With top footballers changing hands for tens of millions of pounds a time and salaries in the Premier League averaging £50,000 a week, you might think there is a lot of money in football nowadays.
A visit to Calne Town FC’s little ground in Wiltshire is then a salutary reminder that at grass roots level the game is still very dependent on people who get paid nowt. The club relies heavily on volunteers like 73-year-old groundsman Pat Collier, who works there daily during the summer months to ensure that matches can take place at weekends that attract maybe 50 spectators. He does it because he adores the game and loves the little club he has been a part of for over 60 years.
Calne’s first team has been flying high at or near the top of Division 1 of the Toolstation Western League this year, but for all its might on the field it’s a club that relies heavily on people like Pat to make its wheels turn.
Forget the 92 clubs who make up the four leagues at the very top of English football, Calne operates more than 100 places further down the ‘pyramid’. However, the good news is that some of the money generated at the very top of the game does filter through to help little clubs like this one. In recent months a £24,000 grant from the Premier League (delivered by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund and supported by a more local grant and the club’s own resources) made it possible to invest in new machinery from Lister Wilder.
“It is good to have machinery of this quality to work with. It is all very easy to maintain and operate and gives us what we need to keep the place in good shape.”Pat Collier – Groundsman
It means that Pat and co-enthusiast Tony Lovesey now have the very latest Kubota B2261 26hp tractor, a Trimax Striker rotary mower to cut the pitch and training area, and a Sisis Quadraplay to maintain and drain the hard-working playing surface. “It is good to have machinery of this quality to work with,” says Pat. “It is all very easy to maintain and operate and gives us what we need to keep the place in good shape.”
He adds: “This club is a big part of my life. I used to watch them as a boy and played for them as soon as I was old enough. Since I retired, I have volunteered for and done just about everything in the club that it’s possible to do.”
While the Kubota provides all the power that is needed and a suitably light footprint, the Trimax Striker requires little maintenance and delivers high standards of cut and presentation from its unique LazerBladez system and striping rollers. The Sisis Quadraplay makes it possible to spike, rake, roll and brush the surface in one pass. Pat says it is particularly effective in helping to ease compaction and drain laying water ahead of a match.
Lister Wilder’s Area Sales Manager, Toby Bennett, is full of admiration for what men like Pat and Tony achieve at clubs like Calne. “I have great respect for small local sports clubs and for the people whose pure dedication keeps them going,” says Toby. “A lot of our machinery is ideally suited to their specific needs and we are very happy to provide them with the benefit of our experience while giving them the training that ensures they can get the best from their investment.”
Calne Town’s Vice-Chairman Simon Gardner places huge value on the grants process – and on the volunteer input. ‘Without the external funding we would find it very difficult to maintain the ground and buildings to a level that would allow us to meet the FA’s criteria for our level in the game,” he says. “And without volunteers like Pat it would be impossible to keep the club going.”