Non-league club Sholing FC will be ‘forever in debt to Budweiser and the FA’ after being selected to receive a ‘super grant’ of £100k.
The Wessex Premier League side, who narrowly missed out on promotion this year by finishing the season in third, are set for a bright future after a difficult recent history in which they were demoted in 2015.
Now, however, they plan to use their newly found riches to make much needed improvements to the clubhouse, changing rooms and associated works in a move they hope will benefit the club and community of years to come.
The Budweiser Club Futures scheme awards grants of £50k to eight clubs a season between Steps Five and Seven of the non-league football pyramid.
The eight chosen clubs are then shortlisted for the chance to win an additional ‘super grant’ of £100k, with fans voting for the most deserving club through the FA and Budweiser Facebook pages.
And south coast club Sholing, who won the prestigious FA Vase in 2014, have now learned that they are the winners of a sum of money that will make a huge difference both to the club and community.
“It’s got to be right up there with the Vase win,” Boatmen manager Dave Diaper exclusively told The Independent.
“It’s unbelievable to be selected. It’s been very difficult over the last 18 years, trying to get funds together. It’s such a huge amount for us to take on board.
“Many thanks to Budweiser and to the FA, we will forever be in their debt. I can’t put into words really how it will affect the future of Sholing Football Club.”
Sholing celebrating their success
Diaper is one of non-league football’s longest-serving bosses, having been in charge for 18 years. During that time he has seen many highs and lows, but he praised his players for their response to being demoted from the Southern League Division One South & West for a combination of financial difficulties and a failure to meet new stadium requirements.
“The low point was being demoted from the Southern League,” the Boatmen boss added.
“We had made the play-offs three times. It was really disappointing to have to go down for reasons other than footballing reasons.
“It’s frustrating when you’re running the club to have those restrictions. You can get classed as a club without ambition, which is very wrong.
“But the players stuck together and now we’ve reaped the benefits.”
A community club through and through, Sholing have a long and fragmented history stretching back to 1884. During this period, they have reformed on several occasions and played under numerous names.
Notably, they reached the first round proper of the FA Cup in the 1920/21 season, where they lost to Burnley in a replay.
Their most recent name change came in 2010, when they adopted the name of their home district after holding company VTFC – whose name they had previously been using – went out of existence.
And, in keeping with their role a close-knit community, Diaper highlighted how youth is very much at the core of the Sholing ethos.
The hospitality suite at The Universal Stadium
“We’ve got 20 youth teams. We have development from the under 7s all the way through to the under 18s. We’re big-time into youth.
“Even in the first team we’ve got important players under the age of 19, the youngest being 17.”
After this season’s third-placed finish as well as victory in two cup competitions, club captain Byron Mason is full of confidence that Sholing are not far off a return to the Southern League.
Sholing’s Mason brothers
“The club means everything to me, I have seen it grow. Because of money and other things, we had to drop down a league.
“As a player, no one likes to do that but at the end of the day the club is bigger than anyone in it.
“With this grant we’re getting, I’m glad to still be part of the club hopefully pushing back up the leagues.
“As one of the older players, it’s great to see some of the youngsters coming through now.
“The team has done well, we’ve come third in the league, won two cups and brought lots of youngsters through.
“I don’t think we need much. Our young players are still young but now they have a year of experience.
“We’ve got a lot of camaraderie. If we keep the same team we’ll be flying in the league.”