Sumas boss Bateman calls on FA to act quickly to save grassroots football

cwefc v thame res  dan carter
Sumas have seen two Hellenic One East rivals drop out of the league (Pic by Graham Tabor)

DAN BATEMAN has called on the FA to act now to save grassroots football before it’s too late.

The Wokingham and Emmbrook boss has seen two of his team’s Hellenic Division One East rivals, Finchampstead and Henley Town, both pull out of the league in recent months.

During Bateman’s previous spell in charge, Sumas shared a ground with Henley and he says financial pressures almost saw his side follow a similar route to their old landlords.

“It’s horrible to see,” Bateman told The Wokingham Paper.

Sumas boss Dan Bateman says the FA need to do more

“I really do have empathy with Henley and all the officials there.

“When I was manager of Wokingham the last time I think 15 of my 20 players that I started the season had left and me and Matt (Eggleston) were struggling to get a team out each week.

“There were times then that we were close to folding.

“We said ‘is it worth it and can we get to the end of the season?’.

“It’s a horrible, horrible time for any club to be in.

“I can appreciate Henley have fallen the wrong side of it and I just hope they get back on the right side of it because the people that matter are the volunteers.

“They’re the people that put in all the hard work and all their time for nothing and it’s horrible for them and horrible for everybody in that situation.”

Sumas produced their biggest win of the season on Saturday, thumping Thame Rangers 8-0 with Josh Pearson bagging a hat-trick while James Charlton, Sam Lawrence, Ben Winship, Elliott Rushforth and Jordan Blake were also on target.

They were due back out on Tuesday night again Henley before they dropped out of the league and all their previous results were expunged.

With both Henley and Finch falling by the wayside, it feels all too close to home, but Bateman insists financial pressures are taking their toll on a nationwide scale and that the governing body should be doing more to help.

“It’s not really a local thing, I think the worry is what the FA is doing to clubs at step five and six,” said Bateman.

Sumas saw off Thame on Saturday in front of 48 people (Pic by Steve Smyth)

“I think they’ve lost a little bit of touch with reality.

“They look at clubs like this and even if you get a good crowd at Henley you’re looking at 100 people and that’s still not going to be enough to cover all your costs.

“The expense of running a club in the Hellenic League is massive. The expense of having to keep the ground running, maintenance, floodlights, bills, the bar, it’s huge costs that these clubs have got to bear and there’s no support for us.

“It would take a very small amount of money from clubs in the professional game to keep non-league football thriving and they’re just not doing it.

“I think the FA need to act to actually try and save step five and step six football.

“They need to start investing at the bottom and that stops clubs like this from going under.”

Sumas are back in league action on Saturday with a trip to Didcot Town Reserves.

Wokingham sit three places and four points above Didcot in the table, but did lose 4-2 at Draycott Engineering Stadium in the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup back in October.

Bateman says Sumas nearly folded during his spell in charge with Matt Eggleston

And Bateman hopes the win over Thame can be the start of a consistent run having lost the previous two.

“It will be a tough game,” said the Sumas boss.

“They’ll be young, energetic and I imagine they’ll be made up of a large proportion of their Allied Counties side and I know that set-up really well.

“We have to turn up with our A game and if we do that then I’m confident we’ll get a result.

“But if we for one minute think they’re two places below us or anything like that then we’ll be up against it.

“I’ll be battling with my lads and making sure we’re switched on.

“For me, it’s important that we follow up the result against Thame with another good result because otherwise it’s a waste if we don’t.”

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