We have endured one hundred days of lockdown, but now football is coming back! But not football as we know it – oh no!
We must clear many hurdles before we even get to the starting line, and it’s an expensive decision to buy a ticket to the lottery that is the Vanarama National League North play-offs with still no matchday revenue coming in.
Remember way back when, before the restrictions that now define our everyday life. Seeing The Robins sweep past an AFC Telford, a Blyth Spartans or a play-off chasing Spennymoor Town at The J. Davidson Stadium? Or travelling to Herefordshire and Northamptonshire and returning with the points?
Remember all the planning in eager anticipation of a bumper crowd for the Cheshire derby with Chester on 21st March, only for coronavirus to tighten its grip and live sport in this country to be placed in cold storage? That marked the start of football's shutdown, but restrictions are gradually being lifted, and we now find ourselves less than three weeks away from the sorely-missed spectacle of an Altrincham team taking to the field again.
And who will be alongside them when they emerge from the tunnel at The J.Davidson Stadium? Yes, our old rivals Chester - but this time in the National League North play-offs.
The play-off eliminator will be our first-ever competitive fixture In July, and the first one behind closed doors. We don’t know yet whether it will be on Saturday 18th July or Sunday 19th July, nor whether BT Sport will televise it. We can't even be sure if the game will be played at The J. Davidson, as we await clarification from Trafford Council.
But we are now deep into the planning process; we’ve started the testing regime, taken the players off furlough and returned to training, and, as a consequence, we’ve started incurring costs.
Each individual test costs £70, and, as well as every player, we are required to test every staff member every week between now and the end of July.
We expect to spend over £50,000 should we get to the final of the play-offs. We think this is a price worth paying.
Our supporters and our sponsors have been magnificent, raising around £30,000 in the early weeks of the lockdown. We are always saying what a difference you make, though it's not always easy to convey just how much. It is in this instance. Put simply, without these funds, we would certainly be thinking twice about taking part.
We were clear that your generosity would not be taken in vain, and that we would only look to come back to you for money that would be clearly identified for a specific purpose.
And that specific purpose, as you might imagine, is to help support us through the play-offs. We are using Crowdfunder for this purpose, and the link is found here.
And once again, we are seeking donations.
You can donate any amount you choose - but pledging to cover half a player test, a whole player test or more leads to rewards.
The site includes unique content, a video of the testing process and a vignette from Tony Thompson, and it will be updated regularly with new content and news as we move through the process.
We are setting an initial target to help us get to the first game against Chester and hopefully we will be revising our targets as we move through the competition.
Thank you all in advance for your support.
Get behind The Robins!