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The non-league football AGM cup had been eagerly awaited, but the early results have still come as a bit of a shock. Rushden & Diamonds were expelled from the Football Conference this morning, a decision that will have ramifications throughout the non-league game. Southport, who finished in fourth from bottom place in the league and were to be relegated into the Blue Square North for next season, will be reprieved and Hertfordshire club Bishops Stortford, in one of those quirks that is always possible in a regional system, seem likely to be shifted into the Blue Square North. Amongst the round trips that they will face next season will include a six hundred mile round-trip to Workington and a five hundred and fifty mile round-trip to play Blyth Spartans.
We have reported on the problems at Rushden on this site before, of course. The arrival of Gary Calder (formerly of Hornchurch and Weymouth, hardly a Curriculum Vitae to inspire a great deal of confidence) with the father and son Beasant duo in December of last year brought considerable problems for the club, and a familiar argot of phrases – players unpaid, transfer embargo, HMRC, winding-up order, creditors meeting – has come to encircle the club over the last six months or so, culminating in a farcical meeting which only seemed to exacerbate the tensions that had built up between the club and its creditors.
Meanwhile, the supporters had been active, attempting to raise £250,000 in order to be able to put together a CVA to save the club. Twitter and Facebook campaigns had been set up in order to faciliate this, but the question that they now face is whether it is worth continuing with this. The club has a Winding Up Order hearing at the High Court on Monday – how likely is it at this stage that administration can be entered into by the time of the hearing? The alternative – to seek an adjournment at the hearing – seems considerably less likely to be granted than it might otherwise have been had they been guaranteed Blue Square Premier football next season. The courts have been lenient in the past with this sort of hearing (long-time readers may well recall the almost farcical sixty-three day adjournment that Plymouth Argyle were awarded at the end of last season), but such uncertainty only seems likely to make the granting of an adjournment less likely. If we define insolvency as being “unable to meet day-to-day financial obligations as and when they fall due”, then Rushden & Diamonds certainly seem to fit the bill.
It is understood that the expulsion of another club was discussed at the Football Conference’s AGM this morning, but that this club has been reprieved for the time being. At the time of writing, however (and in the best interests of not wishing to induce panic elsewhere, it is probably for the best not to name the other club at this time), only Rushden & Diamonds’ fate is sealed, and they will start next season – if they start at all – in the Southern League Premier Division. We should also bear in mind the knock-on effects that this news brings with it for others. As already mentioned, the effects of playing in the Blue Square North could be ruinous for Bishops Stortford. Travel costs will be immense, and there is also the small matter of how difficult it may be to attract players when so many away matches involve the sort of epic journeys that they will face next season.
To this extent, Bishop’s Stortford are innocent victims of the mismanagement of another club. Regionalisation was always likely to produce this sort of anomaly, so it is worth asking the question of whether Stortford will be recompensed by anybody for the difficulties that they may face next season through no fault of their own. The decent thing to do would be for somebody in a position of authority – be that the Football Conference, their sponsors, or whoever – to make an ex-gratia payment to the club in order to cover anticipated losses. We shall have to wait and see whether such a scenario plays out, but it seems fair to say that Bishops Stortford have been pushed into a position of effectively having all of the drawbacks of national football with none of the benefits that it brings. It is to be hoped that they are helped out, should they need to be.
Meanwhile, it is only appropriate that we should take a moment to pass our sympathies to the other innocent party that has been so hurt by the maladministration of Rushden & Diamonds FC – the supporters of the club itself. They should remember that, no matter what the outcome of the court hearing is on Monday, resurrecting their club can still happen, and that if this is the eventuality that they have to resort to, there is every chance that they will be able to build themselves a football club that says “never again” to the madness of the second half of their season this year. In the meantime, the future of Rushden & Diamonds FC will be played out at the High Court on Monday. It is a crushingly familiar act of deja vu.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Ah, from being an MK Dons affiliate to being a supporter owned club ressurected from the bottom à la AFC Wimbledon. This bit might hurt a bit Rushden fans but it’s purgatory.
You have this football fan’s support and best wishes for your future
Great shame. Another example of over an ambitious club overstretching itself. Winning and success is all important? Time to re-assess. Play the game for sake of sport. Withdraw money from the over paid players and return to the corinthian spirit that has been so dearly lost to a wonderful game.
