Weather problems have hit Braintree Town to the tune of £50,000

Lee Harding

Lee Harding - Credit: Archant

The current torrential downpours have hit Braintree Town in the pocket, to the tune of around £50,000, according to chairman Lee Harding.

Eighteenth-placed Iron, with EIGHT games in hand on some of their Skrill Premier League rivals, and nine games in hand on ninth-placed FA Halifax, have not played a home fixture in the division since December 28 – a time-line that was kept going after Saturday’s clash with Wrexham was called off.

However, despite Harding predicting some ‘serious problems’ ahead – should the freak storms continue to play havoc – Town will maintain their quest for the top-five, with the chairman confirming that any promotion would see Alan Devonshire’s side take their place in League Two next season.

The stadium at Cressing Road is now suitable for fourth-tier football but that doesn’t mean Iron have shelved plans to relocate in the next few years. Ironically, such ambition could be seen as a factor behind the current problems they are experiencing.

“We have spoken to the Football Foundation and Sports England and we qualify for a 50% grant, which we would use to improve our drainage system at the ground, with one exception,” said Harding, whose team’s game at Halifax was called off on Tuesday.

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“The Football Foundation want to see their grant used for improvements over the next 10 years at the stadium and we are looking to move within the next three to five.”

Town have already lost weekend games at home against the likes of Cambridge United and Lincoln City, both who usually bring sizeable away followings with them, and Harding said it was natural that Iron were feeling the pinch.

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“We’ve lost some big games, such as Cambridge where we were expected to have a crowd of between 2,500 and 3,000 and others which would have probably attracted around 800 spectators,” he said.

“The directors of the club, collectively, have been very generous financially, but the basic maths say that if things don’t improve, certainly by April, we will have some serious problems.

“The way we operate the club, we are debt free and we match our income with our expenditure, so that does give us some room for manoeuvre having not had a home game for six weeks, but it’s probably cost us about £50,000 which is a big hole.”

Such a backlog could cost Town a place in the top-five play-off places this season with the potential of three games a week likely to hit Alan Devonshire’s small squad of part-timers heavily as the season’s climax draws near.

However, an extended break could also work the other way and should Braintree reach the promised land this season, and Harding says it will be all-systems go should the Iron then achieve promotion.

“We are three or four years away from a new stadium (at Springwood Drive) but we want to progress and have applied for promotion,” he added.

“We meet the basic Football League criteria for our ground. That shows the direction we want to go in.

“We fulfil Grade A criteria for Football League entry, with an attendance of 4,000, including 500 seats, but after a year in the Football League, we would then have to increase the attendance to 5,000, with 1,000 seats.

“Three years in the Football League would see us have to install another 1,000 seats, while not having to increase the attendance.

“We would have to look at how we could afford that, while our main concern would be the ongoing issue of having just one road in and one road out of the ground.”

For the time being, the priority remains getting games on, home and away. Town’s last game came on January 11, although it has not been for the want of trying.

“With help from Braintree Council we have spent a lot of time and effort on our pitch in the last seven days,” said Harding, who applauded the work of volunteers who have worked to try and get the pitch playable, as well as the Council’s head of operations, Paul Partridge, who ‘moved heaven and earth’ to try and get last Saturday’s game with Nuneaton on.

“We have double verti-drained the pitch (putting three-inch holes into the ground to allow air to get into the pitch’s sub-soil), we have installed a moat drain around the pitch and we have had sandbanding drains going across it.

“But I was told the other day that we have already had two inches of rain fall in the UK this month, and seven inches fell throughout the whole of January. The normal eco-system can’t take anymore.”

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