Haywards Heath Town Football Club play in the Isthmian league south-east division, which is in the 8th tier of English football. They also happen to be Outbound b2b’s local non-league club. We recently had a call with Bluebells chairman Steve Isherwood to see how things are going on and off the pitch, & to get his views on the future of the club.
You have other business interests, so how – and why – did you end up becoming chairman of an Isthmian league football club!
I had been watching from the stands on and off for about six or seven years. In 2017 my eldest son joined what was at the time the clubs U12 team. The youth element at HHTFC only had two sides at that juncture then myself, my wife and some of our other youth footballing friends started to get involved a bit more.
In 2019, we brought over my younger son’s team who are currently the clubs U14 side and other teams followed. We have now established twelve youth teams from U8 to U18.
The senior club could see what we were doing with the youth section, and I was approached on numerous occasions to join the committee which I was reluctant to do for various reasons. It was however becoming more and more apparent that the club was in serious trouble and we felt we couldn’t stand by after growing the youth to watch the seniors slide back down the pyramid. We made the decision in conjunction with a couple of people already within the club to contact the then club secretary and existing chairman, notifying them of our willingness and commitment to get the club on an even keel and address the numerous problems it faced both internally and externally.
There must be a lot of challenges taking on such a project, given the current and ongoing financial climate throughout the UK. In fact, very recently the BBC highlighted the concerns facing non league football clubs across the country, so how do clubs survive and progress in these times?
By being forward thinking, improving matchday experience and spend per head. Few clubs can survive on match day income alone so we have external rents, facility hire, events etc. It is a constant juggling act between playing costs, improvements and we are also on catch up in terms of maintenance.
One of the many services we at Outbound b2b provide – to sports clubs of all sizes nationwide – is assistance in hiring out their venue and facilities to local companies, as well as exploring business support. Are the off-field commercial opportunities more important than ever now for semi-professional organisations such as Haywards Heath Town FC?
It is massive and fundamental to have a competitive and growing club. We are open to any ideas, suggestions or contacts and are lucky to have Paul Stone our commercial director on board. Our current revenue streams dwarf where we were two years ago in terms of sponsorship, events etc.
We have visited Hanbury Park on a regular basis for some time, and it’s clear to see the progression made in recent times. What is your vision for the club in the next two to five years – on and off the pitch – what’s the plan?
We now have what I consider in this arena a ‘young’ board as there are five of us ranging between the ages of 37 and 47. We are all very different which is a good blend and we look to push the club on. I have never been one to sit and make bold statements about the future, as the last few years have demonstrated, you never know what is around the corner!
What we are doing is improving every aspect of the club and building it sustainably from bottom up. Our 1st team manager understands this and we want longevity not a flash in the pan season that isn’t financially sustainable. Not withstanding this, last season was the clubs highest ever finish in the football pyramid.
We have had a lot of upheaval, and difficult calls have had to be made, for the good of the club but things are almost where we feel we need them to be and we are looking for continuity and a settled team on and off the pitch. Martin Dynan our manager has built a young and progressive side and you will see further development and expansion of the club’s facilities over the next year along with the introduction of a HHTFC foundation which is currently taking it’s first steps. We are also meeting with local schools etc, to build our profile and bring quality football training into the community,