2020: A year in review

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There’s no need to dress it up with fancy words or a clever sub-title. 2020 has been, on the whole, pretty rubbish.

It has been a year where we have all faced hardships and many have lost loved ones to this awful virus. But in times of crisis our human nature usually offers two options; fight or flight – and we certainly haven’t shied away from the challenges in 2020.

The Bromley community came together when we needed each other the most this year. Our football club is the nucleus that allows our community to come together, physically and now more so, virtually.

You, the supporters, didn’t disappoint in the Club’s own time of need. Unified, we have achieved so much in 2020 and it’s important to highlight that work as we look to close the door on the year, and open a new one.

The following an attempt has been made to run through all of the good things to come out of this year. In truth, and perhaps surprisingly, there has been a lot to get through!


Pre-lockdown

The early months. Social distancing? Isolation? Quarantine? The first few months of 2020 saw our lives and football still in its uninterrupted form. 2,000+ crowds were able to filter through the turnstiles at Hayes Lane, and those doing so over the festive period were treated to back-to-back 3-0 victories. Dagenham & Redbridge were put to the sword on the 28th December, before payback was served to Dover Athletic on New Year’s Day. Having lost 3-0 away at Crabble on Boxing Day, the Ravens reversed the score line on the first day of 2020 to give the 2,000 strong crowd a winning start to the new year.

The familiar sight of the car park end, rows completely full ready for the second half action.

The results that would follow, however, would foreshadow the tumultuous months to come. Bromley failed to pick up another win for the remainder of the cut-short 2019/20 season. The Ravens were looking to turn a corner, having battled for a 1-1 draw at eventual playoff winners Harrogate Town, live on BT Sport, with a return to Hayes Lane the following weekend. Chorley were the opposition, making their first ever visit to Bromley.

Plenty of head scratching during the second part of the 2019/20 season, with wins hard to come by.

At around 11am on Saturday 14th March, the pandemic would make its first direct strike on Bromley FC.  With a member of Chorley’s staff displaying the newly announced symptoms for Covid-19, they turned their coach around and the game was called off. The pandemic now felt very real for everyone connected to Bromley FC.


The podcast specials

With the postponement of the Chorley game, the Club were quick to act to provide some form of entertainment on what was a Saturday matchday. We sat down with Neil Smith and Mark Hammond to record a feature length (1 hour 40 mins to be precise!) podcast, which proved to be one of the most popular shows we have ever recorded. If you missed that podcast, or want to listen again, you can do so by clicking here.

The second feature length episode, with the addition of Alan Dunne to the billing, came shortly after the announcement that the League season would be suspended indefinitely. The second episode was yet another great show with some rather amusing (and long…) stories being shared. As we somehow went close to two hours – sorry about that!

The podcast proved to be a critical in keeping the us together when we faced time apart. Your response to the podcast proved testament to its importance in what were, and still are tough times. Stay tuned for new episodes of Ravens Weekly, which will be back very soon.


The last of the football

By mid-March, football was grinding to a halt. However, our U14s Girls team secured success before the full lockdown was introduced, taking part in the Kent County Cup final against Maidstone United. The young Ravens were 2-0 down at half-time, but they managed to turn the game around scoring twice late on in normal time. The game went into extra time and, with it looking likely to be decided on penalties, Gabby stepped up to score in the last minute to secure the Kent Cup for the U14s. This was one of the many success stories from our Youth set-up during the 2019/20 season.

The U14s after securing their dramatic Kent County Cup final win in March!

The 1st team continued to train in the week following the Chorley postponement and that allowed a visit from St Marks School to go ahead. Pupils from the local primary school sat in The Glyn Beverly Stand to watch the training session, and in the afternoon they were ecstatic to have an assembly led by none other than manager Neil Smith.

On the 16th March, it was announced by The National League that the season would be suspended until April. The Club launched its “Playing our part – How can we help?” initiative just days after the League’s announcement. This would see the Club donate its food supplies to the Bromley Foodbank and reach out to elderly and vulnerable supporters to see if we could help out in any way.

We also introduced our ‘Community support careline, with staff members calling our season ticket holders to see if there was anyway the Club could help them during the early stages of the pandemic. Club staff delivered a range of supplies to supporters in need, from bread and milk, to washing up liquid! It soon became clear that all anyone wanted was to watch some football.


Keeping the matchday-buzz alive

The Ravens were due to take on Ebbsfleet United the following Saturday, which would have been one of the standout fixtures of the season (for quite obvious reasons). To compensate for the lack of live football, we introduced the first of our ‘Matchday Replays’. This new feature would re-run a game from the past as if it was happening on the day, and the support it received was immense.

