WHEN ROSEMARY Johnson MBE took-up the reins as Woking FC chairlady in May, she wasn’t deluded by the enormity of the task, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
Yet Johnson’s meteoric rise from fan to chairing a board of directors could be considered somewhat unorthodox when compared to many of her opposite sugar daddy counterparts.
Now 63, the former Mayoress of Woking and welfare rights officer is not the stereotypical benefactor, but a self-proclaimed no-nonsense facilitator in getting things done. But one thing’s for sure:
“this lady’s not for turning” – to coin the infamous words of a former British Prime Minister.
Given the precarious nature that Woking FC now finds itself, electing Johnson to the chair is arguably one of the best club appointments in recent time. But for Johnson, the honeymoon period is definitely over.
With just one point on the table from five league games, the cards look stacked against Woking this season. And its new chair is not immune to realising just how tough the next nine months are likely to be.
She said: “when you look at the last two teams we have played, both have budgets comparable or in-excess of some Football League Division 2 clubs, which makes it difficult to complete on a level playing field.
“Our time will come though. It may not be now, but we are having the right conversations to ensure that Woking FC has a stable operating model, which will enable it to complete at the next level.”
Johnson would be first to acknowledge that Rome wasn’t built in day, and nor will the future redevelopment of The [Laithwaite Community] Stadium.
She said: “It’s important not to lose sight of who we are today and what we represent.
“We are Woking FC, and we represent the town of Woking and its people, which is something we should be proud.”
“Fans will naturally always have expectations of where they want us to be now and in five years’ time, but unfortunately expectation doesn’t always align with what’s achievable; at least in the short-term.
“It’s important, however, not to confuse that with not having ambition, as everyone connected with Woking FC would love to see the club gain promotion to the Football League and, if we found ourselves in a promotion situation, we would make it happen. If we didn’t want that, we wouldn’t be ambitious.
“The question that you always have to ask yourself though is: at what cost, and how sustainable it is?” highlighted Johnson.
While the topic of a new ground continues to preclude the football agenda amongst both fans and the media fraternity alike, Johnson is understandably keeping her cards close to her chest.
“I have absolutely no problem at all with fans coming up to chat to me on matchdays, as I consider my role to be both functional and of a more ambassadorial nature. And while no news is not always good news, what I can say is that those who have a vested invested in the ground, have the club’s best interests at heart.”
As a tenant, Woking FC’s plight still remains firmly in the hands of Kingfield Community Sports Centre Limited, which is spearhead by former Cards’ chairman Chris Ingram. And while no planning application has formally been submitted to Woking Borough Council, Ingram could well be primed to leave the ultimate legacy.
The current footprint at the club’s Kingfield site still raises a number of feasibility studies, but a new stadium could potentially lean on other mixed-use stadia projects, which house more than just football to increase the number of third-party revenue streams.
Vision For The Future
For Johnson, the ultimate prize is to be solvent and on a sound financial footing, which forms the basis of the Club’s vision. Grassroots’ community programmes is also an area that Woking is looking to grow exponentially across Surrey.
“If we look back at what we have achieved; particularly over the past three years, it’s been superb,” said Johnson.
“Garry Hill and his team have done an excellent job to help us maintain a healthy League position since 2013, but we couldn’t run a club of this size without the help we receive from volunteers and the likes of Laithwaite Financial Services.
“The support has been tremendous, which makes the job I do all that more worthwhile,” added Johnson.