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Financial trouble at a lower league football club doesn’t just affect the supporters. Here’s John Perkins on what happened next to last season’s Hereford United team.
In the lower leagues and non-league football, the clubs are small enough that it’s possible for the fans and the team to become close over the course of the season even though it’s recognised that most of the players will only be around on a temporary basis. It’s easy for a successful squad to be adopted by the fan base so that in future years they’re viewed with real fondness. The Conference team of 2003/04 that came second to Chester is a good example of that. Sometimes, though, a bond forms between fans and players because they’ve weathered adversity together which describes the 2013/14 season pretty well as Hereford United was submerged in a continual financial crisis.
The extent of the trouble became evident as the season closed and we knew that the players were not being paid on time. However, despite being treated very poorly they took inspiration from Peter Beadle and ensured Conference survival on the last game of the season. Their efforts during the last few games of the season transformed the team from itinerant players to part of the Hereford community. This is the Hereford first team squad from the 2013/14 season. These are the people that gave their all despite being consistently not being paid to by our “local boy made good” chairman.
L to R Back Row: Dominic Collins, Defender, 33 Apearances (2 sub), 5 goals, Signed for Southport., Daniel Walker, Forward, 26 Appearances (17 sub), 3 goals, Signed for Braintree Town., Michael Rankine, Forward, 26 Appearances (6 sub), 7 goals., Sam Smith, Forward, 27 Appearances (8 sub), 4 goals, On loan from Cambridge, Signed for AFC Telford., Chris Bush, Defender, 39 Appearances (3 sub), 3 goals, Signed for Welling., Rod McDonald, Defender, 43 Appearances (6 sub), 4 goals, Signed for AFC Telford., Josh O’Keefe, Midfield, 52 Appearance (3 sub), 16 goals, Signed for Kidderminster Harriers January 2014., Danny Leadbitter, Defender, 31 Appearances (8 sub).
L to R Middle: Jonny Evans, Physio, Joel Edwards, 0 Appearances (4 sub)., Danny Pilkington, 4 Appearances (9 sub)., Rhys Evans, Goalkeeper, 21 Appearances., Daniel Lloyd Weston, Goalkeeper, 26 Appearances (1 sub)., Frankie Artus, Midfield, 32 Appearances (3 sub), 1 goal, Signed for Bath City., Jon Brown, Midfield, 21 Appearances (16 sub), 2 goals., Roger Lloyd (Kitman)
L to R Front Row: Sam Gwynne, Midfield, 58 Appearances (22 sub), 1 goal., Kingsley James, Midfield, 42 Appearances (2 sub), 3 goals, Signed for Chester., Martin Foyle, Manager., Luke Graham, Defence, Club Captain, 86 Appearances (2 sub), 3 goals., Andy Porter, Assistant Manager. Chris Sharp, Forward, 46 Appearances (9 sub), 6 goals. Robert Purdie, Everywhere, 197 Appearances, (37 sub), 26 goals.
This doesn’t include players who were absorbed into the squad as the season progressed. Jamie Edge (7 appearances, 5 sub) came in and the party line was that he was playing for travel expenses. Eric Odhiambo (3 appearances, 5 sub, 1 goal) came is as an additional forward but was a victim of January cutbacks. Cory Williams was promoted from the youth team and made a number of sub appearances and is one of only two players signed at present. The biggest success was Jarrod Bowen who became an integral part of the team when Peter Beadle took over. He scored his first senior goal against Alfreton in a Hereford 3-2 home win. The last game of the season was more than two months ago (April 27th). David Keyte was chairman at the time and did not relinquish the club to Tommy Agombar until May 28th. Each chairman/owner has had a significant amount of time to honour the players’ contracts but here are the facts, as we understand them:-
– The last full payment any of the players received was for December 2013 (six months ago)
– January to March – The players were paid between 40% and 60% of salary, generally receiving piecemeal payments as cash became available. Luke Graham was incentivised to stay in January despite receiving an offer from another club but has received no more cash than the others.
– April – Zero payment for all players.
– The £500 bonus promised in writing to each player if they kept Hereford in the Conference has not been paid.
– The few players owed a salary for May have received nothing.
Eric Odhiambo was asked to leave in January and once out of the club it meant he went to the bottom of the pile to be paid. He has not seen his outstanding wages from January.
The players under 24 were offered new contracts but having been treated so poorly there is no way that they would take up those offers. There were genuine prospects with Daniel Lloyd-Weston a standout find who was called up for the England C team. Even the lousiest businessman would have made sure they paid the young stars because they could earn fees that would help for the long term. But Daniel Lloyd-Weston terminated his contract and walked in May. In his parting interview he mentioned how much he enjoyed the club but lack of updates from the club were a good indication of how little they valued him. The other U-24 players offered contracts include Danny Leadbitter, Dominic Collins (opted to join Southport), Rod McDonald (opted to join AFC Telford), Kingsley James (opted to join Chester), Jarrod Bowen (rejected), Dylan Bonella (youth team player) and Max Kontic-Coveney (youth team player).
We thought we had two players for this coming season, both good youth prospects. However, Billy Murphy is strongly rumoured to have found a new club. With the breach of contract from lack of payment the club will not be due reimbursement. Jarrod Bowen is a very interesting case and demonstrates the degree of cynicism at the club. As Peter Beadle took over, Jarrod became a first team regular and shone in that role. This meant he attracted the attention of much bigger clubs and Hull City moved to sign him. Despite not paying him, and thus breaching their contract, Hereford are demanding compensation for Jarrod and potentially stalling the development of a very exciting prospect.
It seems apparent that the club has no intention of paying the players and other football creditors. Recent developments suggest that the club is planning to go into administration to prevent the winding up orders scheduled for Monday 30th June. If administration is granted then the players have an even longer wait on their hands to receive payment. This article may focus on player payments but don’t ignore the staff at Hereford United. Leigh Renton is owed £1200 maternity payment but as it comes via the club it has never come through to her. If Administration goes ahead she will be fighting with all creditors to get her hands on those payments. Money that should have been transparent to the club but they’ve kept in their hands.
I’ve said this many times but I’m utterly ashamed of Hereford United right now. It bears no relation to the club that I’ve been proud to support for years. Not one of the people outlined above deserves to be spending time wondering when they’ll ever see payment. There are others who wonder how they’ll next be able to meet their bills and final demands. Meantime Tommy Agombar and his acolytes continue to spin the yarn that they only have the club’s interest at heart (ignoring the fact that they’ve automatically demoted us two divisions and Admin will deliver more penalty points). We see through their lies and know there is a bigger game here. With every day, their modus operandi reflects that of Stephen Vaughan at Chester. Thankfully, we have Chester fans who are working with us to point out the likely path.
Team photo courtesy of Steve Niblett who, incidentally, hasn’t received any payments from the club either.
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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.
A disgrace that things have come to this. I saw them play the Owls a few years ago in the FA Cup. Team and supporters were a credit to Hereford. Hope things get sorted out satisfactorily.