From a small town near Surrey comes Knaphill FC, a club that has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past decade.
From 2005 to 2007, The Knappers enjoyed a double promotion, winning both the Surrey County Intermediate League First Division, and then the Premier Division the year after. Knaphill could also have gained promotion once again two years later, but their stadium failed to comply with FA regulations.
However, the club has since improved its facilities, and Chairman David Freeman spoke to us about his vision for the side.
“In 2009 we achieved a third place finish in the league which would have given us promotion to the (Combined Counties League) Premier Division, but our lights were still a year away. This season we are aiming for another top 3 finish to achieve the same aim.”
Floodlights have since been installed at Knaphill’s small Redding Way home, which has allowed the club to introduce a youth system to their set up.
“It gave the club the first opportunity to introduce an U18 side playing in a midweek floodlit league. This brought an influx of new, young players to the club that could still play in age group football within the club whilst having the benefit of feeding the first team with new talent.
“Knaphill FC has had a number of youngsters represent both 1st and Reserves and then go one to play at CCL Premier and higher levels.”
On the clubs modern facilities, Mr Freeman said:
“Our wonderful facility at Redding Way is owned by the local authority and we are hirers as such, so we are limited in our access and ability to utilise the pavilion to its maximum. We have invested much time, effort and finance in keeping the pavilion in its present excellent condition and although other hirers use the facility, we obviously treat it as our home.
“Since Redding Way was first opened in 2004 we have received many generous comments from visiting players, club and match officials, ground-hoppers and regular supporters, league and FA officials all praising not only the condition of the pitch, but also the overall condition of the ground and pavilion. Most welcome has been the reaction to our hospitality on which we pride ourselves, come win or lose we try to make every-one visiting Redding Way feel as welcome as possible.”
Despite the fact that the ground isn’t owned by the club, Knaphill is still a side that sees itself as playing a massive part of the local area.
“If you own your own ground and can incorporate many other local groups and users within it then you may well be able to truly call yourselves ‘a community club’, however we believe that representing your community and being supported by many local businesses you can genuinely call yourselves ‘a club of the community’.”
The biggest managerial headache for the club is its finances, as sides from the Premier League to the Sunday League’s struggle to balance the books.
“Making ends meet is the biggest obstacle that any football club has to face, especially in these austere times. We are limited to being able to hire the facility to the football season, August-May, as the local authority’s maintenance team takes over during the summer months. We cannot sub-let the pavilion to raise money, so we look at hosting a number of intermediate Leagues Cup Finals at the end of the season to provide additional income.
“We need to raise in excess of £20,000 per year to pay for the running costs of the club running 5 teams to include pitch hire, match officials, league and county affiliation fees, new kit and the myriad other items that are required to be paid for during the season.
“The biggest source of income for many clubs is a bar; due to a covenant within the deeds to the ground, we have to obtain Government approval to apply for an alcohol license so that we can sell alcoholic drinks in the pavilion. This will provide much needed income on a regular basis and offer our visitors the same level of refreshment that is available in almost every other similar club in the country.”
And on his hopes for the future of Knaphill FC, Mr Freeman admits keeping the club afloat whilst aiming for promotion will always be the side’s main aims.
“The biggest challenge as mentioned before is keeping the club afloat financially. The addition of the bar in the pavilion will certainly help maintain a regular flow of funds as at the moment a run of away games or poor weather means that the clubs income is greatly reduced. Promotion to the Premier Division would certainly help as the larger crowds expected would provide additional income. However costs tend to rise at that level and players will expect to receive some form of financial expenses.
“Promotion to the Premier Division of the CCL is the main target as that would probably be the pinnacle of success to which the club could reasonably be expected to achieve and survive comfortably.
“However promotion would require capital expenditure on an additional seated stand and an additional covered standing area to comply with current FA ground grading requirements. Regular participation in the FA Cup & FA Vase is also high on the list as they would provide not only additional income from prize money, but also help in raising the clubs profile and standing in the football community.