Zoe Sandle in familiar surroundings.

As the excitement builds for the Linnets’ National League debut, GAVIN CANEY looks at some of the key figures who are helping Lynn get ready behind the scenes. This week’s spotlight shines on box office manager Zoe Sandle.

As the line of people waiting to buy a ticket snakes past ‘the tree’, Zoe Sandle’s face drops.

She knows the pressure is on to get fans into The Walks before kick-off and there’s only so much the box office team can do in order to prevent supporters missing the start of the action. 

Yet it’s a problem that’s likely to raise its head again this season – coronavirus guidelines dependent – as King’s Lynn Town prepare for their exciting National League adventure. 

Bigger clubs and wider exposure should create larger gates but the Linnets’ box office manager is hoping the combination does not cause major problems when it comes to people trying to avoid The Walks queue.

“Tickets being sold online has made it a lot easier,” admits Sandle, who started volunteering for the club as a box office assistant in 2010/11.

“It’s a good system and I’m hoping a lot more will buy online this season because it is hard getting everyone in. 

“I do get it; people are angry queuing up, but sometimes I feel like we’re open at 12.30pm and you could come and get your ticket then. 

“I understand you don’t want to come in the ground at that time but you can still come and get your ticket early, head off to the pub or wherever, and then come back and you’ve got your ticket already.

“What worries me this season is we’re going to be busy, busy, busy. It’s going to be no different in that box office. We can’t go any quicker and we’ve got the added extra of seats this season, which are numbered, which could slow us down. 

“But there is opportunity to buy online right up until noon (on a Saturday). A lot of people are lovely, they understand, but you do get the odd few who come to get a ticket and say they’ve missed a goal. 

“When the queue starts getting past ‘the tree’ as we call it that’s when we think ‘help’. We understand some people are not computer literate so have to buy from us but then you’ll see younger ones in the queue who you know can do it online. I wouldn’t want to queue. I’d want to see the players come out on the pitch.”

Only time will tell how the coronavirus pandemic will affect Lynn’s start to life at the top tier of the non-League pyramid. 

One train of thought is that attendances will be capped at around 25-35 per cent of a stadium’s capacity. However, with any restrictions yet to be confirmed and a Saturday October 3 start date being mooted, it’s likely to be a little while before we see how Sandle and her ticketing team – usually consisting of three or four people – will have to fare following the club’s promotion.

“The bigger games do give you a buzz. I love it. York was massive,” she said.

“To finish selling, to stand by that door and hear the noise. I can’t wait to get started but I’ve got to be prepared. It doesn’t faze me, as long as I’m prepared and we’re organised, I don’t mind. 

“When kick-off happens you want everybody in. We get so happy when we serve the last person and then we hear the whistle go and we’re like: We’ve done it!”

Fact file

Name: Zoe Sandle

Age: 46

Club: King’s Lynn Town

Role: Box office manager

• Zoe first got involved with the club when it re-formed in 2010/11.

• She arrived as box office assistant and had spent the best part of 20 years honing her skills at the Adrian Flux Arena.

• When Stephen Cleeve took over the club in 2016, Sandle was soon made box office manager.

• Zoe is also treasurer of the Friends of the Linnets, the club’s official supporters’ group. 

Sandle is just so happy to be back

It’s not just the management, players and fans who have missed being at The Walks.

For a while, staff and volunteers were shut out, thanks to coronavirus restrictions and box office manager Zoe Sandle admits she is so happy to be back.

“I think Lynn grows on you. The more time you’re here, you sort of are a big family,” said the owner of a Tilney St Lawrence pre-school. 

“I come in, there’s Norman (Cesar), there’s Mark (Hearle). During lockdown I was devastated that I couldn’t come in. It eased a bit and I started to come in a little bit. It’s my break from my house. We’ve got so much done it’s brilliant.” 

Head of ticketing Sandle spends 10-15 hours a week volunteering for Lynn and, among other tasks, also runs the online club shop, cashes up, sorts floats and is the Friends of the Linnets treasurer.

Merger is a sign of the times

It’s not easy running a grassroots team these days.

Lots has been made about declining participation figures across a wide range of sports, the amalgamation of leagues and sadly the disbandment of others.

So now, more than ever, is the time to think outside of the box and find strength and support for a club in whatever way possible.

That’s exactly what two of the area’s finest cricketing institutions, Downham and Stow, have done by merging – with the blessing of the county’s key authorities.

This will only help enable the cream of both clubs to work together to maintain Downham Stow CC’s Norfolk Alliance Premier Division status as well as aid the newly-formed outfit’s dreams of pushing for promotion into the East Anglian Premier League.

More players will be available, rather than stretched across two clubs, which should in theory make it easier to maintain a number of XI’s who will be playing at two venues, thus offering differing standards and locations for players.

A joined-up youth set-up will only enhance a conveyor belt of talent to produce the next generation of players to take this exciting venture forward.

It isn’t the first merger and it won’t be the last as clubs continue to try to find a way to overcome the clear difficulties many are facing. 

Let’s hope this is the start of a great new era for all involved.