Because of its popularity the feature, we streamed full re-runs of memorable games from years gone by. We delved deep into our archives to bring out full recordings from fixtures going back as far as 2006. This was as close to live football that we could get, it was great to see your response and engagement matched levels of a normal match day. First off was our 2-1 win over Leyton Orient in 2019, then came wins over Sutton United and Ebbsfleet United before the Kent Senior Cup wins of 2006 and 2007.

However it would be the 2007 play-off winning campaign that would pull in the biggest audience, with both legs being streamed in full. The semi-final against Wimbledon is always pleasant viewing, and the drama of the final against Billericay Town will never grow old.


At the most trying times, we pulled together.

As the days, weeks and months drew on it became clear we were in this for the long haul. And that meant we faced some considerable time at home. But, as always, the resilience of the Bromley community continued. To pick a few, here are some highlights from the long months leading up to summer.

The Bromley Belles raised a fantastic £300 for the London Ambulance Service, and continued to serve their community in a number of ways. You can find out more about their fundraising in a dedicated article by clicking here.

A stand out event of the year was our online awards evening which showed the strength of community at the Club. Following the news in April that the remaining matches of the National League were to be cancelled, we moved quickly to make sure that our traditional end of season awards would be able to take place in some form. The event was a huge success and we are proud of how it all came out.

Our ambition was to create an online awards ceremony that would perfectly mirror what would have happened at Hayes Lane after the last game of the season. We quickly became experts on Zoom, and to our surprise everything went to plan on the night! All of the 1st team logged-in to say hello and to allow the much deserved winners to receive their awards virtually.

For the first time ever awards for the Academy were part of our ceremony. Academy Director Mark Hammond and Head of Education Tom Beaumont provided a fantastic review of the year.

And of course, we heard from Chairman Robin Stanton-Gleaves, who gave full insight into the operation of the Club during the pandemic. In keeping with tradition, we were so thrilled to welcome Jim Brown, in traditional fashion, to present the supporters player of the season award to Luke Coulson. The night was such a success that when over 1000 of you tuned in all at once you managed to crash our website – and that’s not for the first, or last time in 2020!

If anything epitomised the true spirit of Bromley Football Club, it was that night. The end of season awards is always a massive event for the Club, and the silver lining of it being online meant that more fans were able to attend the event than ever before, and from the comfort of their sofas!


Myles for the NHS

The Bromley FC community worked together on a number of projects with a standout being the ‘Myles for the NHS’ campaign. Credit for this initiative must go to Myles Anderson, formerly of Hartlepool United and now at Weymouth, who reached out to us to join his fundraising campaign. We were really excited to take part, and winger Luke Coulson was instrumental in rallying the 1st team to join in. We then reached out out to our supporters and you did not disappoint.

Collectively, ‘Team Bromley’ were able to raise well over £3,000 on the day for the NHS Charities. What was equally fantastic was how the Bromley community came together as one for the event. Social media was filled with teams taking part in their exercise, including 25 teams making up ‘Team Bromley’ in total took part led by the likes of Neil Smith, Jack Holland, Luke Coulson, with members from our Youth and Academy taking part as well. We also saw a huge effort from the Bromley Belles. To relive the day and refresh your memory on the campaign please click here.


A staggered return

We’ve probably already covered a fair few important moments already, but another important feat for the Club was the return of our Academy scholars to Hayes Lane.

Having been closed to the players, staff and the public since the end of March, Hayes Lane’s doors reopened on 15th June to allow Academy scholars to return to training. The scholars were still engaged in their teaching during the lockdown, taking part in their lessons virtually in most cases. However, the Academy’s return to Hayes Lane was a huge step in the right direction, and it was fantastic to see football being played safely on the Stadium pitch once more.

The Academy would go on to have a successful trial period on their training return, and they would also host the first match on the Stadium pitch since March, as they took on Crystal Palace in a friendly in the middle of August. The Academy would battle to a 1-1 draw. They would continue to have a successful pre-season, beating the likes of Millwall. This was just a taste of success that would follow for the U18s in the FA Youth Cup.

Also in August, came the return of our Holiday Soccer Camps. With children missing out on sport, and socialising with others, it was perhaps our most important Soccer Camp ever, and of course, strict safety measures had to be put into place. Our very own Ronin the Raven was on hand to show all of our attendees and parents/carers how things would work!

August would also see the long-awaited return of the 1st team to Hayes Lane, reporting for pre-season training a month later than in usual times. The Club had to move quickly following the League’s announcement at the end of July that the 2020/21 season would start in October. Though a little later than usual, pre-season conjured up its usual events with several players departing and plenty of new faces joining the Ravens. Kit release day is a trademark pre-season event, with this season’s unique styles proving very popular amongst the fan base – not to mention the first team players too!

