Five years on, Eastwood CFC chairman says Nottingham Forest link, academy and wealth of junior teams shows club is in good health
Five years after being formed, Eastwood Community FC is in the ‘best position it can be’ in the eyes of chairman Jamie Bennett.
He points to the 40 teams playing in the club’s colours, their links with Nottingham Forest and a first team boss willing to promote talent from within as evidence of the original vision panning out.
This week Eastwood hosted over 200 junior footballers for the Nottingham Forest Ladies try outs.
“The whole idea that started five years ago was to have a club at the heart of the community, partnering with big players in the sports world,” he said,
“That’s exactly what’s happened.
“Nottingham Forest is a big partner of ours, we’ve built a really good link with them.
“Ben Osborn (Forest player) is running football schools here, we’ve had their junior sides here, we’re pretty much the home of their women’s section.
“It was the vision to partner with Forest Ladies, Pro:Direct Sport (the academy operates out of Eastwood) we’re the Nottingham site and that will have over 80 students next year.”
According to Bennett, the days of living off gate receipts are over.
“It’s the only model that’s sustainable.
“If someone comes along who won £50m on the EuroMillions and fancied having a go, it seems a bit of fun - that’s been tested before, not just at Eastwood but other non-league clubs, and the problem is when they get fed up and stop investing their money, the deck of cards falls.
“For me, it’s having different revenue streams, not just relying on 100 people coming through the gate.
“You’ve got to run a business.”
And it all seems to be going to plan at the Pro:Direct Stadium.
“The health of the club is very good,” said Bennett.
“It’s probably in the best position it can be.
“We’ll have over 40 teams operating under the Eastwood CFC name next season.
“We’re on plan for the vision of playing Step 4 football within five years – I announced that a couple of years ago.
“We’re at Step 6, in terms of our first team we’ve got a very good manager, he comes and watches our Under 13s and Under1 4s, has an interest in how our academy is doing.
“He would rather bring players in from within, rather than how much can we spend to bring players in from other clubs.
“There will be 50 or 60 at first team training, including some Under 16 boys who in the next 12 months could be ready to be involved.”
If there was one area Bennett would like to see improved, it’s the club’s link with local commerce.
Eastwood CFC aren’t beholden to sponsorship deals for survival, but Bennett would certainly welcome investment from the local area.
“Some of the old boys, supporters, scratch their head a bit over why we don’t get the local buy in.
“It’s not like we need to go in and bring in £10,000 in local sponsorship for us to run, it’s not in my model.
“Companies just don’t invest in their local community club anymore, 20 years ago you’d run your whole budget on sponsorship.
“We do have some good local sponsors.
“But it would be nice to see more local firms get involved, although the club won’t cease to be in existence if the local butcher doesn’t buy a board from us.
“History at the club is probably involved in that, people have got stung in the past but we’re a seperarate entity to that.
“National firms have invested in us, Eon for example, British Gas have given us certain levels of sponsorship, the Co-op are running their national AGMs from this facility.
“Locally it would be nice to even get a matchday sponsor.”