Senrab FC, one the country’s most successful grassroots clubs, looked in danger of folding this week, until one of the club’s famous old boys came to the rescue.
England captain John Terry, who played for Senrab as a boy, heard about the club’s financial troubles this week and has made a donation to the club to help them stay afloat.
“I’ve made a donation that I’ve been told should keep the club in a healthy position for the next few years,” Terry told the Daily Mail, who this week raised the issue of Senrab’s financial plight.
“If some of the ex-players could also follow suit I’m sure this would help secure the long-term future of the club.”
The East London club have a rich history of producing talent, with Jermaine Defoe, Ledley King, Bobby Zamora, Sol Campbell and Lee Bowyer among Senrab’s old boys along with Ray Wilkins, Alan Curbishley and Crewe manager Dario Gradi.
As well as these stellar names, many of the clubs more recent graduates are currently plying their trade in the Football League, but the famous production line was in danger of coming to end as a combination of increased costs and cuts in council funding left Senrab in a perilous financial position.
Senrab, whose website is powered by Club Website, is run by husband and wife team Tony and Sharon Carroll. Tony is the chairman, while his wife “does all the work”, including managing the club’s finances.
The club currently receives an average of approximately £12,000 a year through fees and fundraising to keep over 20 teams afloat.
Last year they were forced to axe their under 18s and under 17s teams to cut costs but still the regular costs of pitch hire, changing rooms, referee fees and training ground hire – which has trebled in the last year – mean that the £12,000 doesn’t go very far.
“We spend every single penny of that,” Tony told Club Website this week, but if they didn’t cover extra costs like phone bills and petrol costs themselves, the club “wouldn’t have enough money to see the season through.”
“We’ve had enough of banging our heads against the wall. We’ve been putting in our money and for two of the last five years we’ve been out of pocket, in one year by quite a large sum.”
The club’s fees of £40 – £50 per child per season – “the cheapest around by a long way,” says Tony – are proving insufficient to run the club over the entire season, but Tony and Sharon are unable to raise them further.
“The price of everything is going up, but we can’t charge any more money. We put the fees up by £10 a few years ago and there was uproar. We’ve got a lot of one-parent families and a lot of low-income families. Some people just can’t afford to pay.”
“We don’t need money in bank. All we need is the money to pay for the pitches, referees and this and that, so that the kids can play football. All we need is a pick me up to get us back on an even keel.”
The exact amount of funding provided by John Terry remains undisclosed but it should, according to Tony, provide the club with funds for the next couple of seasons.
The extra cash will allow the club to buy much-needed new kit and balls for some of their teams, as well as putting some of their coaches through the required FA courses.
“It’s a nice donation,” said Tony. “He’s thinking of us, that’s the main thing. That’s all we can ask.
“We just hope that the other boys who have been through the club come on board as well and put a little bit in, to help us bring the kids up to scratch with the other clubs.”
Many of the club’s ex-players, young and old, have expressed their fondness for the club this week.
Spurs captain Ledley King said “The thought of the club folding is a worrying one. I owe Senrab a lot and it would be a shame if this important part of the community was no longer there.
Birmingham’s Lee Bowyer said “I’m saddened to hear of Senrab’s plight – it is sad when any grassroots football club has financial difficulty. The club is close to my heart.”
Sky Sports pundit Ray Wilkins said “I am one of several England internationals who have a lot to thank the club for in our development towards a career.”
The former Chelsea assistant manager called Senrab “the most prolific source of football talent in the London area.”
When you look at their roll-call, it is hard to disagree, so let’s hope that some of the Senrab’s other old boys follow John Terry’s example and remember their grassroots upbringing.
Clubs like Senrab are a vital part of the football family in this country, providing much needed enjoyment to children in their local community. It would be a crying shame if they were to go under.
With the gulf in funding between the professional and grassroots game highlighted once again this week – by the Guardian’s David Conn – at least Senrab seem to have some assistance waiting in the wings.
But if one of the country’s most successful grassroots clubs can find themselves in such a perilous position, one wonders how many other clubs are out there in a similar plight, and without a Premier League benefactor there to help them out.
Dan Pope, Club Website editor
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