Wrexham’s Extraordinary Day
It certainly went to the wire, of that much we can be certain. In fact, it could even be said that it went into extra-time. Eventually, however, the immediate future of Wrexham Football Club was secured by the only people in this particular story that have given every impression of being completely trustworthy from the very start – the fans themselves. This act of saving the club, though, required a level of fund-raising which proved beyond any reasonable doubt that if this club is to have anything like a prosperous future, it must come from those that banded together, cajoled and donated in order raise an extraordinary amount of money in an even more extraordinary amount of time to save it in its absolute hour of need.
Following the scheduled meeting of the Football Conference last Thursday, it quickly became apparent that the league itself was far from satisfied with the assurances given by those currently running the club, and the league demanded a that a bond or bank guarantee of £250,000 be lodged with them by the end of the following money. No formal sanction for failing to do so was announced at the time, but it was widely believed that the club would be prevented from starting the season if it was not done. It was a harsh adjudication – draconian, some might say – but the rationale behind it being breached was understandable. With the unpaid tax debacle at the end of last season, Wrexham had been given a warning without any formal sanction actually being delivered. That player wages should have been late or unpaid throughout the summer on top of this must have set alarm bells ringing that the club would be incapable of completing its fixtures this season, and against such a background it is perhaps unsurprising that the league should make a statement that said, effectively, “enough is enough”.
Geoff Moss, the club’s owner, stated that the requirements of the Football Conference were, “very unreasonable and very unfair”, and, by the close of business on Monday it was clear that the club hadn’t fulfilled its obligations. For those with anything like a cursory knowledge of the club’s affairs, however, Moss was not the person to be looking at if the club was to survive this particular brush with the Grim Reaper. By last weekend, the Wrexham Supporters Trust, whose bid to purchase the club has, in recent weeks, been getting closer and closer to completion, and other supporters of the club were already beginning a fund-raising effort that would demonstrate exactly why their future involvement in the running of the club will be so critical.
With the club understood to be £100,000 short of the amount of money required by the Football Conference, the supporters of their club embarked upon a fund-raising effort that is unlike any seen in the act of saving a football club in recent years. The fund-raising had already started at the weekend, with a group of supporters a group raising money with a twenty-four mile sponsored walk to the team’s pre-season friendly match against Northwich Victoria. With the Football Conference having granted a twenty-four extension to the deadline in order to be able to raise the extra money, money poured into the club. A shade over £27,000 was handed in at The Racecourse Ground, with more being collected through a bank account set up to gather funds together. Several gave thousands of pounds each. One gave the money that he had saved for his wedding. One supporter even offered the deeds to his house in order to save his club – unnecessarily, as things turned out, but the gesture symbolised the spirit of the day.
Many supporters, however, remain angry that they should have had to band together in order to save their club when the parlous situation in which it found itself is entirely the responsibility of those that have been running it since these difficulties began. They are right to feel this way, but it is to be hoped that this fund-raising activity will turn out to be the straw that broke the camels back in terms of the ongoing ownership issues that have been encircling the club for the last few months. At the time that the club needed, more than it had ever needed it before, a sum of money to be paid by a set date, Moss couldn’t deliver. That will likely now be his effective final act as the owner of the club – a statement made yesterday stated that the Football Conference has verbally agreed to the transfer of ownership of Wrexham FC to the Wrexham Supporters Trust, and the money raised yesterday will be returned to those that poured it in once the takeover has been completed. It seems as if, after a nightmare year so far, the ownership issues thhat the club has had may finally now be nearing an end. Moreover, the sale of The Racecourse Ground to Glyndwr University has now also been completed and, while this is not the solution that supporters may have hoped for, it is to be hoped that the university will build a constructive relationship with their tenants.
If there has been one constant theme of the last year or so at Wrexham FC, it has been the constant bad-mouthing of the supporters from so many different quarters. This week, however, they came through for their club in a frankly extraordinary way to keep their club alive. The Wrexham Supporters Trust has kept its head against often insurmountable looking odds, and even there are still issues relating the unity – or otherwise – of the club’s support, perhaps the events of the last few days will have brought a little clarity to the idea that an alternative future for the club, one in which this football club is run for the benefit of its community, without a cast that would not look out of place in a Guy Ritchie movie on the sidelines, can prosper and regain something of the stature that it used to hold. There will be talk of promotion now as well as other such chatter which accompanies the start of a new season, and the champagne corks will probably not start to pop until the contracts are signed and the club is formally under new ownership. For now, though, Wrexham will start the new season. It’s a small step but, as everybody connected with Wrexham Football Club found out on Tuesday, every little helps.
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