There sometimes comes a point at which a football club in trouble passes beyond parody and into what we might at a cursory glance even consider to be satire. That moment, we would contend, came yesterday morning for Kettering Town Football Club when several of the clubs players, who had requested a meeting with the clubs owners over – and there is more of a hint of inevitability about this – unpaid wages, found themselves involved in a chase reminiscent of a sketch from The Benny Hill Show in an attempt to get answers about their non-payment in a piece of behaviour from those running the club which not only seems to demonstrate a level of disrespect for their players which surely crosses a line into being no more than outright contempt.
This, however, is Kettering Town, a club at which, for the senior management at least, “doing the right thing” seems to have become a thing of the past quite a while ago. After the clubs misguided move to Nene Park during the summer of 2011, a subsequent two division relegation into the Southern League Premier Division at the end of last season, the involvement and subsequent banning from all football of George Rolls, and a ten point deduction from their new league for entering into administration and an announcement that even though they had only just declared their own insolvency they would be turning full-time for this season, it might have been hoped that at least – at the very least – Kettering Town might, under the watchful eye of new manager John Beck, be able to get back on track on the pitch.
Some hope. Kettering Town are twelve points adrift at the foot of the Southern League Premier Division table at the time of writing, having failed to win any of their opening eight league matches, meaning that the club would be bottom of the table even without the deduction sanctioned against them during the summer. Crowds have plummeted accordingly. Just 399 people turned out for their last home league match against Cambridge City (by way of comparison, their home league match on the corresponding weekend last season against Tamworth in the Blue Square Bet Premier drew a crowd of 1,955 people), whilst a pitiful 231 people turned out for a recent home FA Cup replay against Wisbech Town.
All of which led to the farcical events of Monday morning. By all accounts – and for a glimpse into what was going on the Twitter time-line of player Ben Gerring is well worth a read – some players were due to be holding a meeting with club officials on Monday morning. However, with the players en route to the agreed meeting place, this meeting was moved to Cambridge and then, with just twenty minutes before it was due to start and with unpaid players having spent money that they in all likelihood couldn’t afford on petrol to get there, the meeting was called off. Gerrings comment on the matter – “That’s enough for me I’m done. Moved my life up here for them to treat it as a joke. Thank you for the support from the supporters” – was another damning indictment to layer upon all of the other damning indictments that have come from this club over the last twelve months or so.
That the meeting was moved to Cambridge was certainly of interest, if for no other reason that this particular city happens to be where one George Rolls lives. Now, at the time that Rolls’ ban from football was announced, the club stated that “Kettering Town FC confirms with immediate effect Mr George Rolls has withdrawn from all footballing activities for the club,” but it has strongly suggested that he has far from “withdrawn from all footballing activities for the club”, to the extent that the Kettering fan site PATGOD has even reported that Rolls “has received another letter from the FA recently reminding him that he is indeed banned from football in any way shape or form, from non-involvement in footballing administration down to complete non-attendance at games.” Their suggestion that, “the next time he is swanning around the place, with a wad of Klondike tickets and a smug look on his face we ought to grab a photo and send it across to the FA” might well be an astute one.
A large proportion of the clubs support now seems resigned to the next few days, weeks or months being the death throes of this club and there is a sad irony that all of this is happening in the year of its one hundred and fortieth birthday. The take-over of the club which was promised as being “imminent” hasn’t materialised, players aren’t being paid already (in spite of the fact that the CVA agreed during the summer effectively gave the club a clean financial slate) and there is now a possibility that in the foreseeable future the club will be able to raise a team for matches, and this – as been seen elsewhere before – is often the last act of a football club before its demise. It has been suggested elsewhere that the bulk of Ketterings team for this season were brought in on a non-contract basis, which would mean that there would be little to prevent them from walking away from the club, and the truth of the matter is that even few of the clubs own supporters would blame them for doing so. If Imraan Ladak and George Rolls hand the club, lock, stock and barrel over to the supporters trust there is a chance that it can be saved. For as long as they stay at Nene Park, though, it is impossible to predict where a happy resolution to the clubs current problems might come from.
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