When it comes to struggles in non-league, not many clubs have had a tougher last few years than Harlow.

In December 2022, Harlow Town chairman Tim Sewell was forced to make an announcement nobody at a football club ever wants to make.

He was left with no option but to pull his side out of the Pitching In the Southern League, having been in Step 4, as well as pulling their reserve team from the Essex Senior Football Reserve League and the women’s team from the Eastern Regional Women’s Football League.

The cause? A badly laid 3G pitch.

The surface, which had holes across sections of the pitch which made it unsafe to play on, left the club with no choice but to sit the rest of the campaign out, and they were relegated down two divisions into Step 6 upon their return.

To make matters more frustrating, the impact of withdrawing from the Southern League is still being felt at the club, as they announced that they would not be allowed to be promoted next season as part of their penalty for withdrawing from the division.

They also weren’t able to play in the FA Cup this term. 

The company who were in charge of laying the 3G pitch, Domo, remain in a legal battle with Harlow Town today, and therefore the club were unable to comment on any matters relating to it.

Reason for optimism

Even with all of that against them, it hasn’t been all bad.

In a statement published in December, a year after the decision had been taken to remove themselves from competitive football, Harlow claimed their attendances had tripled compared to the same stage of the season before.

The consequences of the pitch forcing them out of Step 4 also brought a lot of attention to the club, gaining thousands of followers and even national press attention from the likes of the BBC.

Given that they were already averaging roughly 181 fans per game before their season ended, having a significantly improved fanbase on top of that means they do bring in more money and generate more attention than they did before.

An average of 371 fans turned up to watch Harlow at home this season, in a really positive development for the club and a huge sign of support from the local area.

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The fact that their attendance of 322 for their 3-2 win over Tower Hamlets on Saturday 4th November was the biggest attendance of any Step 6 side in the country that weekend, lower than their average, proves they are now an exceptionally popular club. 

Playing on a 3G pitch surface that was approved by the FA again in July 2023, the Hawks entered the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South, a division which they have now finished 3rd in with 91 points, which should have been a playoff place. 

Whilst the perks of a potential promotion won’t be available to Harlow, they still know that they have a very competitive side and a great fanbase, who, most importantly, have a club to support once again.

It has undoubtedly been an incredibly tough few years for the Hawks, but with a superb side playing in front of bumper crowds, they seem set to be back where they belong in no time.