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Thetford Struggling to Survive

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Mounting off-field costs, an exodus of players and a ‘dilapidated’ stadium in need of urgent repair, are issues….

…facing Mark Scott on a daily basis.

It’s been a turbulent couple of years for non-League football, with crippling economic issues taking a stranglehold of a large number of clubs in these times of austerity.

It is now the turn of Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division new-boys Thetford Town, who in the space of seven months have gone from riding the crest of a wave of promotion to their current level for the first time in twenty years, to facing immediate concerns over their long-term future.

Of that promotion-clinching side, Scott has had to come to terms with seeing first-team players Matt Dixon, Matt Howard, Sean O’Donnell, Martin Carter, Tom Cusack, Valta Rocha and Bruno Tavares all depart Mundford Road in search of pastures new amid rising match day costs, dwindling attendances, lack of sponsorship and the reserve side folding, all resulting in a uphill struggle to rebuild his threadbare squad.

However, despite the challenges, the manager is determined to find resolutions to his mounting problems.

“We are not on the brink but we are really struggling,” he conceded.

“Football-wise you want to gain promotion to achieve your goals, but perhaps from the club’s point of view it came a season too soon.

“Maybe we had a lack of optimism to think it was actually possible and didn’t have the forward planning in place.

“It can cost up to £150 a game to pay for the officials alone at this level and when you’re getting small crowds it doesn’t take much to realise the problem.

“We have failed to attract an increased crowd, we were optimistic they would come after seeing over 1,000 people at Carrow Road last season, but it just hasn’t happened.

“There is money in Thetford, but not in the club, and it is threatening our future. I would encourage people to support us because if they don’t, eventually there won’t be a club.

“Another major issue is a player’s aspiration and the rewards he receives, they’ve become major inflated. Camaraderie has disappeared, with players ready to jump ship at the first chance.

“I’ve lost a third of my team already and without the finances you can’t rebuild, we’re down to the bare bones, it is a delicate situation.

“There is no long-term plan – all I’m aiming to do is to get to the end of the season. We need to find finance and I would urge anyone out there to come and get involved.”

Meetings with Breckland Council are in place to secure the future lease, which runs out in two years, of Mundford Road, and defiant chairman Mick Bailey is confident a resolution can be attained.

“Hopefully they can help out. A reduction in rent would help and if we can secure a long lease then we will be entitled to more grants,” he added.

“It is a tough time, but we’ve been around for 125 years and I can’t see us going anywhere.”

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About Author

Former Swansea City and Kettering Town defender who has been managing the likes of Kettering Town u18s, Rothwell Town, Desborough Town and Wellingborough Town for 33 years as well as being technical director at AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Began in non-League journalism as editor of Team Talk magazine back in the early 1990s and then as editor of Non-League Daily, joining Pitchero to set up Pitchero Non-League in January 2011. Also works for the National League.

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