Ottery St Mary AFC is celebrating the 50th anniversary of winning the Devon & Exeter League Premier Division and it is no exaggeration to say the past couple of years have been among the toughest in a proud half century for the club.

In 2022, the Otters faced a perilous financial situation that led to an exodus of players, mainly from the men’s first-team, and it has been a rebuild ever since, on and off the pitch.

The previous chair Charlotte Guyan provided some much-needed energy to bring some form of stability before Mark Isaacs took up the role of chairman in January 2023 and his immediate focus has been to secure a stable financial footing for the club.

“Our first thanks are to Ottery Town Council, who have supplied us with two grants and generally been very supportive,” said Isaacs.

“There was a lot of debt at the club and a lot of the things that needed improving off the field. Our objective was to stabilise the club and the first step was to run Ottery St Mary AFC like a business.

“We looked to create ways of managing cash flow, cutting down on costs and bringing in more revenue through sponsorship. We have looked at the club as a business, which has led us to the pathway of being around 80% debt free.

“The club was in a difficult place two years ago and my son started playing for one of the junior teams, which eventually led to me taking up the position as chairman.

“At Ottery, we are very proud to have two men’s teams, a women’s team and a thriving youth section of young boys and girls. We are also liaising with Devon FA on a platform for our additional needs group called comets, which is an FA initiative for children with disabilities to play football. 

“Our on-field ambition is maintain the current sides and to play at the highest level possible. The men’s first team are at a step where they don’t get paid but we do have aspirations to return to the Peninsula League.

“The women’s team has a superb pathway of young girls coming through to senior football, which is the structure we want all the way across the club. Young footballers at Ottery should be given the platform to thrive in the sport.

“We are blessed with excellent facilities at the club and Ottery is a club held with great pride in the local area. People want to play here and that’s all we want.

“I would like to thank all staff, volunteers, coaches, fans and sponsors for their support, plus the addition of darts comps at the club, which has given us a great lift.” 

In a beautiful metaphor for the resurgence at Washbrook Meadows, the Ottery men’s first-team found themselves 3-0 down to Budleigh Salterton on the weekend and fought back brilliantly to triumph 4-3.

Sidmouth Herald: Ottery St Mary AFC