For most Non League sides the difference between success and failure in a season can be found in their pre-season calendar. One or two big name friendlies can add anything up to 20% to the income stream for a season. Planning starts in some cases a year in advance and is often added as a sweetener for any transfer deals that are done involving the Non League club and a professional outfit. Big clubs will get dozens of approaches every year from clubs big and small, although the world has moved on from the fact the biggest game they would play would be against a Coronation Street XI.
Today it is all about the pre-season overseas tour. Everyone is at it these days. No longer is it the preserve of the Premier League sides – League One and Two clubs these days often head overseas to get their “team building” in as well as a few games in the sunshine. This week sees the departures of Charlton Athletic and Brighton & Hove Albion to Spain for pre-season tours against the likes of Real Betis, Sporting Lisbon and er, Portsmouth. However, before the Seagulls depart for some sun, sand and soccer they had an appointment down the A27 with the Rooks.
For Lewes this was the biggest game in a number of seasons. It had been in planning for over 6 months and just 48 hours before the game the Rooks were able to announce that the game was a 2,200 sell out (later revised to 2,426). In terms of potential receipts, this would see around £15,000 flow into the club (excluding any bar takings, food and club shop sales) although some of that had already been earmarked. With a club like Lewes having a playing budget around the £75,000 mark for the season, this game could make the difference between a new player or two.
After their exploits in the rain in the shiny new Gallagher Stadium in Maidstone, the Seagulls swooped into the good old Dripping Pan. Lewes don’t have fancy new dressing rooms, a car park big enough for a coach or a 3G pitch, but they have heart, passion and an army of helpers who were determined to make this event a success. And they did what they do best – they all mucked in and improvised. Car parking spaces were reserved in the pay and display with Under18’s players standing in the spaces for the Brighton players BMWs and Mercs, treatment tables were set up outside the dressing room and boardroom converted into a bar (The Boardakabin became the Barakabin). Continue reading