10:00AM, Friday 22 May 2020
Windsor FC this week announced it was giving away free season tickets to all fans who had purchased one the previous campaign, with director of football Kevin Stott saying it feels like the ‘right thing to do’ in the current COVID-19 dominated climate.
Football at non league level may not return for several months, but when it does Royalist fans who stumped up the cash for a season ticket last year, only to see the campaign declared null and void, will be rewarded for their loyalty.
The gesture has been applauded on social media after it was announced by the club on Wednesday, and Stott has said he wouldn’t feel comfortable charging season ticket holders for the new campaign when the last one wasn’t completed and its results were expunged from the record books.
He hopes the gesture will give Windsor fans something to look forward to as they look ahead to a time when social distancing measures are lifted and fans can return to watch the game they love.
“Listen, you can convince yourself of any kind of position if you try hard enough,” said Stott. “You could say that fans had two thirds of a season, but the reality is that they didn’t pay for those season tickets with the expectation that two thirds of the way through the season would be null and voided.
“We’re just trying to do the right thing really, and in difficult circumstances it’s sometimes difficult to know what the right thing is to do. But it’s about balancing the financial sustainability of the club with a gesture of saying ‘you didn’t quite get what you paid for last season, so let’s start again by giving you a free season ticket next year’.”
Stott expects the club will be able to absorb the cost of giving away free season tickets, but added that he would dip into his own pocket to make up the shortfall if necessary, something he’s historically done when the club doesn’t quite cover its costs.
“It’s not always apparent to people but a huge amount of time and thought goes into managing the club’s finances and ensuring we can be sustainable over a long period of time,” he said.
“But, yeah, I do feel we can do it. Clearly we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. But, in any case, if there’s been a shortfall historically I see it as my own responsibility to fill that gap.
“Plus we need some good news don’t we? I’m keen to look to the future and to give somebody something to look forward to, because it’s not all dark at the moment.”
Windsor have begun making tentative plans for next season, pencilling in a date of June 20 for a return to pre-season training, while friendly matches have also been put in the diary. Stott has doubts over whether the Hellenic League will kick off as planned in early August, however, he says there’s flexibility in the diary to complete the campaign even if it were to start late.
He’s also been impressed by what he’s seen so far from new manager Mark Cooper, who he thinks is ‘extraordinarily capable’, with the ‘emotional intelligence’ to handle Windsor’s young squad. After a rocky start to the campaign, Cooper guided the Royalists to 11th in the table before the campaign was cut short.
“We’ve worked incredibly hard since he arrived to put ourselves in a position where we can push again for honours at our level,” he said.
“A huge amount of things have been going on behind the scenes to ensure we maximise our performance both on and off the pitch, and Mark has been a part of that.
“He’s not an experienced manager in football terms but he’s an extraordinarily capable manager in business and those skills are very transferable. And, if you combine those skills with his extensive and high level experience in non league football. He’s also got fantastic emotional intelligence which when you’re dealing with young players helps give you an edge in terms of people management.”
Social distancing measures were lifted a little last week, and professional teams are in the process of returning to full-time training. Whether non league clubs will be able to follow suit is still not clear, but Stott is confident fans will get their regular football fix soon enough.
“It usually starts in the first week of August, but personally I don’t think that will happen,” he said. “But, given the amount of flex the league has in the fixture diary over the course of a season, even if we started on September 1 it wouldn’t be an issue. We could still fit it in. However, nothing is predictable. The new normal is that nothing is normal anymore. I can’t predict the future but we can try to make the best of everyday and the free season ticket offer is one measure of trying to make the best of every day.”
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