By Ryan Newman
Eastbourne United Chairman Billy Wood has this week announced his plans to completely rebrand the club, centralising around a new kit and club crest, in order to celebrate the clubs 125th year anniversary.
The new kit will pay homage to the clubs earliest days by reverting to the original red and blue stripes and Wood is determined for it to be the focal point of a new era for the club.
“I think with the whole rebrand it’s a case of freshening the club up by tapping back into that history but modernising it and giving the club a new identity,” he said.
“The new colour scheme formed the original kit for the Royal Engineers, so we’ve gone back to that to get away from the convoluted current design. The hope is that the new badge and kit will help to rebrand the club all the way from the youth up to the seniors and help to see in a new era for the club. On top of that, for £10 any United fan or anyone with any affinity to the club can get their name printed on the kit forever and become a part of our history.”
Wood believes he can help his club attract many more fans over the coming years and says this starts with offering something different.
“We have to evolve as a football club,” he said.
There’s five clubs in this town; Ourselves, Eastbourne Town, Langney Wanderers, Eastbourne Borough and our tenants Little Common. We’ve got to be different to everyone else. We’re not going crazy but what better time than our 125-year anniversary to show everyone United is here to stay and we’re going to be stronger than ever going into next year.
“When I took over as Chairman everyone said I was crazy because we had one point, and everyone thought we were down. We’ve done what we needed to do on the pitch to get a competitive squad to have a chance of survival and we’ve picked up 17 points since I did my first interview as chairman. If we win at the weekend and other results, go our way we’re out of the relegation zone which was unimaginable a few weeks ago.
“I feel that now is the time for football fans of the Town of Eastbourne to come and give Eastbourne United a chance. To come and embrace our new culture, we want to be that family club and for everyone from the kids to the grandads to feel welcome. If we can do that, I feel that we can be a hub for the town and something that the town can be proud of.”
Wood was also keen to stress that his plan for the club is not dependant on their relegation survival this season.
“If things don’t go our way and we do go down, nothing changes,” he explained.
“All that happens is another year gets added on to the five-year plan. I’m not considering going down and neither is our manager, we never discuss it, but, if we go down, we take that on the chin, we regroup as a club and we push forward. I believe that we have players at the club currently that aren’t there just to pick up a few quid. They are there because they want to play for Eastbourne United. They can feel how committed we are to succeeding.
“Arron has shown that our managerial decision was justified. He’s a very confident, astute and professional manager and we have a great relationship. At the age of 27 he’s taken on a huge responsibility to keep this club up and if he does it, he’ll be a hero and I can’t fault him.
“Providing all goes to plan, when the summer arrives, we’ll look to see what improvements we need and try to keep the bulk of the squad. We don’t want to be scratching around looking for new players and building a new team. When I look into the eyes of a lot of our players, I know they want to stay at this club. The minimum aim for next season if we stay up would be a top half finish and why don’t we push for promotion? We don’t fear any team anymore.”
Wood also confirmed that his intention is not to move away from The Oval but to redevelop the ground in time.
“We also have big plans for the Oval,” he explained.
“I am currently in discussions with three major companies at the moment. The long-term plan is the redevelopment of the oval. We want to stay there for sure. I had a very interesting conversation with someone from the Sussex FA, but we need the support of the fans and of the council but also of the Sussex FA so actually I would like to make it clear that we understand what we need and that if any funding goes into local football development or sport in Eastbourne then we deserve it. We are 125 years old and we want to be around for the next 125 years.”