One of the more bizarre events during pre-season was the friendly ‘away’ to Cray Wanderers. The Government guidance at the time allowed spectators into “non-elite” sporting events, which meant that 600 fans could enter Hayes Lane due to Cray Wanderers hosting the match. Those in attendance were treated to a goalfest, with a Bromley XI edging to a 4-3 win on the day.

In truth, that match proved to be quite a cruel blow for the Club as it would be three months before fans would be able to return for a first-team fixture at Hayes Lane. But it was a start – a new season was underway for Neil Smith’s men who had quickly adapted to the new normal of empty stadiums and rigorous safety protocols. Behind the scenes, the off-field staff were busy ensuring that everyone could still access the first team’s fixtures from the safety of their homes.


Live streaming was the next best thing

The Club’s live streaming debut was a pre-season friendly against Dartford. Initially the streaming service was produced in-house, and further successful tests ran for the friendlies with Chelmsford, Dulwich Hamlet and Crystal Palace. However just before the season’s opening weekend, Chairman Robin Stanton-Gleaves announced a new partnership with AdVision TV, a London based broadcast company who would team up with the Club to provide supporters with a professional live stream production.

Due to Macclesfield’s expulsion from the League, the Ravens had to wait until the following Tuesday before a ball was kicked in the 2020/21 season. It was well worth the wait. Neil Smith’s men put in a dominant performance against Dover Athletic on the night, winning 4-1 to produce the perfect viewing for our first Matchday Live broadcast. The streaming service has gone from strength to strength since that first show, largely due to your incredible support and feedback.

Thousands of Bromley FC fans, along with many other National League supporters, have tuned in since October. The streaming service has been one of the biggest successes for the Club this year. Much like the online awards evening back in April, the streaming service has actually meant that our home matches are now more accessible than ever. Supporters around the country and overseas are able to watch our matches live, whereas previously, the match action wouldn’t be available until days after the final whistle had gone. The stream is profoundly important, as unfortunately it still remains the only way for supporters to watch the first team in all their glory. That’s why we have poured our heart and soul into the production and we know for a fact that our efforts have not gone unrecognised.

We would of course trade all of the positive reviews in to have our stadium full once again. But, for the foreseeable future Hayes Lane’s turnstiles will remain shut. For a brief spell in December we were given a reminder of what real life football feels like, and we were so glad to have you back.


A reunion for a brief time

Why were the fixtures against Stockport County and Yeovil Town so eagerly anticipated? You were allowed back in, that’s why. The safe return of supporters has been an on-going struggle since the re-start of football for the 2020/21 season. Campaigns such as “Let Fans In” have dominated debate across social media platforms and have even been raised in parliament.

The new tiered system of restrictions brought an abrupt end to the return of spectators to Hayes Lane. However, just having you back for the two matches was fantastic. Unfortunately for us we came up against an inspired Stockport County side full of talent and also fell foul to a notorious bogey side of ours in Yeovil Town. Yet, there was one moment of magic from that Yeovil match as Michael Cheek did his thing in front of the Glyn Beverly Stand, recreating a scene we had been so used to in months gone by.


A brighter year ahead

It looks like the difficult times aren’t quite over yet. However, as always, Bromley Football Club will continue to provide the best coverage possible of first team matches. Not only that, we also have plenty of exciting plans coming your way as well as so much more to look forward to in 2021…

Our Academy look to continue their success in the FA Youth Cup as they take on Swindon Town in the 3 Round of the competition, following a historic victory at Fratton Park.

We have plenty of community projects to come in the new year! Thanks to your engagement with our community work we now have dedicated website which you can access by clicking here. This is the home for all of our Soccer School bookings, latest Community news and activities, as well as the home of plenty of exciting projects coming in 2021 and beyond.

The Bromley Ladies squad are looking to continue their impressive form, with the potential of back-to-back promotions on the cards. We took an in-depth look with Coach David Pointing into the team’s 2019/20 season and their start to the current campaign. Click here to read the full story.

In the meantime, January looks to be an extremely busy month for the Club, meaning plenty of Matchday Live broadcasts heading your way. As always, our website and social media channels are the best way to stay informed on all things Bromley FC.

Once again on behalf of everyone at Bromley Football Club we would like to thank you for your incredible support in 2020 and we wish you all the best for the new year. We look forward to welcoming you back to Hayes Lane as soon as we can.

And don’t worry, Gareth the Cat is doing just fine!

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