From getting ‘battered’ every week to targeting a title … now Rowner Rovers need new sponsors to avoid folding

A grassroots football club only formed in 2019 are seeking sponsorship in a bid to avoid having to fold.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 9:52 am
Rowner Rovers (stripes) in action against Horndean United in the 2019/20 Mid Solent League season. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Rowner Rovers are trying to plug the financial gap caused by the ending of their two-year deal with Gosport company GI Installations.

That deal was worth around £1,000 a year to the club who are preparing to restart their second Mid-Solent League season early next month after lockdown restrictions are eased.

‘Due to Covid GI can’t sponsor us any more,’ said Rowner boss James Dedman.

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Rowner Rovers (blue/white) in action against FC Strawberry during their debut 2019/20 Mid-Solent League season. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

‘Now we’re having to source a new sponsor to keep us going.

‘We need new kit, there are fees to pay for the league, pitch hire - even at our level the costs add up.

‘We all pay to play, about £5 a game, to help keep the costs down - we don’t think it should cost stupid money to play football on a Saturday.

‘The £5 covers training at Crofton School as well.

‘Sometimes if the weather is bad the league want us to play on a 3G pitch. We were quoted £140 at one place - that’s a lot of money, especially when you only get £40 from the away team towards it.

‘Even our own players sometimes forget (about the costs).

‘I say ‘well, we don’t have to train but do you want to end up getting battered every week?’

‘Match balls are about £25 a pop. Training balls are cheaper, but then people moan that we’ve got cheap training balls.

‘Kit’s not cheap either - and you have to pay extra to put a sponsor’s name on and extra for the badge.

‘We need new kit as the old one has the old sponsor on it, the shorts are ripped - it’s all looking a bit dated.’

In 2019/20, Rowner’s debut MSL campaign, they were - to use Dedman’s own word - ‘battered’ most weeks.

They played 15 league games before the pandemic wrapped its vice-like grip around society a year ago, losing all of them, scoring 13 goals and conceding a whopping 103.

Some clubs might have jacked it in there and then, but Rowner will restart their 2020/21 season on April 3 with confidence high.

Prior to the last lockdown in mid-December, they had discovered the sweet taste of winning - 2-0 against Segensworth and 2-1 against Horndean United.

Prior to that, they had drawn 4-4 with East Lodge and also conspired to throw away a 5-1 first half lead to lose a 13-goal thriller 7-6 to Cowplain.

All those four clubs - along with Carberry - remain on Rowner’s post-lockdown fixture list after the MSL split the 13-team division into two.

Rovers will resume their campaign third in Division 2 and targeting the trophy that will be awarded to whoever ends up topping the table.

‘Last year we were getting battered week in week out,’ recalled Dedman. ‘It was getting quite tiresome to be honest.

‘We were starting games with nine or 10 players.

‘But we’ve kept probably 70 per cent of the lads from last season and added to it.

‘The main problem last season was we didn’t have a goalkeeper.

‘This season we’ve got Jake Smith, who travels from Chichester to play. He’s made a massive difference - he’s probably too good for us!

‘This season we were getting four or five subs each game, and it all breeds a bit of competitiveness.

‘There’s a positive vibe at last, everyone is itching to get back out there and play and try and end the season on a high.

‘It’s a much happier squad now than the one that was getting hammered each week. No-one wants to be a part of that.

‘You can see the improvements we’ve made, and hopefully we’ll go into next season on a real high.’

Rowner’s first game back after lockdown will see them run out at Hawks’ Westleigh Park stadium on April 3.

The ground is hosting an MSL double header, with Burrfields taking on Mob Albion in a Division 1 contest at 2pm and Horndean United facing Rowner at 6pm.

Normally, if those games were played at King George V or Farlington, spectators would be able to go along and watch (obeying the rule of six guideline).

Hawks are currently seeking FA guidance on whether the same rules apply within their stadium, or whether the games have to be played behind closed doors.

Rovers chairman Tim Stickland - the club’s founder - is leading the search for a new sponsor(s).

‘We know asking a company for two grand in the current climate … it could be the wrong year to ask some,’ Dedman continued.

‘It could be that we end up with a number of sponsors all paying something. We’ve already had a little bit of interest.

‘Tim has put a bit of money in himself, I don’t know if the lads know that. He’s just a regular guy, he’s not Roman Abramovich!

‘Thanks to Tim, we’re going to have ‘thank you NHS’ on our shirt sleeves next season.

‘Tim started the club off his own back, he’s keen to do more things to help the community.’

Anyone interested in sponsoring Rowner can contact Tim at [email protected]