The news came through like a bolt from the blue. Suddenly, and with a great deal of warning, the Rugby Football League announced this morning that Crusaders RFLC had withdrawn their application to play in the Super League from 2012 to 2014. The club’s website had been taken down (although it is back up and running this evening) and angry supporters of the club were wondering exactly how and why it could be that a club that was purchased from administration as recently as November of last year could be at the brink of closing down. The club’s owner, meanwhile, claimed that the “economic downturn” had left it unsustainable, all of which will be cold comfort to the players and staff of the club, who may now be facing the prospect of redundancy as well as the feeling that everything that they had been working for was, ultimately, in vain.
What, you may wonder, does this have to do with football, though? The answer to this question is that Crusaders RFLC share (or shared) The Racecourse Ground with Wrexham FC, and that both clubs are owned by Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts. Moreover, a debt owed to the Rugby Football League by Moss and Roberts was secured against the The Racecourse Ground itself. As such, many Wrexham supporters will this afternoon be wondering whether this is another chapter in some inevitable end-game that will also end in the end of their club as well. There can be little arguing with the fact that this decision shows, in the starkest possible terms, the extent to which the owners of these two clubs only seem to be interested in looking after themselves.
There are further complications for the football club, as well. The bid by the Wrexham Supporters Trust to buy the club along with The Racecourse Ground and the club’s Colliers Park training ground stumbled after the interference of Glydwr University, who launched a counter-bid to buy The Racecourse Ground. It had been hoped that the university would allow the football club and rugby club to continue to lease ground, but if the rugby club is now to fold (and there was a meeting this evening to discuss the rugby club’s future, to describe this as inconclusive would seem to be something of an understatement) whatever financial arrangements the university might have been looking for would now, presumably, need to be borne by the football club alone.
With Moss already having stated that he is not going to continue to fund the running of the football club, its financial situation is likely to already be as desperate as it was at the end of last season, when an unpaid tax bill led to the club almost being barred from entering the Blue Square Premier play-offs. The next question is, therefore, which way now for Wrexham FC? Considering what has happened this morning, it hardly seems implausible that Moss and Roberts could take exactly the route with the football club and, while the future of the The Racecourse Ground seemed to have been officially safeguarded with a Local Development Plan (LDP) at the start of last year, said LDP is only worth anything while there are professional sports clubs that can make use of it. One down, some may well reckon, one to go.
The board of the Football Conference meets at AFC Telford United’s New Bucks Head on the fourth of August, and it seems far from implausible that they will be looking for answers from those that currently own Wrexham FC. With the ownership of the ground hanging by a thread, what assurances can be given that the club will be allowed to continue to play at The Racecourse Ground? Possibly even more urgently than this, what assurances can Moss and Roberts give that the club will be able to complete its fixtures and its financial obligations for next season. The league got its fingers seriously burned by Stephen Vaughan and Chester City, and that was with rumours circulating that the Football League were pressing them to take the club when they were extremely reluctant to. They were censured by the FA for breaking their own rules, for their troubles. As time has passed, though, it has become increasingly difficult to believe that Moss and Roberts care so much as a damn – and that is a dangerous position for the football club to be in.
With the axe now hanging over Crusaders and the future of Wrexham FC still in the balance, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts’ intention is to rid The Racecourse Ground of both of its tenants and that, whether they are doing so intentionally or not, they are destroying professional sport in Wrexham through their behaviour. At this stage, it is now surely essential that the local council steps in and gets involved with this increasingly wretched story, and that the Football Association and/or the Football Association of Wales call the owners of Wrexham Football Club to account over their behaviour over the last few months. We can be certain that a club being seperated from its home and then run to the point of extinction falls some distance short of the minimum level of stewardship that we should realistically be expecting from anyone running a football club.
So, what has happened with Crusaders may or may not be a portent for what will happen to Wrexham. What we can say with a degree of certainty, though, is that the recent behaviour of those running Wrexham Football Club is increasingly being considered a series of acts of war by an element of the supporters of the football club and that this is not a group of supporters that will give up their football club, which is due to celebrate its one hundred and fortieth anniversary next year, without a fight. Indeed, they may even argue that this is no longer Moss and Roberts against Wrexham FC, but against the town of Wrexham itself.
Edit: Ah, a statement from the club. Interpret this as you wish. Suffice to say, plenty of swipes at the supporters of the club and very little reasonable justification for their recent actions.
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