Rejecting FA Cup money in favour of a car boot sale

by Dan Mobbs

“I got told during the week,” explains Haringey Borough manager Tom Loizou. “I spoke to a couple of the players and a few of them said they couldn’t get in for that time because of work commitments, and that was it, we had to say no. Also, we’ve got a boot sale here in the morning which we would have had to cancel which would have meant more revenue lost as well.”

The game in question is an FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round match against Isthmian League North promotion rivals Heybridge Swifts in the eighth tier of English football, with the promise of a first ever appearance in the first round for Haringey Borough and an estimated £100,000 windfall should they win.

Excitement at the community-driven club had been building ahead of the game and reached a peak when the BBC called the club in the week before the game with the offer of streaming the game live. However, this exciting proposal posed more of a problem than you might expect.

Motivated by its increasing impact on the local community, Loizou and the club chairman, Aki Achillea took the bold decision to reject the BBC money that could easily change the fortunes of a club of Haringey’s size. Humbly, this was done so that those players who couldn’t escape work on Saturday morning to meet an earlier re-arranged kick can still play, and so that the community can still have access to a boot sale that many rely on for clothing and food.

The gesture was left flat though as Haringey were beaten 4-2 by Heybridge on the day and Loizou and the club were left looking longingly at what might have been.

“The extra money would have been nice, but they gave us only a few days’ notice and wanted the match to kick off at 12:30. Our players work, and lots of them work on Saturday mornings. It was extremely short notice and I couldn’t get all the players in on time. I couldn’t really accept kicking off early and losing players, which is an unfortunate thing because we would have loved to have it on live stream,” he said, echoing his thoughts published on the Isthmian website earlier in the week.

“The other issue was that we have a car boot sale at the club every Saturday morning. This is important to the local community- this isn’t a wealthy area and many people rely on this to buy clothes and even food. Again, had we had time, we could perhaps have moved the boot sale around to accommodate the football, but you can’t simply cancel an event that’s important to the community to suit the TV people.”

When I ask him about the difficult decision he remains stoic. “Everything we’ve earned in the FA Cup, we’re putting back into the cub. We’re in the process of putting in new dressing rooms. We’re building another car park at the back of one of our goals. It’s all going back into the club, it’s not going back in anyone’s pockets. And the £100,000 we lost out on would have been [gasp]. We could have put another AstroTurf in and had a training area for the kids, but it wasn’t to be.”

Since taking over nine years ago after earning Football League experience as caretaker manager at Leyton Orient, Loizou has helped improve the fortunes of the club on and off the pitch. He has overseen promotion in 2015 and pushed to make the club a more prominent part of the community in an area of the country that has received national news over the past few years, but often for the wrong reasons.

“There are a lot of family and friends at this club and we tend to look after the local community, so there’s a lot of stuff given away.

“When I came her nine years ago the facilities were poor. I then put a business plan to the chairman and we gave it a go. We built up the boot sale and the boot sale helped build the clubhouse with the money the chairman’s put in. We laid the AstroTurf and concentrated on getting a good first team so everyone could look up to it and want to join the club.

“We’ve got 2,000 to give away this season and anyone who shows a bit of interest is offered one. We make sure they’re in the local community and then they’re offered them for free, so a parent and two or three or more kids can come along if they want.

“Also, we’ve introduced free martial arts for the local kids and adults in the area, which takes place at the club on a Thursday evening.

And it’s Loizou’s drive that has propelled the club’s progression both on and off the pitch, and has also seen him hone some unexpected skills for a football club manager.

“We have to do things gradually at this football club because I am the only full-time person here at the club. There’s no one else and there’s only so much I can do. At the moment I’m a groundsman, caretaker, maintenance man, hire out the bar for the club, all sorts.”

Despite having to spread himself so thin, Loizou’s enthusiasm isn’t overwhelmed. In fact, he is buoyed, elevated by increased attendances, a steady improvement in the first team, a new 3G surface in recent seasons, a growing community focus, and an interest from a number of Football League club scouts in his players, highlighting the closing gap between his aspirations and reality.

When he joined the club, his remit was to avoid relegation to the 10th tier, but now he jas more glamorous aspirations.

“If we manage to get a promotion this year that takes us up to Ryman Premier, then one more takes us to the Conference South, and then we’ll put another business plan together to see if we can have an under-23 team full-time and push for the Conference Premier.

“I’m happy to stay here as long as the chairman’s happy. I’ve kind of taken this club on as a personal little battle to see how far I can take it. I’m not a spring chicken, I’m 58 years old, but I like to believe and think that I’ll be here for the rest of my managerial career, but I don’t know.

Tags: FA Cup, Haringey Borough

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