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The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
It is now a week since Kings Lynn Football Club was put out of its misery at court. The club’s record, however, still hasn’t yet been expunged by the Unibond League and a sense of inertia hangs over the league’s reaction to it all. Five days after the league made an official announcement was made stating that “a decision regarding the playing record of Kings Lynn will be announced by the League shortly”, no decision has been made. The Unibond League table, therefore, still shows Kings Lynn in seventh place in the table, with five games in hand on Ashton United and Stocksbridge Park Steels, the two clubs above them.
Behind the scenes, however, there is a scramble to be those at the helm of the new football club in Kings Lynn. Such a rush is hardly surprising. The local council owns the stadium and will only rent it out to one body. Within a week, four groups have come forward as potential owners from next season. The first is the Blue & Gold, the club’s supporters trust, the second is the former Kings Lynn finance director Dave Handley, the third is the owner of the Kings Lynn Stars, Buster Chapman, and the fourth is an as yet unnamed consortium of local businessmen. At this stage, it seems that the most likely tenants at The Walks will be those that can best convince the council that they can run the club to the fullest of its potential and can best convince the supporters themselves that they are the way forward.
It is, obviously, difficult to comment on the motives or credentials of an unnamed consortium – suffice to say that the warning signs are loud and clear from the Notts County farce. Buster Chapman has sports experience, but this is in the somewhat different field of speedway, and his attempted buy out of the club, launched a couple of days before The Linnets were wound up, floundered when he confirmed that he had never owned a limited company and had no intention of doing so. Whether this makes him suitable for the job is debatable – he may well have the best interests of non-league football in Kings Lynn at heart, but his lack of experience in football may well stick in the craw of the council.
All of this leaves two contenders that could be considered “favourites”, and much of the final decision will come down to what the council itself wants from them. Dave Handley has already been extremely vocal in his interest in the new club, and on the surface his package is an attractive one. He has the club’s former manager, Carl Heggs, on board, and has offered to cover some of the costs of the upgrades required to The Walks which cost the old club its place in the Blue Square North at the end of last season. He has also made encouraging noises about keeping the supporters trust onboard. There is, however, room for reservation. Comments such as those below, however, are a cause for concern.
If the council gave us the green light we would immediately lodge an appeal with the FA to see if we can avoid being dropped a minimum two leagues. If we can only drop a league we would go down that route but whatever the blow, we’ll take it and move on. It just needs to be sorted sooner rather than later.
The Blue & Gold Trust, of course, will stand for mutual ownership and this is the ace up their sleeve. At this stage in their existence, a new football club in Kings Lynn doesn’t need any extra investment. If they were to drop into the Eastern Counties League, their expected home crowds would be easily enough for the club to be self-supportive. With either three or four promotions required to reach the Blue Square North, there would be plenty of time for the new club to accumulate the amount of money required for improvements when necessary.
The council has already stated that the decision, “will be very much based on advice from The FA and the interests of the town and the R”egular supporters”. Former Kings Lynn FC supporters should have learnt, over the last few weeks, that the most important thing about their club is that it exists and that it continues to exist. There are a lot of people in the town at the moment that must be wondering what they are going to do with their Saturday afternoons at the moment. These people should probably look at the likes of AFC Wimbledon, AFC Telford United, FC United of Manchester or whoever else to see what can be achieved. It would be easy to look at Notts County and be concerned, but what went wrong there was about the individuals concerned rather than with this particular model of club ownership.
Owning their own club won’t necessarily be easy, and Dave Handley offers a quick fix solution which is certainly tempting. However, Linnets supporters have seen for themselves, up close and personally, what happens when the club becomes entirely dependent on one individual. None of this is meant as a slight upon Mr Handley, whose motives we should take to be honorable, but talk of “visions” and “plans” are not what the new club needs at present. What it needs is hard-working volunteers who can give up their time and effort to build the club up from nothing. With the help of Supporters Direct as well as the vast network of other supporters trusts that run the length and breadth of the country, they have the opportunity to do something great – to create a club from scratch that represents them as they wish to be represented, to control their destiny, to be open and honest in their actions, transparent in their financial dealings and to create a community surrounding their club. It may take time and it may not be easy, but at least their destiny will be in their own hands.
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.
Totally agree – the way forward is a supporters-owned club.
To talk about avoiding the two-league drop minimum is a nonsense. KL aren’t too big for the Eastern Counties League, at the moment they aren’t in a position to do what the clubs in that league are doing – playing games.
An arrogant attitude like that is likely to mean that KL would lose all the goodwill and support from other clubs if Mr Handley wins the bidding war.
Its not arrogant unless twisted. To be dropped 2 leagues for non footballing reasons is a blow to any club in any league. Thats not looking down on other leagues, but wanting the best for KLFC.
I agree David, I don’t view it as arrogant. However I believe that you have either been misled, or you are misleading the supporters of Kings Lynn. The FA’s regulations regarding clubs that restart are quite clear – the reformed club will start at least two rungs further down the ladder. This is the fate that has befallen Scarborough, Halifax and Nuneaton in recent seasons to name but three clubs. To suggest that Kings Lynn will avoid this demotion somehow is incorrect, and you should not get the fans’ hopes up in this manner.
Wimbledon had to reform seven levels lower.
“non-footballing reasons” is just yet another depressing cliche that football tries to protect itself from the real world with.
@ladderman – ‘ – the way forward is a supporters-owned club.’
Maybe at the level the Linnets might play but once a club goes full-time and plays in the league then this model doesn’t work as Stockport County, Rushden & Diamonds and Notts County has found out to their cost.
It would be interesting to see if AFC Wimbledon, if they were to get promoted from BSP could reverse this trend.
I don’t think you can look at the Stockport, R&D and Notts County situations and then say that supporter-owned clubs don’t work in the League in such black and white terms. Using that logic I could offer up a much longer list of benefactor-owned clubs that have collapsed into the financial mire in the last 20 years and conclude that the traditional method of club ownership doesn’t work either. I’m not fully aware of what went on at R&D, but I do know that the situations at both Stockport and Notts weren’t exactly rosy before the Supporters’ Trusts took over – the fans were batting from decidedly sticky wickets in both cases.
Also, could you expand on WHY you think the supporter-owned model does not work in the League?