Reality Bites Revisited

By on Dec 1, 2008 in Finance, Non-League | 0 comments

We did the travails of Weymouth FC on here before, in January 2007. Things seem now to be going from bad to worse down in Dorset, with the latest rumours involving a merger with their nearest and bitterest rivals, Dorchester Town of the Blue Square South.

Since January 2007, times have been tough for Weymouth Football Club. Chairman Martyn Harrison, a hotelier who had pushed the club’s wage bill up to £20,000 per week, resigned, having put the entire first team squad up for sale. That the club managed to avoid entering into adminsitration was little short of miraculous. Under new owner, Mel Bush, the club promised a period of more sensible spending, but debts have continued to grow. Having avoided the drop during the 2006/07 season, the club’s aim was for stability last season.

They couldn’t have done much worse job in that respect. Bush lasted just months as chairman before handing over the reins to property developer Malcolm Curtis, and the club spent much of the season looking nervously over its shoulder at the relegation places before finishing in eighteenth place in the Blue Square Premier. This season has seen the team performing reasonably well, and they are currently reasonably safe in mid-table. Off the pitch, however, the club appears to be descending into civil war yet again, leaving the neutral observer to wonder whether they are the subject of incredibly bad luck or whether the off-pitch ructions have simply left the club completely unmanageable.

It is impossible to say exactly what Curtis’ motives are. He has already sold the land immediately surrounding the club’s Wessex Stadium to his own company for £500,000, which immediately raises suspicions over his motives. The club continues to struggle on the pitch, and the appointment of John Hollins earlier this year appears to have ended acrimoniously, with Hollins’ suspension three weeks ago on gardening leave pending a club investigation. Rumour and counter rumour have been sweeping the club. Had Hollins been tapped up to go elsewhere? Was this a cost cutting exercise on the part of a football club that could no longer afford his wages? It is unlikely that the truth will ever come out.

More worrying still, the club’s Supporters Trust rejected an offer by Curtis for them to take over the day-to-day running of the the club over the conditions that he had applied to such a take-over. Curtis refused to give the Trust any information regarding the current financial position of the club prior to the meeting, and also insisted on a clause demanding that he should be brought back in should there be any danger of the club entering into administration. The Trust’s statement on the subject said, “Much as we would love to play a hands-on role in securing the short and medium term future of the club, the latest offer again comes with too many strings attached and an unacceptable burden of liability which is quite simply too much for the Terras Trust to take on at the moment”. In a further blow, the expected move of Stuart Beavon – one of the highest paid players at the club – to Bournemouth collapsing at the last minute.

The bad news for Weymouth supporters hit a new nadir yesterday, with The Non-League Paper reporting that the owner of their local rivals, Dorchester Town, Eddie Mitchell, talking openly of a merger between the two clubs. Mitchell today poured cold water on any immediate merger between the two clubs, saying that, “All I’ve done is told the honest truth, which is that somewhere down the line the two clubs will marry. But there’s nothing substantial in it, I’ve not said I’ll give x amount of money for the club as it’s not what I want to do and I wouldn’t be allowed to anyway”, but this continuing talk seems to do nothing but destabilise the future of both clubs. Weymouth, on the other hand, are said to be days away from another new chairman, although the club is refusing to say who the new owner is. Under current FA rules, Mitchell would be banned from buying Weymouth while he still owns Dorchester, but there are loopholes in the rules that could ensure that, while owned one of the clubs, he also had de facto ownership of the other.

Weymouth’s supporters will be hoping that Mitchell keeps his distance from the Wessex Stadium, but the truth is that, in the current atmosphere of distrust and with a lack information feeding the rumour mill, the best interests of the supporters are hardly likely to be taken into account by anyone. Weymouth retain ownership of their stadium for now, but when the chairman of the club that might well be the junior partners in any merger start talking about it as if it is inevitable, what hope is there for common sense to prevail? Until Curtis has departed from Weymouth, their long term survival will remain in the balance. If he does leave, then the future of boths clubs could be up for grabs, depending on who the new owner is. Weymouth supporters have started a Save Our Club campaign. It might just about be time for the supporters of Weymouth and Dorchester to put their differences behind them to safeguard the future of both football clubs in that particular corner of Dorset.

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