Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tring Athletic FC

Please read below for my interview with Tring Athletic chairman Mick Eldridge. It was published in the latest Football Focus magazine which can be viewed here for absolutely free! Included in the current issue are Deveronvale, Leith Athletic and many more football clubs.

Tring Athletic

The Grass Roots Stadium
Football Focus caught up with Tring Athletic chairman Mick Eldridge last month and he provided an interesting picture of how the Midlands League Premier Division side is run. “The club was formed in 1958 as a youth club and progressed to running adult sides, but youth remains key to Tring Athletic. We wish to be known as a community club encouraging players of all ages, male and female, to participate in football.”

Although Tring's first team performed very well this season with an eighth place finish, Mick made it clear that the youth system at the club is the lifeblood at the rather aptly named, Grass Roots Stadium. “In the last twelve months we have re-instated the under 18s youth team who play in the South Bucks Youth League and they recently finished third in their division. The majority of the players will still be eligible to play youth football again next season and we are hopeful that a number of them or perhaps the whole team from Tring Tornadoes Junior Football Club, who operate teams from five years to sixteen years of age, will progress up to our youth team as a natural progression into senior football.”

Tring have high hopes for the young players at the club, but as Mick explains, a successful youth system is not cheap. “Obtaining sponsorship, retaining and increasing revenues from advertising, maintaining gate levels, running fund raising events, club functions will be a challenge, whilst keeping costs under control. Running six teams is expensive but also a drain on human resources. Committee members who run the club undertake an increasing amount of administration that is required and generally being in attendance at the club for all such events. We are currently fortunate to have a very committed and strong committee running the club.”

However, Tring have formed a very close relationship with a company who sponsor the club and Mick describes how they provide essential financial backing to the club and local community with activities outside of football too. “We were financially assisted by our club sponsors Grass Roots Group plc and their Chairman & Chief Executive, David Evans MBE and we continue to have close links with Grass Roots Group. We are also holding a very large concert at our ground in June with more than 3,500 tickets sold to date. This is organised by the Grass Roots Group and profits are distributed to the local sports clubs and schools.”

Despite what appears to be a healthy lower league club, Tring have had their fair share of misfortune too. “We moved to our current first team ground in 2004 following a fire to Tring Town’s old clubhouse and re-built a new clubhouse, changing rooms and function rooms costing in excess of £250,000. Tring Athletic raised a substantial sum towards the cost mentioned above with the Dacorum Borough Council providing a small grant plus and interest free loan. All loans have now been repaid.”

Mick is proud of the way Tring bounced back and the club have now hosted many successful social functions with footballing icons. “The facilities are amongst the very best at our level and are used for cup finals, social functions and formal functions including the Spartan South Midlands Match Officials Association who have recently had Howard Webb the World Cup final referee, Mark Halsey a Premier League referee and Richard Scudamore as guest speakers with the function hall accommodating 150 persons theatre style.”

Everything appears in place at Tring Athletic, but Mick believes the club is entering a very important phase of its history. “The manager Phil Casserley has put together a large squad of players with a mixture of youth and experience who play very well as a team and are determined to play attractive football and win matches. Phil, I am sure, will look to perhaps add one or two new players for next season but I believe that nearly all of the players have indicated their desire to play again next year for the club.”

Off the park, Mick also possesses some lofty ambitions. “We are in the process of finalising the addition of two extra changing rooms to our facilities in order to move the 'A' and 'B' teams to the Grass Roots Stadium as they currently play at our second ground, Miswell Lane, where the club was formed in 1958. The ladies and the youth team also currently use the Miswell Lane facilities so our aim to have all teams operating from the same stadium.”

written by Will Lyon

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