Benefactors and Ilkeston Town
Posted by John Beech on July 10, 2009
Roughly twenty years ago Ilkeston faced a classic problem for lower league clubs. The owner of the Manor Ground where they played, Erewash Borough Council, had decided to sell the land to a Scottish supermarket chain (1).
Into the frame stepped a classic saviour – Paul Millership. Millership was a local man with a strong feeling for the town and its community. He financed a move to a new larger site and a fine new stadium, and Ilkeston lived on at the New Manor Ground (2).
Success on the pitch was varied. They yoyoed around in the various divisions of the Southern League after a brief spell in the West Midlands League.
Paul Millership’s death in November 2007, at the comparatively early age of 59, introduced considerable uncertainty for the club, but in May 2008 another ‘local lad made good’, Chek Whyte, moved in as owner of the club. Whyte rang the changes quickly, and manger Nigel Jemson rapidly leaving the club (3). This last season has seen joint managers Rob Scott and Paul Hurst bring success in the Northern Premier League play-offs, and Ilkeston are due to debut in the Conference North next month.
As can often be the case, a successful run led to departures, and Scott and Hurst have moved on (4).
As if that were not enough uncertainty as they enter a new tier in the pyramid, Ilkeston will now have to face that the situation that their benefactor is himself in financial trouble. Whyte, who has appeared on the television series Secret Millionaire, is today reported as facing bankruptcy with debts of £30m (5). The direct impact on the club is not yet clear.
Benefaction can undoubtedly mean ‘doing good’, and there are clear examples of this at Ilkeston from both Millership and Whyte, but it carries a clear risk too – financial dependency on a single source of unearned revenues, which may not prove limitless over time.