tier Three areas and now being able to accommodate supporters, we see no reason why we can’t return to football.

“Most clubs in our league average roughly 120 supporters per game I would think, so policing that and being able to social distance is manageable.”

When asked about the League questionnaire, Springett insisted the club want to return to the field.

“We had a chat as directors yesterday and we voted yes on all fronts.  We are happy to play in front of no fans, we are happy to play between Tiers.

“Our management and players are happy to play, which is why we are playing friendlies.

“We had a fantastic game against Welling United last week, which was used as a test pilot and capped at 440 supporters.

“We have had no issues with that and we travel to VCD Athletic tonight for another friendly. 

“We have all worked extensively hard putting Covid measures in place. We have the track and trace system and if people are showing signs of illness, we ask people to be sensible and stay at home.”

Oldfield has been operating with a zero playing budget this season and the Deres are sitting in seventeenth-place in the table with two wins and three draws from their 11 games.

Tower Hamlets are rooted to the foot of the table with two draws from their 13 games and they are five points adrift of the side immediately above them in the pecking order, K Sports.

“The club running costs don’t just disappear. We have all manner of costs and we are currently losing money with paying for training, utility bills, insurances, cleaning etc,” said Springett.

“Fortunately and sensibly we took the decision to operate without a playing budget and I think in light of what is going on, you will likely see many clubs follow suit.

“If they stopped Saturday football tomorrow, you would still get 10,000 players up and down the country getting up on a Sunday morning to play football because that’s what we all love doing.

“We have also looked at the option of staging games behind closed doors and have budgeted for those extra costs with no revenue, so let’s hope when the League has their meeting next week we see a safe return of football possibly even as early as Boxing Day, which is what we are actually preparing for.”

Springett revealed some of the community actions that the sleeping giant of a club has undertaken in recent weeks.

He said: “We are proud to say that Dan Benson, our under 13s manager, has taken and passed the course with the Kent FA and is the clubs new Mental Health Trainer. He is one of the 58 selected Mental Health Champions.

“Peter Springett, who heads up the youth section, worked really hard behind the scenes and the youth section is now standard chartered, so we thank him for his hard work.

“The club recently raised £1,500 for Prostate Cancer and next year we will be launching a soup kitchen which coincides with our work tackling homelessness and helping homeless people.  We are currently running a shoe box appeal this side of Christmas and the response to that has been amazing!

“To thank the NHS for all their hard work, one of our directors, James Lyons, will be donating selection boxes to the local hospitals, so thank you James.

“On behalf of all of the directors, we want to wish all of our supporters, parents and friends a fantastic Christmas.”

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