Self-destruction at Ashford Town (Kent)?
Posted by John Beech on July 21, 2010
The announcement yesterday (1) by Chairman Don Crosbie that the club was to be placed into Administration might be interpreted as a case of too much dogma and too little karma. Already reported to be facing a winding-up petition from HMRC (2) and banned from football activity by the FA (3), he had earlier in the day withdrawn the club from the Isthmian League (4). The club is seeking to join the Kent League (5), but faces a race against time, and may disappear through lack of a league to play in.
This is all a far cry from the heady days when Don Crosbie and Tony Betteridge took over the club in April 2007 and, as the club website put it “instantly set about transforming things” (6).
The first obvious sign of trouble at the club was in March 2009 when Crosbie revealed that plans for a new ‘sporting village’ (that’s a new super-stadium in old money) were in tatters as the club faced a massive bill from HMRC and that he and Betteridge had fallen out massively (7 and 8). Crosbie said “I have personally been responsible for a number of bills; both leading up to and during this current season. I paid for the ground repairs and pitch improvements. I have also been responsible for the wages and bills for the club since early October.” Why ‘financial doping’ should be seen not only as acceptable but actually admirable at this level in football escapes me. It is the scourge of the game at higher levels and UEFA at least is trying to eradicate it.
Betteridge responded that Crosbie’s statement was “full of inaccuracies“, which, if nothing else, implicitly confirmed a massive falling out.
Confusingly, in early April Crosbie claimed that the sporting village plan was back on track, and that he had agreed a deal with Betteridge to buy the latter out (9).
The following month the club was charged by the FA in connection with a failure top pay players’ wages (10).
The transfer of Betteridge’s shares to Crosbie did not take place, and in last month Betteridge began winding-up proceedings against the club (11). Betteridge, it should be noted, holds the freehold to the club’s ironically named Homelands ground (12).
Throw in a major bust up, the subject of possible legal proceedings, with Maidstone United, who are in exile at the Homelands, but have been told by Crosby that the ground-sharing agreement has been revoked (13).
All in all, not a textbook example of good business practice. It seems to be a case of, if one benefactor is bad news for your club, then two who fall out are considerably more than twice as bad. Food for thought there for fans at other clubs with two benefactors – no names, no pack-drill.
The hearing for the club’s application to go into Administration is set for Thursday (A), and it looks set to be a Crosbie v. Betteridge blockbuster. The debt to HMRC is reported as £150,000, so no doubt they will be following the hearing with interest.