Sorry but when have we been an MK Dons affiliate? The only dealings I know we’ve had with MK Dons are a friendly a couple of years ago. That’s hardly an affiliation, that’s just going about the business of pre-season…
Rushden are a supporters trust club, were given a debt free club and a decent ground in 2005 by Max Greggs and they have royally screwed up…this is the kind of thing Dave Boyle gets paid to stop, still when your busy texting….I mean fighting right wing papers….
If the answer is not none, please inform how much compensation Worcester received when i) they were transferred from north to south, or ii) from south to north.
My deepest sympathies go to the innocent parties – partcularly the R&D fans and all connected with Bishop’s Stortford. That club really has to receive some substantial form of compensation in advance of the new season – preferably through the Blue Square League.
Speak to Keith cousins – the ex chairman, he will tell you the real reason why the club is on the brink of collapse
sadly this club was set up with no fan base and will never have a big fan base or be successful good ridence and hopefully mk dons will be next to go bust
Rushden are not a “Supporter’s Trust Club” They were owned by RDFCST, but only for about a year or two five years ago. Calder took over in 2006 and It has since been transferred to a new owner – as you might have realised, had you bothered to read the excellent article above, instead of pursing your own agenda against Supporters Direct, notwithstanding the stupididty of Dave Berry’s recent outburst.
In fact I think you’ll find that the fatal debt was entirely accrued under the tenure of private owners, as is so often the case.
Still, don’t let the facts get in the way of your anti-fan ownership story.
Very sad to see them go and I feel for their fans who are as usual blameless
On a persoal note though, pleased to see Southport back as it is a good trip for Wrexham fans
As a Barrow fan, I have .little sympathy for Bishops S or Worcester? They only now face the same costs that Blyth and Workington have to face thanks to geography. In fact I bet their mileage is still lower than Workington’s
Couldn’t happen to two nicer clubs…
Well done MG. Have a pop at Dave Boyle at his lowest ebb. That will really help Rushden and engender sympathy…
I can’t see why Thurrock weren’t offered the reprieve on the basis that they took the Northern slot. It seems that Stortford end up being punished for R&Ds demise
I’m so over the moon about Southport having a reprieve. But We’re all thinking of Rushden supporters, we’d be unbelievably selfish if we wer’nt.
as agreed. All Port fans are thinking about RandD but at the same time, we’re exactic about our reprieve.
@Football souveners. What do you mean its a good trip for wrexham fans?
southport are bookys faves to finish 5th from bottom next season..that’ll suit us!
as a luton fan, im happy for southport
you all have our support. Me and my girlfriend hope for your future that you’ll come straight back up again, best wishes
ALL HAIL CHARLIE
@Jabba: In 2006 Keith Cousins took us over, not Calder. Calder was part of the group that took over from Cousins in December 2010 with the Beasants. He then resigned in January once he saw what the Beasants were doing to the club. Just to correct you.
Am I the only one on here torn between sympathy for Rushden fans and a desire to see the same thing happen to Crawley Town a few years from now? Very few Crawley supporters (at least among those who post on this or other websites) seem inclined to ask where the money’s coming from or what happens when it runs out.
Rob – Thanks for that.
If I’m correct Cousens originally loaned money to the Trust to cover the losses incurred when you dropped out of the League, didn’t he? I understand that until that happened the Trust had actually run a largely debt-free club.
I don’t know who MG is, so I’ll assume he is an ordinary supporter who has an issue with fan ownership. I have noticed a few on various boards, bizarrely citing the case of R & D as supposed evidence the fan-owned model doesn’t work.
In my experience (we even have the odd one at Exeter City) they generally tend to labour under the fantasy that some myhtical billionaire is just waiting to take their club to the promised land of the PL and see fan ownership as throwing a bucket of water on those (pipe) dreams.
i agree with Rob. But c’mon guys, lets not have a fight over a computor screen. what’s done is done.
wooooo happy for southport
DT00271 – this is exactly what will happen to Crawley, but probably over a shorter timescale.
By the way, I seem to recall that R&D spent a lot of time cosying up to the Bletchley Stealers last year, I notice that they’re keeping their distance …