Dripping Yarns with David Arnold

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A FOOTBALL club like Lewes FC cannot fully function without the efforts of volunteers. Some fans are fulsome with their financial support while others give generously of their time and particular skills. An excellent example of how both approaches can work together came with the recent refurbishment of the Rook Inn.

The club had a budget sufficient to improve the bar area, ceiling and floor but not enough to cover the cost of sorely needed new windows. Step forward Peter Hiscox, Chairman of Lewes FC Supporters Club.

A Lewes fan for many years and a ‘regular’ in the Rook Inn on match days, Peter generously agreed to personally fund the cost of brand new windows that would come with modern plastic frames. Peter said he’d watched the window frames gradually deteriorate over several decades and knew they desperately needed replacing.

As Peter put it to me: ‘I had the feeling that unless something was done then one day a pile driver of a shot crashing into one of the protecting metal grilles would be enough to cause a window to fall out of its frame. Besides which, a smart new bar wouldn’t look right with the old tatty windows still in place.’

The metal grilles Peter mentions then threw up a problem of their own. Put in place to shield the window glass from the attentions of wayward footballs, the grilles were affixed to the old wooden frames but could not be likewise fitted to the new plastic ones. A figure of £400 was quoted by the window suppliers to fix the grilles to the outside masonry rather than the window frames.

Hearing of the predicament, another fan, Wayne Brockhurst, had a look at the grilles and came up with a solution. He would dismantle the grilles and transport them to his garage (GW Commercial at Cross-in-Hand) where he would rub down and repaint the metalwork after welding special extension plates to the sides of the grilles. These plates would enable the grilles to be secured in place via the surrounding brickwork, completely independent of the plastic frames.

With the help of a number of other fans, the heavy and cumbersome grilles were taken down, manhandled up the steep steps of the Philcox Stand and moved to Wayne’s premises. The necessary work took the best part of a weekend before the grilles were brought back to the Dripping Pan, heaved into position and duly screwed into the wall.

Refurbished and looking brand new, the grilles now perfectly complement the new windows. A great team effort and £400 saved thanks to Wayne’s weld!

I have always believed that the admission prices we charge to watch Lewes FC have been very reasonable compared to those levied by most other clubs at a comparable league level to us. But even so I have to say I was most surprised at the prices charged to get into Lowestoft Town’s ground when we played them last weekend. For ordinary adult admission the cost was £10 – the same as at Lewes. However, for concessions (that is students and pensioners) the price was £8 whereas at Lewes concessions are just £5. Bearing in mind Lewes FC have had a policy for the last three seasons of allowing youngsters under 16 in for free (though in the case of children under 12 they need to be accompanied by an adult), it was also quite an eye-opener to see that Lowestoft were charging £4 for kids. The charges didn’t seem to deter their fans from turning out in numbers – the gate of 760 was easily the highest in Ryman Premier that day.

So full marks must go to the Lewes FC Board for delivering evident good value on ticket prices at the Dripping Pan. Nor should we be surprised that this enlightened policy comes with tighter controls on concessions for this season. Students in particular (and indeed anyone in full-time education) seeking admission at the £5 rate should bring with them a student card or some form of documentation proving the fact. Also youngsters who are under 16 but look older may be challenged to prove their age so again bringing along some form of ID would be sensible.

Advance warning: parking could be tricky on the day we play Billericay! That’s tomorrow, of course, when my advice to anyone coming to the Lewes home game by car is to arrive earlier than normal in order to ensure you find a parking space.

Tomorrow’s match is one of seven occasions in the coming season when a Lewes home game coincides with Brighton also at home at their new Falmer stadium.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Brighton fans, particularly those from East Sussex, are catching the train from Lewes to Falmer and many of them are leaving their cars in the town where they take up precious parking spaces. The kick-off time for both games is 3pm but the Brighton fans will no doubt allow extra time for the final leg of their journey so expect parking spaces near the station to be in short supply from 1pm onwards.

It is, of course, unsatisfactory that this fixture clash has occurred. As I understand it the situation will be monitored by the authorities and if it is deemed wise and sensible then representations will be made to move future fixtures to avoid such clashes.