There is always work to do be done at the Fleet not least due to the need to maintain the temporary measures put in place around the ground following delays to the completion of the new stands. The following provides a flavour of the sorts of activities our Trust volunteers have been up to over the past 12 months.
Pre-Season and General Weekday Volunteering
In the second half of the 20/21 season work continued to ensure the inside of our ground looked presentable for when the TV cameras were present, with new sponsor boards and painting of the pitch perimeter wall taking place.
Three weekends were earmarked in July to undertake various maintenance activities around the ground. A large number of volunteers turned out offering their skills or just their labour and they set about painting the outside toilet blocks (in and out), creating a new pitch-side gate (for emergency vehicle and ground maintenance machinery access), painting the groundsman’s shed, cleaning and repairing seating in the old stand and cleaning / painting the away turnstiles. The close season also saw the Trust sponsor the replacement of the old gates from the car park into the ground with shiny new red ones, a project led by Chris Judge.
The new 21/22 season got underway and the weekday volunteers were introduced to new groundsman Jamie Honeyman, had conversations with Simon Beagley (maintenance contract), met the medical secretaries who are located in the old Player Family building and continued operational arrangements with SIAN Formworks. Work has continued with post-match litter clearances, refreshing the red paint on the panelling below the scoreboard, refreshing the red/white paint on the panelling between ticket windows and home turnstiles (plus a hint of green to remind us of our new Away kit) and also clearing the significant amount of dirt that has built up in-between and around the concrete bollards in front of the turnstiles: this is a continuing issue linked to the temporary measures in place due and also the nature of the ground being on the busy main road. We have asked the Club to investigate unblocking the drain that sits in the parking area immediately in front of the turnstiles and we have also looked into what appears to be a dumped car in a similar location. Volunteers also undertake a certain amount of gardening activities ensuring all trees and bushes around the ground perimeter are trimmed and kept tidy ensuring no supporters, especially our junior ones are injured by sharp branches or brambles.
As mentioned we work closely with SIAN formworks (Yardman Richard), who have the use of our car park during the week, and are targeting the removal of a large amount of waste and rubbish that was dumped at the far side of it during the Main Stand development and also fly-tipped. Not only will this make the area look tidier, but it will also provide more space for match day parking for when we are back in the National League and mid-week parking for the various hospitality activities regularly taking place. SIAN have erected new CCTV just prior to Christmas, following a break-in at their yard: the thieves first broke in through our outer gate before gaining access into the SIAN yard from our car park. This will of course be of benefit to the Club.
With Winter upon us, tasks such as painting will start to drop off for a while especially but there will still be work to do and a presence will continue to be seen midweek if anyone wishes to offer their services. Call John Snow, Chris Judge or Chris Toon.
The Trust generally supplies its own materials or will discuss work with Simon, rather than relying on the Club so if anyone wishes to donate please contact John Burgess (Chairman).
Match Day Volunteering
As you can imagine the Club is a hive of activity during matchday be that midweek or weekend and the Operational Management currently rely on the Trust to provide volunteers for a number of activities. The car park is used from around 1pm by opposition players (cars and/or large coach), opposition Directors and Fleet season ticket holders so with limited space available, it is important only those permitted to use it are allowed in. As the Club has struggled to obtain sufficient stewards, the Trust has manned the main driveway gate and managed parking in the car park. Volunteers also manage the gate into the ground from the car park from around 12.30, checking opposition players/management and kit men into the ground as they continue to utilise the old stand whilst Covid restrictions remain in force.
To avoid cutting up Jamie’s perfect looking pitch, we have a ‘goal squad’ who are responsible for putting out two temporary training goals behind the goal line pre-match (around 1.45pm) and putting them away again pre KO (around 2.45pm). A volunteer is also on duty behind the Plough End goal during the warm to ensure when shooting practice is taking place supporters aren’t hit by erratic shots.
Immediately pre KO, post the warm-up, the volunteers join Jamie to replace divots and ensure the pitch remains pristine ready for the match to start. This activity is repeated at half time and also at full time.
Pre-match our volunteer Club announcer gets to work communicating information to the waiting crowd including of course both sets of team players. The role includes keeping fans updated during the game and also at half-time, with other scores from other games in our League, competition winners (e.g. 50/50 draw), attendance figures and special occasions. In December 2021 our announcer Steve was voted Non-League volunteer of the month which just goes to show that your efforts are recognised not only by the club but by the League too.
Finally, after the full-time whistle, the nets on the goals need to be raised and protected from our local fox population. Foxes like to play and eat the nets, so bungies (middle blue circle) are used to hold the back stanchion bar off the ground and special plastic surrounds (left and right blue circles) secure the nets to the posts and out of reach of the animals.
If anyone wishes to join the matchday volunteers please contact The Fleet Trust Chairman, John Burgess