A NEW era has dawned. For many, it’s time for out with the old and in with the new, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
But for Woking chairlady Rosemary Johnson MBE, January is not simply a time to sweep-up what December left behind, but to recognise those for their voluntary services to football.
It’s a time to reach out to those individuals and organisations that give so much to the cause – yet expect nothing in return.
And in the aftermath of the official unveiling of the New Year’s Honours list, there is no better time than the present to say ‘thank you’.
By her own admission, Johnson is not your typical chairperson. She is not brash or driven by money; instead she embraces charity giving, inherent people values and loyalty.
Since taking on the Woking chair in May 2016, her bipartisan approach has already been a welcome addition to how the club is viewed by a number of key stakeholders: one that is creditable and prepared to listen.
Speaking exclusively with the News and Mail, Johnson is intent to bridge the engagement gap between Surrey’s flagship football club and many of the Woking Borough’s 99,500 residents. It’s a relationship that can genuinely be mutually beneficial for all sides.
Johnson said: “Woking, as borough and a football club, is a hotbed of sporting talent, and sometimes we forget what is on our doorstep.
“When you look around, there are a number of success stories within the town, so it’s important that we continue to invest in local people and recognise those who make it all possible; many of which are volunteers.
“Without volunteers, the football club for one wouldn’t be where it is today, and it would be very difficult to operate in the National League. Therefore, we should be proud of what we have and stand together as one. We need to look and what we have got, not what we haven’t got,” she added.
While promotion to the English Football League undoubtedly comes with a heavy price tag, The Cards should continue to aspire to the fact that, with the right commercial infrastructure and facilities, Woking can be the first borough in Surrey to have a professional football club.
Level Playing Field
Although the current form-guide doesn’t immediately fill onlookers with promise, the board of directors at Woking can at least draw comfort from the fact that the club is, currently, debt-free.
Should The Cards, however, ever gain promotion to the English Football League, then, and only after their fourth anniversary in the League, will they be liable to repay the interest back to Woking Borough Borough for the £1.5 development costs for the Leslie Gosden Stand in 1995. This excludes a £250,000 grant from The Football Foundation.
In the meantime, Johnson and her six fellow board members have a job to do to keep Woking’s dreams alive, whilst ensuring the club remains in the National League top-flight for next season.
“When I took on the chair of the club last year, my remit was to get things done, not finance the football club. I see myself as a facilitator; someone who presides over a meeting to ensure that things people do what they say they are going to do.
“I’m not one for dealing with the likes of BT Sport, player recruitment or advertising. That’s why you have a number of skilled people at the club who each bring something different to the table.
“Garry [Hill] for one is invited to every board meeting, as we value his opinion, and vice-versa. Similarly, if anyone at the club or a supporter has a good idea, we will listen, and if we can implement something we will.
“I make a point of being accessible on match days, as do other senior members of the club. As I see it, how many grounds can you go to in the country where you can meet the players and pitch your ideas directly to member of the board.
“I want Woking Football Club to be as accessible to as many people as possible, and for as many local people in the community to support the club.
“It’s not always about money in football, but strength in numbers. The likes of Forest Green Rovers and Eastleigh have proved that you can throw a lot of money at something, but it doesn’t necessarily buy you success,” she added.
Johnson admits that The Cards’ current league position makes for an unnerving next few months, but confirmed that the Woking board has every confidence in Hill’s ability to steer the club to safety.
“The difficulty that Garry [Hill] has is that he has always overachieved wherever he has been, so people have come to expect that now. However, that’s not a reason to take a back seat, which is why I’m calling on the people of Woking to come along and cheer on their local football club,” she added.