Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Floods and Gloucester City AFC

Shocking news from the West Country as the floods continue to wreak havoc.

One of the casualties is Gloucester City AFC. The town's football club may face financial ruin. As if things weren't bad enough for most non-league sides. (Following Margate FC is a challenge!). I wonder if the FA, Premiership or other institutions at the "top" of our national game could lend a hand?

Here's the latest news from their unofficial site

23 July 2007
Meadow Park Swamped as Floods Engulf Gloucester

Gloucester City’s Meadow Park stadium was underwater this morning as the catastrophic impact of the flooding from the River Severn continued to devastate the West and the Midlands.

The Severn burst it’s banks after Friday’s downpour and the water level has steadily continued to rise with the river bloating with water running off the hills further upstream. The high tide levels have now passed far beyond the Severn’s usual floodplain and threaten to engulf the whole northern and western sections of Gloucester, passing beyond the previous known record high water mark of the 1947 floods.

Quick thinking volunteers had been to the Meadow Park ground on Sunday afternoon and tried to salvage what could be moved, with some equipment moved upstairs to the bar area. However the floodwater is far beyond being stopped by a few sandbags and with residents being evacuated from the Hempsted area of the city the water is now lapping at the crossbars. The Meadow Park cowshed and T-End terrace all now lie beneath the muddy brown murk.

The Friday downpour had already led to the cancellation of Saturday's planned pre-season visit of AFC Telford for a summer friendly game. That decision was based on the travel problems between Gloucester and the Midlands as much as the waterlogging effecting the Meadow Park pitch. However since then the floodwater has steadily risen across much of Worcestershire and north Gloucestershire, with the water levels not expected to peak until tomorrow and still further heavy rain forecast on Wednesday.

The ground has been seriously flooded twice before, in December 2000 and also in January 1990. Those previous dunkings have led to the club having problems obtaining flood insurance and this latest set-back is sure to cost the club heavily. As well as the all too obvious mopping up and massive cleaning operation ahead there will be pitch renovation, and extensive electrical work required to the floodlights and catering facilities. The damage placed the remaining home pre-season fixtures against Bath City and Forest Green Rovers in serious jeopardy, and also place the opening Southern League fixture at home to Cheshunt on 18 August in doubt. At present the flooding has made Meadow Park all but inaccessible and the full extent of the damage can only be imagined.

City fans had some welcome news with an agreement from Bath City that the scheduled Friday night pre-season friendly will go ahead with the venue switched to Twerton Park in Bath. The newly promoted Southern League champions have generously offered that City can still keep the profits generated through the turnstiles, money sure to be desperately needed to restore Meadow Park once the flood water retreats. As a result the club is encouraging those fans who can travel to make the trip to Bath and get behind the team, financially and vocally.

With so many Gloucester residents and businesses suffering the awful after effects of the worst devastating floods in living memory the damage to the football club cannot be the most significant problem facing the local community. It is however still a real kick in the teeth at a time when the club seemed to be recovering it’s financial position after years struggling with serious debts, whilst on the pitch manager Tim Harris has assembled a squad that now looks capable of competing at the right end of the SLP. The flooding may set the club back just when things were looking more hopeful. Those you feel for most are the fans who have not only funded a summer of close season ground and pitch improvements through Supporters Trust donations, but in many cases have also contributed hours of labour to get Meadow Park to the best condition it had been in for nearly a decade. Once the waters recede all of that work must now start again.

Fans have been discussing the floods on the City Open Forum, where details of the clean-up squads will also be finalised.

Links: 2007 Pre-Season Summer Fixtures, BBC Online Flood Pictures, Gloucester Citizen.

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