Northwich Victoria: Time To Step Away From This Sinking Ship

9 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   April 27, 2012  |     22

There is always something faintly pathetic about the list of creditors for a football club’s proposed CVA. It’s not so much the big creditors that sink the heart – after all, those that pour money into the black hole of a football club, for example, have paid their money and taken their choice – but the smaller creditors that tug at the heart-strings. This is as true in the case of the CVA proposed for Northwich Victoria FC at the end of 2009 as for any other. It’s difficult not to feel sympathy for  Anthony’s Travel of Runcorn, a coach hire company which ended up being owed £16,178 by the club – a lot of money for a small business – while the stomach can only turn a little at the inclusion of a £5,889.13 debt to Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College, a school at which the club used for training sessions.

This CVA, however, reached its conclusion in February when the administrator, Gary Pettit of the Northampton-based company Marshman Price, requested its cancellation at the Manchester High Court. No payments had been made as per the agreement reached and in his report to the court, Pettit noted (with a degree of almost tangible exasperation) that, “the purchaser [chairman Jim Rushe] sought to claim payments were not due and pleaded ignorance to their obligations.” With the CVA having failed, it was no great surprise to hear that the club, which finished in second place in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League this season, was barred from entering the end of season play-offs and instructed that it was to be expelled from the league altogether from the end of this season.

Earlier this week at Wembley, however, the FA somehow saw fit to fall for Rushe’s pleas for clemency up to a point, and commuted their expulsion to a one division relegation. Such matters, however, may soon end up as an irrelevance. In spite of the pie in the sky claims of Steve McNally, an individual who mysteriously parachuted into a club with which he had no prior connection at the precise moment at which it lost its ground with grandiose plans to build a new, 7,000 capacity stadium and get it into the Football League in five years. No part of McNally’s story makes a great deal of sense. He claims that the new stadium will be built at Lostock Triangle, on the outskirts of the town, but this is land that has just been purchased by the house-builders Barratt Homes and the land adjacent to it is green belt land, for which planning permission would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

McNally remains an enigma of the worst sort. He posts regularly on the Northwich Victoria Supporters Trust’s forum, but side-steps any questions asked of his background and seems to spend as much time attempting to discredit the Trust as anything else. Quite why anybody should trust him is a question that remains at arms length. He claims to have been a non-league footballer who played until he was thirty-nine years old but, for someone that had such an apparently lengthy playing career, he didn’t leave much of a footprint. Might he be this Steve McNally, who played five games in the Northern Premier League for Southport during the 1979/80 season? It seems unlikely, considering how old he would have to be, but we still don’t know the truth about him because he steadfastly refuses to reply to any questions about him that might give anything away about his background.

Rushe, meanwhile, continues to carry himself with a putrid combination of obstinacy and bone-headedness. Having openly displayed his contempt for the supporters of this rotting carcass of a club – that he has mismanaged into the position in which it finds itself today – by laughing and holding up a red card himself during a protest by supporters against what passes for his “custodianship” of the club last weekend, he spoke to the Northwich Guardian this week, stating that, “I don’t feel that what has happened is my fault”, and that, “I’m determined to fight on and won’t be relinquishing control.” We hardly, of course, even need to ask the question of who else could conceivably be responsible for the financial well-being of any company apart from its majority share-holder and chairman. Possibly the only bigger mystery than this is that of how anybody without an ulterior motive of some description could conceivably attribute any credibility to this most odd collection of individuals.

The Northwich Victoria Supporters Trust has previously stated that it would look to form a new club in the event of the existing club folding, but it is surely now time to reconsider this position. With the CVA having failed, it is surely only a matter of time before a fresh winding up order is issued against the club – especially with HMRC being owed £446,108, according to the CVA paperwork from December 2009. Meanwhile, applications to join the North West Counties League have to be in by the end of next month. Supporters of AFC Rushden & Diamonds, who have spent this season watching a youth team after their club folded too late for a new club to start for the beginning of this season, will be more than aware of what happens when a club folds too late for a new one to begin for the following season. No-one would suggest that this wouldn’t be a heartbreaking decision for supporters to have to make, but Cheshire West & Chester Council, the local council to Northwich, are fully versed in this sort of situation following the events at Chester City of two years ago and only a club run by a supporters trust, not one that is run as one mans fiefdom while another seems to spend his time seeking to divide the supporters and isolate the democratically run organisation which represents many of them, might be able to rebuild bridges with the local community which have been burnt by recent difficulties.

