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Canterbury City to complete Southern Counties East Football League season after mystery donor provides funding

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A mystery donor has come forward with funds to allow Canterbury City Football Club to complete their season.

City, who have not played in Canterbury since 1999 and are heavily backed by Quinn Estates, requested withdrawal from the Southern Counties East League (SCEFL) on Sunday after being advised by Quinn Estates they will need to wait three years for a planning application to be submitted for a new ground.

Canterbury City Football Club chairman Tim Clark
Canterbury City Football Club chairman Tim Clark

But a day later, after a wave of support, the club informed the league at an emergency board meeting on Monday night they intend to continue for now.

Chairman Tim Clark explained an unnamed supporter has pledged to give City cash to help them see out the 2021/22 season, with Quinn Estates struggling to fund the club largely alone anymore, while Mr Clark believes the majority of the players have said they would be prepared to play for free.

A fundraising page has also been set up and has raised more than £250.

Mr Clark said: “Somebody has stepped forward with a generous donation so we think we can keep going for this season.

“We are hopeful, with the level of support we’ve got, we should be able to stay in SCEFL for this season and we will work hard as to how we will work going forwards.”

When asked whether the identity of the benefactor could be revealed, Mr Clark replied: “Not at the moment, no. They have asked for that to be kept quiet at the moment.

“All I can say is that it’s an individual and it’s an extremely generous donation. They are a supporter of the club.

“They don’t want to see Canterbury City fall out of the SCEFL.

“That is one generous donation but we are definitely not out of the woods yet. We will carry on speaking to anyone who will be able to assist the club.”

Canterbury City currently groundshare with Faversham at Salters Lane. Picture: Alan Langley (25373372)
Canterbury City currently groundshare with Faversham at Salters Lane. Picture: Alan Langley (25373372)

The club have not had a ground in Canterbury since their home at Kingsmead was sold to a housing developer in 1999.

In 2015, Canterbury City Council gave the club £525,000 from the proceeds of the multi-million pound sale, and a part loan, part grant of £606,000.

There have been various proposals for new grounds in the years since, but planning permission has yet to be secured for any site.

Mr Clark said: "I think, realistically now, we will look at any site that can be found."

Mr Clark says funding towards any new ground would be provided in part by money ring-fenced when the club’s old site was sold for development in 2001 under a so-called Section 106 agreement with the developer.

City would also be eligible to apply for National Lottery funding, in excess of £100,000 from the Football Foundation Stadium Improvement fund, while Quinn Estates have pledged to support the work, according to Mr Clark.

He says the club's latest struggles should act as a "wake-up call" for the council.

“I think the council and councillors need to understand, having not been in Canterbury for more than 20 years, there are a lot of businesses that are happy to support the club," he said.

"But the dialogue to me has been, when we have got planning permission, they (the businesses) will discuss how they can support the club in Canterbury.

“They (Canterbury City Council) have, at least, a moral obligation to show support to football in the city.”

Canterbury manager Chris Woollcott is due to take his side to Tunbridge Wells in the FA Vase this weekend. Picture: Alan Langley (49728312)
Canterbury manager Chris Woollcott is due to take his side to Tunbridge Wells in the FA Vase this weekend. Picture: Alan Langley (49728312)

A Canterbury City Council spokesman said: "We were saddened to hear about the financial challenges Canterbury City is facing via social media.

"We understand how that feels as money is extremely tight for councils such as ours too.

"As reported extensively in the local media over the years, we have been on hand to offer support to Canterbury City in all sorts of different ways.

"We hope they can find a way to get back on their feet as quickly as possible."

City groundshare at Faversham's Salters Lane, and hope to continue to do so until next summer at least.

Mr Clark also says he has been in contact with manager Chris Woollcott and has been told many of the players have suggested they would play for the club for free.

City are scheduled to visit league rivals Tunbridge Wells in the FA Vase this Saturday.

Mr Clark said: “We are still in discussions with Woollcott, the manager, but the indication is a lot of the squad would be prepared to play without a playing budget.

“These discussions are ongoing at the moment and perhaps these things are dependent on crowd-funding and things like that.

“But what I can say is we will be putting out a team for the Vase game on Saturday and will be continuing to put a team out in the league.”

To support City's fundraising campaign, click here.

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