Are Kettering Town On The Brink?

By on Nov 24, 2011 in Finance, Latest, Non-League | 12 comments

Things seem to be escalating out of control very rapidly at Blue Square Premier club Kettering Town, where pre-season hopes of a fresh start at a new home have already evaporated, to be replaced by a sense of foreboding over so little as the short term security of the club. During the summer, Kettering’s move from its traditional Rockingham Road home to Nene Park, the former home of the club’s former rivals Rushden & Diamonds, eight miles from their home town, had provoked more than a few raised eyebrows. That Kettering are in financial trouble themselves just months after moving in there themselves will likely raise more still.

Since the last time that we wrote on this subject, the club’s position has deteriorated still further. Owner Imraan Ladak has now stated that he will “listen to offers” for the club – although the question of who is going to be interested in buying a non-league football club that is losing money hand over fist and has just signed a twenty-five year lease in a new ground miles from its home town is not one that is easily answered – whilst the playing staff looks likely to be diminished by the departure of what has been suggested as up to eight to ten players and manager Mark Stimson has been unable to arrest the team’s slide on the pitch.

The club’s financial position may be centred around match day income. Kettering sold a lot – around 1,000, which is a vast number for a club of its size – of season tickets during the summer. This, while it provides a useful lump sum of cash to the club, has an effect of its own. Season tickets sold means less pay on the gate revenue, and for clubs the size of Kettering Town, match day income often acts as the lubricant to keep the club ticking over during the winter. Season ticket holders aren’t, of course, going to pay on the gate again, so we can only surmise that the club has had this money and spent it. We know for certain that Kettering spent reasonably heavy under previous manager Morrell Maison, who left Nene Park last month, but the question of how the clubs financial planning has fallen to tatters is a very valid one.

It is believed that the club is nowhere near the break-even crowd level that it needed this season in order to become a sustainable business this season. Quite where the figure came from – excepting the reflex response of “the back of a cigarette packet” – is uncertain, but it seemed optimistic, to say the least. The idea of Rushden & Diamonds supporters continuing to flock to Nene Park in vast numbers to watch their former rivals there feels like a fanciful one, and the fact that Kettering Town were moving away from their home town always seemed likely to limit the number of people that would continue to maintain their interest in the club. After all, how many people might feel strongly enough to watch the team playing eight miles away, through thick and thin? How many clubs of any colour or shade could reasonably expect that?

The additional pressure has been compounded by today’s loan deadline day. Stimson told BBC Radio Northamptonshire that “If ten [players] go, it does put us under extreme pressure to fill the side on Saturday” and with two already having left and Stimson having admitted that only four players turned up to training earlier this week because they couldn’t afford to travel on account of not having been in full by the club, we can only draw the conclusion that it seems likely that more will leave and that Kettering Town will be unlikely to be the destination of choice for players coming in, either. With the team that had been in place already in a precarious enough position just above the relegation places in the Blue Square Premier, it is difficult to see how a patched-up team of replacements could, with the best will in the world, do anything other than continue to struggle.

There are many aspects of Kettering’s current woes that seem intractable, the most notable of which is probably Nene Park itself. If the costs of renting and operating it are as high as have been suggested, then downsizing, which would appear the obvious option for a club in their position, is less than attractive. Relegation to the Blue Square North would cut revenue and turnover, whilst operating costs may not be similarly reduced. Imraan Ladak’s recent interviews have given the impression of a man seeking to absolve himself of blame for the club’s current predicament, but the question must be asked of who else could conceivably considered culpable for this mess. If he does walk away from the club in the near future, then the money that he has put into it becomes an irrelevance. All that will matter will be the shell of a club that he has left behind.

Now is surely the time for the clubs supporters trust to start taking action. The trust board was conflicted by the decision to move to Nene Park, but the organisation is still active and should take the lead in bringing the supporters of the club together. What form this takes is a matter for them to resolve – it may involve, if it is feasible to do so, looking at whether they are capable of running the club, or perhaps stepping up a campaign to return the club to Kettering itself. Such considerations aren’t necessarily for the immediate future, though. In the first place, the supporters of the club, those with the most to lose – both literally and metaphorically – from the club going to the wall – must be brought together with a view to doing what they can to save their club. If the club’s supporters do not make their voices heard now, they may lose it forever and such a loss would be a tragedy for the town and for the wider world of non-league football. Supporters of the club have the option of sitting back and hoping that white knight on a charger turns up and makes everything better. Any such person will need deep pockets to do so, though, and deep pickets are thin on the ground these days. Alternatively, they can stand and fight to keep the spirit and shared culture of their club alive. The latter of these two options surely has to be worth a go.

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    12 Comments

  1. Morell Maison? As in “the” Morell Maison of Halesowen Town infamy, who got arrested on suspicion of fraud whilst at the helm there? The same Morell Maison who was lurking in the shadows as Chester City was going through its death throes? And he was manager at Kettering Town you say, who now find themselves bereft of cash?