Ultimately, though, Northwich Victoria supporters have to be united. Where clubs have risen from situations as dire as this, it has been in no small part because every single one of them shares the vision of a community-focused, democratically-run club that is out of the hands of individuals whose motives remain unclear and whose managerial abilities seem questionable, to say the least. At Chester, Enfield, Wimbledon, FC United of Manchester, Wrexham and far beyond, the fruits of the hard work of those who give their time up for their supporters trusts has been repaid in spades. In some of those cases the supporters walked away because they had to, and they have made it work. The simple truth of the matter is that supporters of the club do not have to be in thrall to the likes of Jim Rushe. If they allow games of divide and rule to play out to the eventuality that those instigating them presumably aspire, they will only have themselves to blame if the town ends up with a club – or more than one club – that is enfeebled.

The supporters of Northwich Victoria have three choices. They can walk away from en masse, start again and fight to get their club back to the position that it held before these years of madness. They can stand behind a man who openly laughs at them and has driven their club to the lowest division it has ever played in and to the brink of extinction with spectacular mismanagement without even having the basic common decency to show any remorse for what he has done whilst seeking to blame, without any basis, everybody but himself for the mess. Or they could just walk away from football altogether. By coming together as one and once and for all rallying behind the trust, there is a great chance that they could save the soul of their club. It seems inconceivable that the pathetic list of creditors from December 2009 will not have grown considerably by now. It’s time to let Northwich Victoria die so that it can be reborn in the hands of people worthy of its custodianship.

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Ian

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.

Comments
  • April 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Wittoner

    There is a 4th choice.

    Come and watch Witton.

    Im not saying this to troll, or wind anyone up, and I realise that on the face of it, it seems ludicrous. But we are a local club, run by volunteers, friends, families, welcoming to all.

    Any Vics fan that wants to show their support to a club that acts properly, rather than a man who acts like a crook, is welcome.

  • April 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Merthyr Man

    As a Merthyr fan who spent 5 years fighting a similar individual, all I can say to the Northwich Trust members is to keep fighting. Eventually you will get your club. Go on strike, do nothing, give them no money – just keep going to the games so you all have a focus and presence at your club. Put up banners, sing songs and make the owners feel uncomfortable. We tried being nice, pleasant and supportive ourselves to begin with but once you realise who and what you are dealing with there is only one outcome – self ownership with the rotten directors gone.

    We had a three division relegation and lost use of our ground. But tomorrow should see us win back to back promotions and this title win will be at our own ground. Crowds have doubled and the club is run strictly to the income it genertaes by no more than 20 volunteers. I doubted we could do it many times along the road, but you will find that it is possible and although hard work is not that difficult once the initial stumbling blocks are put aside. Supporters Direct will help you, but you have to really help yourselves first.

    Best of luck with this fight.

  • April 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Vics For Ever

    Why would any one want to go and watch Witton?

    Re group and take the vics back to where they belong.

  • April 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Vics For Ever

    Why would any one want to go and watch Witton?

    Re group and take the vics back to where they belong.

  • April 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Northwicher

    I’m sorry Wittoner but that is a wind-up. How did Witton councillors “act properly” in turning down the planning application for the Victoria Stadium, against all advice from their officers, forcing the directors of the pre-Connett era to try and fail to get a bridging loan , giving that man the opening to take over our club. You must be feeling very smug right now.

  • April 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    NRP

    Starting a new club is the way forward. NV will die at this groundshare that is proposed. Leave Jim Rushe with his shell of a club and all the debt…..cut off his revenue stream from tickets/merchandise…..start a club that the NV fans can run themselves, and build it up. Good luck from an AFC Wimbledon fan who has been through it all.

  • April 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    vics don't know what they want

    I was at the protest game as an FCUM fan. Vics fans seem split on the idea of self ownership and were arguing amongst themselves. Whatever the outcome good luck …

  • April 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Oxo

    I can only echo the thoughts of Merthyr Man. Yesterday we won promotion back to the Southern League. Four years ago we genuinely thought that the club was going to die but with the guidance from Supporters Direct plus belief in ourselves the Merthyr Supporters Trust brought pride back to Penydarren Park.

    There were more than a few challenges along the way but we overcame them together and now we have a community focussed football club that lives within its means. It’s great to own your own football club.

    Good luck to the Vics, I remember them visiting us in our Conference days and I visited the Drill Field a couple of times. Great supporters who can make a difference.

    Good luck.

  • May 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Merthyr man

    We also had a massive split in our support. The directors organised a fans committee on the same nights the trust had their meetings and there were as many people in both meetings. You have to keep telling the idiots supporting these rotten directors what it is the people they love have been doing. you need to act on getting shot of these people or if they will not go, form your own club.. What is the alternative? Supporting these people in destroying your club. It’s not going to get any better with those involved so someone has to leave the relationship. It’s either them or you. Once we saw this being the only decision on the table, the path to take was obvious.

    I’m frustrated just listening to your plight as it is just a carbon copy of Merthyr. You need to act soon to deliver your own happy ending.

    By the way we did win the league in front of 800 fans. southern League here we come. Best of luck.

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