Things looked slightly better than in the previous season in simple terms of the number of insolvency events I have logged – ten events involving nine clubs, compared to twelve events each at a different club in the previous season – although there were still some large clubs involved. In 2009/10 we had seen Crystal Palace, Portsmouth, and Chester City crash financially; in 2010/11 it was the turn of Plymouth Argyle and Rushden & Diamonds, the latter disappearing and the fate of the former hanging on a knife-edge as I write (there is clearly no cause for celebration when a) no money has actually been paid, b) the Football League has yet to agree the Golden Share being passed on, and c) the prospective owner of the club is facing three charges of fraud at another football club in four weeks time (1 and postings passim)).
In alphabetical order the clubs in 2010/11 which suffered what I include in my definition of insolvency event were:
Atherstone Town (Tier 8 )
The club had become dependent on the bank-rolling of Chairman Aidey Burr (2), who stood down in November 2009. By December 2010 the club was forced to announce their intention to withdraw from the Southern League Division One Central (3). They now play in the Midland Football Alliance.
Dawlish Town (Tier 9)
In March 2011 Chairman Dave Fenner stood down (4) because of work commitments. In July the club withdrew from the Western League (5) with debts of £60,000 owed to landlord Teignbridge District Council and brewery Carlsberg Tetley. The club faces a winding-up petition brought by the latter (6).
Eastwood Town (Tier 6)
An unusual case. The club has been on the rise since Rob Yung began a frenzy of financial doping, boasting “I personally pay the players’ wages and any other money that comes in from the fans through gate money and the like goes straight into the club” (7). No notion of Financial Fair Play there then. The club’s rise has been impeded by stadium restrictions, and Yung put the club up for sale for £1 (hence its inclusion in the list) (8). The good news is the club is debt free (but whether it is sustainable at its current level without Yung to feed its financial habit remains to be seen) and new owners are in place (9).
Gedling Town (x2) (Tier 10)
Another case of benefactor withdrawal, but with more serious consequences. Chairman Roly Ash had bankrolled the club for many years (10 and 11), but at the beginning of the season gave up, withdrawing the club from the East Midlands Counties Football League. In November new club officials were announced (12) but in June the club again withdrew from the League (13). A bizarre consequence is that each of the club’s players now has to pay the League £22 to cover the fine imposed on the defunct club! It would seem that there is a Football Debtors Rule too.
Hucknall Town (Tier 7)
Another oddity. The club has had a recent history of financial struggling, and matters suddenly came to a head in May when it was hit with a £75,000 VAT bill by HMRC. For a number of years, it emerged, the club had decided not to pay VAT on revenue items such as gate receipts (14). With a hefty helping hand, a significant part was paid off and an agreement reached over the balance (15). In the meantime the ownership structure has had to be drastically altered and the club has been forced back to amateur status (16).
Leyton (Tier 7)
After a period of troubled ownership (17), the club (not to be confused with better known neighbours Leyton Orient) withdrew from the Isthmian League because it could not pay its subscription. There was a mass exodus (18), and the club, London’s oldest, was formally dissolved in July (19).
Plymouth Argyle (Tier 3)
An ongoing can of worms that I don’t propose to reopen in the context of this round-up. I’ve covered the saga in postings passim, and it has been very well covered by twohundredpercent.
Rushden & Diamonds (Tier 5)
The club went into Administration in July (20) and effectively folded. Finances had gone from bad to worse since being taken over by Liam and Steve Beasant in December. A number of rumoured last-minute rescues failed to materialise, and a resurrection club is now under way (21). The club’s demise had a silver lining for Kettering, who, under pressure because their lease was coming to an end, have now moved into Nene Park (22).
I have mixed feelings about this. Certainly its good news for Kettering (which is roughly eight miles from Nene Park in Irthlingborough – the ‘Diamonds’ part being ‘Irthlingborough Diamonds’), and a rational case can be made for the Kettering, Wellingborough, Rushden and Irthlingborough area being ‘over-populated’ clubs. But football is not an entirely rational topic. A League club has been lost, and there are still questions to be answered about its rapid decline.
Windsor & Eton (Tier 7)
Another sad case. An indulgent benefactor failed to restrain an overly ambitious manager (23). By May 2010 debts had risen to £137,000, including £50,000 owed to HMRC (24). In spite of various reprieves, the club was eventually wound up at the beginning of February 2011 (25). A resurrection club, Windsor FC, has been formed (26).
Although there has been a small decrease in the number of insolvency events, it is worth noting that a number of clubs came perilously close to inclusion in the list – Hinckley United (27), Welling United (28), and Wrexham (29) for example.
While League clubs have shown a general trend towards better financial management and control over recent years, non-league clubs remain very vulnerable. Common factors ate benefactor-dependence followed by benefactor withdrawal, and tax payment issues. Clubs at the lower levels are being forced to seriously consider ‘downgrading’ to semi-professional and even amateur status. There is little evidence that these trends will change.
If readers spot any omissions, please let me know. I’m afraid last season’s monitoring was necessarily a tad inconsistent because of too many nights spent away for work in hotel rooms with dodgy internet connections.