One more, apparently two
Posted by John Beech on June 24, 2009
[See my earlier posting Just how many more? (1]
Yesterday Newcastle Blue Star announced that they were withdrawing from competitive football (2). This might seem strange as the cub has just won the UniBond Division One North play-offs and was therefore about to join the Premier Division.
Off the pitch there has been no parallel fairy tale – ‘farce’ would be a better word to describe recent events, or, from the club’s perspective, ‘tragedy’.
In early May it was announced that the club’s Chairman and benefactor was withdrawing his financial support (3). Two days later it was revealed that the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) was demanding the repayment of £65,000. How this came about is a classic of the strange world of non-League football.
The club’s version of events has been put by Secretary Jim Anderson, who has been involved with the club for 21 years:
“During the last 10 years, we obtained substantial sums from the FSIF to improve the Wheatsheaf ground.
“In April 2006, we were approached by the Football Association and asked to join the newly-formed UniBond League Division One North.
“We said at the time that we would have to relocate to Kingston Park since we knew that, despite the improvements which had been carried out, the Wheatsheaf ground would not meet the criteria.
“The FA and UBL were desperate for a North East side to move up the pyramid.
“And there was even a promise of support towards travelling costs when it became known that Blue Star would be the only North East club making the move.
“In the last three years, we have continually explained why we should not repay the £65,000 which had been spent on the Wheatsheaf ground.
“It’s not as if the money is lying in the bank.
“The only way the club can continue is for the FA to sanction a ‘transfer of membership’ to Kingston Park but it is refusing to do so while there is an outstanding claim.” (4)
The club has not abandoned the Wheatsheaf, but their presence is restricted to the “Sunday team and over-40 side in addition to 150 kids who regularly are at the ground”.
At Kingston Park, capacity 10,200, gates have averaged 153 (5).
The terms under which the FSIF make grants state that “We base grants on the league you were in at the time you sent your application, regardless of whether you are relegated or promoted after that, unless your promotion or relegation has been confirmed by the league at the time you sent your application to us“. (6)
All in all, it had become an unholy mess. A pragmatic solution was called for, but the FA and the FSIF stuck to their guns, effectively pulling the plug on the club (7).
Meanwhile down in the Midlands, news of Racing Club Warwick remains scant. Their website has been suspended (8) and UKDATA reports the following events with respect to the club:
19/06/2009: Dissolution or striking-off document filed – Application for striking-off.
23/06/2009: 652A – Application for striking off.
23/06/2009: Dissolution or striking-off document filed.
It is a club particularly committed to community involvement, but it has struggled to find a backer and faced debts reported to be £68,000 owed to HMRC and other creditors (9). So far even the local news media have not picked up these latest events.