Photo: Potters Bar Town FC

Potters Bar Town chairman Peter Waller has called on the authorities to afford clubs affected by Storm Eunice time to repair their damaged grounds. 

By Steven Oldham 

Clubs left counting the cost of Storm Eunice 

The Isthmian League Premier side’s Parkfield home was one of many grounds affected by the extreme weather this weekend.  One of their steel stands - only installed three years ago to appease ground grading rules - was overturned and they suffered further damage to the home dugout and storage facilities. 

Eunice decimated fixture lists across the country either via storm damage or waterlogged pitches. Potters Bar’s home game with Horsham was understandably one of the games called off. 

Waller believes that with damage caused so widespread, leagues and the FA need to show leniency at a time when ground grading rules have to be met by the end of March. 

“This is where the football authorities have got to come together on this, and realise that no one expected or planned this.  We all have to be helped. Those clubs who haven’t been affected - one day it could be you. We have to stick together.

“I’ve seen many clubs have problems over the years and have always said to give them time, because we could be in the same boat.  I hope the authorities work with all the clubs and give them time. 
“We all have these facilities that were put in place because they wanted the ground grading and through no fault of their own these issues have occurred this weekend,” he said. 

Damage is quite devastating - but we have to get on with it 

Waller has been involved with the club for over 50 years, initially as a player before moving into the boardroom and taking up the chairman role around 20 years ago. 

The club were facing mandatory relegation from Step 3 in 2019 before two new stands were in place, allowing them to pass their ground grading with less than two weeks to spare. 

The damage caused by Eunice is the latest setback endured by a club who should be enjoying their first spell at their highest level to date. 

“I was so gutted and disappointed to see what had happened.  After all the effort three years ago to fight out with the authorities, raise money and other things - it was a battle to get to that point. 
“Now, to have this hit us just three years later is quite devastating.  When you get adversity like this you just have to get on with it - you can’t feel sorry for yourself. 

“It’s staggering - the wooden turnstile shed hasn’t been touched, and the dustbins haven’t been blown away, yet the stand has been turned over.  It’s difficult to understand why it’s picked on parts of the ground and not others. We do get a lot of wind blowing up the hill towards the stand which has got underneath and toppled it over.
“It’s a steel structure based on a shipping container - it was strongly built.  It took a lot of work, money and time to get it ready for a ground grading visit. They would have relegated us without it,” he said.



Logistical issues may hamper Potters Bar repairs

As the British winter continues to bite, the weather may slow down repair efforts.  Having faced ground grading issues in the recent past, Waller is keen to get things back on track as quickly as possible. 

“It’s very important to get it done quickly - we have to talk to the authorities. While they’ll be sympathetic, they have rules and they try to stick to them.

“One of the problems we have is it’s on the far side of the ground where we don’t have vehicular access.  When we installed the stands, we used a company that said they can carry them across the pitch to where we put them. The telehandler did some damage and that’s our worry now - our pitch is already wet and we can’t just drive across it with a telehandler.

“We will get on with it and hopefully we will be helped by the league and FA with regards to how long we have to get it done. Some of the things we can start on immediately, but we have to make sure the stand doesn’t get blown over again in a few years' time,” he said. 

Football family rallying around fundraising efforts

The Scholars turned to crowdfunding to help them get their stand in place three years ago - and it’s a tool the club are using again to assist with repairs. 

At the time of writing the club had already raised over 25% of the £4,000 target within the first 24 hours. 

Waller is grateful for the support shown to his club from near and far. 

He said: “It’s lovely to see the support - from within the club,  fans, people in the town and football more widely.  A Horsham fan has donated who was going to be at the game. This is what the football family does - it helps out. 
“I feel so sorry for all the other clubs that have been hit by damage. Non-league isn’t just about football - it’s about the friendship and camaraderie of all involved.” 

You can view the club’s GoFundMe page here.

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