The ongoing story of Hitchin Town and their fight to keep their Top Field ground has taken on a new twist. Now, after a quarter of a century of inertia, the club is trying to raise the funds to rebuild one of non-league football’s most iconic stadiums.
For decades, the club has been stymied by the battle with its landlords to lock-in a more secure future. Short-term leases are of limited appeal when there are grants and loans to be had. Now, with a longer-term lease, the club can, at least, start to look at accessing money available to football clubs at grass-roots level.
But how do you raise money when there is, apparently, no collateral? The club is looking to one of the many innovative forms of financing that have sprung up in the aftermath of the financial crisis – crowdfunding.
The scheme was launched almost a week ago and is in danger of falling flat on its face. After half a dozen days, the club has yet to secure even 1/50th of the sum they are looking for. They have 51 days to raise the balance of the £ 50,000 target.
What are Hitchin trying to raise the money for? Take a look around Top Field and frankly you don’t know where to start. One assumes that new dressing rooms, seating, a clubhouse, permanent standing areas (instead of the wooden terracing) and possibly more secure boundaries, are all on the agenda.
A new ground may cost in the region of £ 2 million, so £50,000 is a mere bagatelle. But it’s a start.
The scheme will also test public appetite to support the club. If Hitchin’s Save Top Field campaign had failed, the old market town may have suffered even more damage to an already ailing town centre. Corporate Hitchin, if there is such a thing, could comfortably help the club reach the £ 50,000 objective.
It’s a great idea, but a little more transparency around the destination of the funding may also assist Hitchin Town in enticing more people to throw money into the “virtual bucket”, but anyone who has been to Top Field will be aware that a major reconstruction project is long overdue. It’s fair to say that the club is only at the very start.
The crowdfunding site can be accessed here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/rebuildhtfc/