It’s time to drag Eastbourne United into modern era, says new chairman Wood

Billy Wood
Billy Wood

New Eastbourne United chairman Billy Wood says he has a five-year plan to drag the club into the modern era.

Wood, 32, is a music executive and has helped to break and represent acts like N-Dubz, Tinie Tempah, Chipmunk Wiley and Pia Mia.

“I have always aspired to venture into other things, particularly football,” Wood explains.

“I have been watching Eastbourne United from the side lines recently and I only got involved because I genuinely think I can make a difference. I will say very openly that my affinity for Eastbourne United hasn’t happened over years of supporting them.

“I wanted to make a difference to a project that I believed could be pushed further. Those guys do an incredible job as committee members and volunteers that stems from their passion. I come from a little bit of a different place in the way that, whilst I’m super passionate and I want the best for the team I’m associated with, I’m looking at what we can achieve long-term rather than what we’ve got to do this week for the club.

“We have got to have goals in place in order to progress and stop it from stagnating like it has done recently.”

Wood, who is based in Hastings, also confirmed that the way United has been run as a football club up until now was another factor in his decision to take on the role.

“I am in a position to put my hand in my pocket because I am fortunate enough to have had a financially strong career, but I don’t think that is a sustainable way to run the club. Eastbourne United is run very well financially.

“It is not a club that is in thousands of pounds worth of debt or in danger of going out of business. But it is a club that needs to be reinvigorated. So, the financial strength is there, but we’re not suddenly going to triple the weekly budget. That isn’t the way we’re going to operate, and I don’t want to operate this club looking for instant success, we’re looking for sustainable growth.”

With United’s troubles on the pitch last season and particularly this campaign, it arguably seems a strange time to commit to the club, but Wood seems certain the club are capable of avoiding relegation this season despite still being winless in the league in 13 attempts.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been going through a torrid time this season, to start the season without a manager and for Ryan to valiantly step in and pulling a team together just to be able to get us out there. However, if you look at the squad now, at our level of football, that team now should be able to compete.

“I have 100 per cent faith in Ryan and Aaron that they have now built a squad that represents them. I look at the team now and there is a bunch of winners in there. It’s not perfect, but I believe that we now have enough to get out of this relegation mess and then use that platform to build for next season.

“I am going to be very open about the fact that I have a five-year plan for the club. We want to make improvements both on and off the pitch. We’re in 2018 not 1948 so we have to modernise this club. I look at Eastbourne Borough and I don’t see why we can’t be like them. Why can’t Eastbourne United push up the leagues and challenge?

“It is obvious why, redevelopment of the ground is needed which will take finances to make the matchday experience better for spectators. We want to galvanise the local community into getting behind us again because this club was once the biggest in the Town. I want people to understand that we want that again, to be the biggest club in the town.

“I hope to be able to give the management team the resources they need sustainably to get us within five years to be a top Isthmian South East League team. I want us to be there, looking to get promoted into the Premier.

“That might not seem too ambitious, but I think it’s sustainable and it’s possible. “In my career outside of football, I have had multiple ideas and visions for things I wanted to happen, and I have gone and made it happen and I truly believe I can do the same for Eastbourne United.

“That starts with making people want to come to the club. It’s no secret that the gates aren’t great and we’re not getting the hundreds that we would need in order to increase the finances.

“I want people to want to come and be at this football club and see this football club grow. I don’t believe there’s a limit, we have got a good demographic reach here in Eastbourne. The Eastbourne locals are going to the place that has got the atmosphere and we’re looking to build that atmosphere at Eastbourne United.

“That starts with getting wins, and people then want to see what is going on. I hope that my appointment as chairman has caused some interest because I am very ambitious. I want people in five years’ time to say that they took a chance and went back to Eastbourne United and Billy and that committee have delivered exactly what they said.

“People keep saying to me that I don’t know what I have gotten myself into, but I really think I do, and I’m not scared to shake things up to make things happen.”