    Inconceivable.

    Simon Cope

    November 24, 2011

  2. I don’t believe that there are two, Simon!

    Ian

    November 24, 2011

  3. Maison was previously manager at KTFC when they were playing full-time in the Blue Square North but was sacked by IL.
    The main problem is the stadium which is a superb facility for a non-league club, however, it’s a very expensive place to maintain and run. Difficult to see a way forward and I understand that a transfer embargo has now been placed on the club and it will be interesting to see their line up for tomorrow’s game against Grimsby Town. There could be a cricket score for the Mariners who are now odds on to win this game, despite their poor away form, with the book makers.

    Paul

    November 25, 2011

  4. @Paul – as a Mariners fan I have a really bad feeling about this & can see Kettering somehow managing a win

    GTFC

    November 25, 2011

  5. Whilst no true supporter of lower league football (I refuse to call it “Non League”, after all, what do people think our teams play in – a long succession of friendlies?) would want to see any Club go to the wall, especially one with a history as long as Kettering Town FC (1872, isn’t it?), the way their more vocal supporters reacted to the demise of the former occupants of Nene Park means they aren’t likely to get much sympathy from former R&DFC fans like myself as they go through what appears to be exactly the same process!
    We’ll see them bext year in the UCL, perhaps? AFC R&D v 1872 Kettering, perchance?

    Alan Jenkins

    November 25, 2011

  6. Alan, this will be the same Rushden and Diamonds fans that sang plenty of MK songs when we visited plus flashing up the MK score on the scoreboard for an unusually long time and then the club official who made comments pro MK in the programme against us?

    Jertzee

    November 25, 2011

  7. I think you’ll find that the vast majority of Diamonds fans despise MK Dons as much as anyone else and i certainly don’t ever remember there being any pro MK songs sang, on KTFC i will shed as many tears for them as their fans dis for us

    James Anker

    November 25, 2011

  8. I don’t recall that Jertzee, but as a Diamonds fan I’d say I’ve never personally been pro MK Dons, far from it ! In fact it IS the ONLY football club I would like to see go bust, alas it looks as though that is a forelorn hope !! I dislike KTFC, and I wish them no success on the field whatsoever, what rival would do that? However, I truly hope they get through their off-field troubles. Our demise was greeted with glee by many of their fans so there will be no tears shed if they do go belly-up, but it would be sad to see another Northants club go to the wall so quickly. Questions need to be asked as to how this has happened, we never got any full answers as to how everything was hunky dory in Dec 2010, only to be told a few months later we were shutting up shop with in excess of £1m of debt !! We’ve proved that getting a phoenix side up and running can be done if fans pull together, and as Alan says, it’ll be interesting to see if Kettering fans have the passion of their so called “plastic” rivals and be able to do likewise – they have time to organise this, unlike ourselves, but it would be great to lock horns again with them in the UCL next season.

    James

    November 25, 2011

  9. No Diamonds fan I know has ever sung songs about MK Dons (or “Dongs” as they were known on the Peter de Banke) which were anything less than utterly insulting and dismissive. In fact, most of us said that, should we have ever met them in a League or Cup game, we wouldn’t watch, even at Nene Park. In fact, I seem to recall a but of an uproar when one of our managers arranged a behind closed doors friendly against them… We all despised Franchise FC, and still do. Kettering we merely loathe, in a good, honest, healthy way!!

    Alan Jenkins

    November 25, 2011

  10. I am so shocked by this. I mean that paragon of virtue Imraan Ladak in charge of a team playing in the stadium of their hated ivals and managed by the non-league legend that is Morrell Maison, I thouht to myself, “Just what could go wrong?”.

    Coops

    November 25, 2011

  11. I have to say that the likelihood of any R&D fan htat reads this website being one of the mongs that sanf MK songs is highly unlikey.

    I think the attitude of the club officials grated more so as they spoke about how great Winkelman was and gladly arranged pre-season friendlies against MK at a time when we opposed any club doing so (we don’t do that anymore).

    then they gladly tagged onto the back of Winkies coattails when they bid for the 2018 world cup.

    Sorry if that tarred you…any decent fan who reads here should know I don’t mean them, unfortunatley the decent fan is the one who suffers from the decisions of the owners.

    Jertzee

    November 26, 2011

  12. Transfer embargo – check
    unpaid bills and wages – check
    players leaving in droves – check
    supporters trust organising bucket collections – check
    supporters transporting players to games – check
    supporters preparing the pitch – check
    owners in denial – check

    This post was brought to you by the Morrell Maison non-league playbook.

    The only surprise is that the crook that is Morrell Maison seems to have already gone.

    Halesowen fan

    November 26, 2011

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