By Matt Badcock
It says a lot about football in this country when a club can pay £75m for a defender at the top, while those at the bottom search down the back of the sofa for the pennies.
But something good is coming out of Virgil van Dijk’s mega transfer to Liverpool after Bromsgrove Sporting boss Paul Smith launched an appeal.
Reading about how a defibrillator was used to save the life of Alvechurch fan Rick Edwards just days before Christmas, he decided something had to be done to help clubs without the “magic machines”.
He set up a JustGiving page and the donations came flooding in, including £250 from AFC?Bournemouth defender – and former Chippenham Town player – Tyrone Mings.
“It was strange how it came about,” Smith said. “I was sat reading about Rick in my local newspaper and how a defibrillator got him going again three times.
“As I was doing that, my phone beeped to tell me Virgil van Dijk had signed for Liverpool for £75m.
“I was flabbergasted. There’s that many Non-League clubs out there that haven’t got these machines, yet at the top of our game clubs are signing defenders for 75 million quid.
“I put a tweet out about it and it got loads of likes. If everyone who liked the tweet put in £10 we could buy a defib so I set up a page.
“We’re over £2,000 which is phenomenal. As much as I set it up, it’s the people who have donated who are the real champions of this. Without them it would be nothing.”
Amazing really, a defibrillator saved Ricks life. Not all non league clubs can afford one, the same week a defender gets sold for 75 million pound in the premier league. Let that sink in. https://t.co/94eAlYAfHK
— Paul smith (@pdscontractflo2) December 28, 2017
Smith is trying to find a company who will allow him to buy the machines at a discount, much like the FA’s partnership with the British Heart Foundation that allows National League System clubs to purchase one for £318 plus VAT.
There’s no doubt of their importance. Last Friday Haverhill Rovers and Haverhill Borough played their rearranged Thurlow Nunn Eastern League game after the original fixture was called off when someone in the crowd had a cardiac arrest before kick-off.
He too was saved. With so many people coming into contact with clubs every week, they should be a mandatory piece of equipment and there are calls for central funding.
Smith is urging clubs who want one from the money raised to get in touch. But he says the awareness is just as crucial.
“This is a drop in the ocean,” he said. “If we can get four or five machines it’s going to help those clubs but there’s 100s out there up and down the country without them.”
You can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-smith-655 or get in touch with Paul on email@example.com
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper, which is available every Sunday