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The summer wouldn’t be the summer without a flurry of crises in non-league football, and this year trouble is brewing in Scarborough, a town with more than its fair share of history when it comes to clubs falling into difficulties. Scarborough FC, a Football League club as recently as 1999, were wound up during the summer of 2007 after having been relegated into the Conference North with debts in the region of £2m. From this mess emerged two clubs – Scarborough Athletic, who took a place in the Northern Counties East League, were formed by the club’s supporters trust that summer and play their home matches at nearby Bridlington Town FC, while Scarborough Town, formed by former members of the Scarborough FC Supporters Club, followed them a year later, playing their home matches at the Pindar Leisure Centre in Scarborough.
Athletic have been promoted into the Premier Division of the NCEL, whilst Town, who started out as a youth team playing the George Pindar Community Sports College, started a mens team at the start of the 2008/09 season in the Teesside League, swiftly gaining promotion to the Wearside League. Having won back to back promotions, Town sought further promotion and wished to enter the Northern League at Step 6 of the non-league pyramid, but the FA Leagues Committee placed them into Division One of the NCEL instead. One of the conditions of entry were that some basic improvements had to be made to the Pindar Leisure Centre, but from here things got rather sticky for Town.
Having resigned their place in the Wearside League, they had to pass the grounds inspection, but Scarborough Borough Council were, because the Pindar Leisure Centre is part of a school, dependant upon the viewpoint of Sport England over whether they could grant planning permission for floodlights to be installed there. Sport England took a dim view of this (the Pindar Leisure Centre is, effectively, a school sports field, and the protection of sports fields is at the top of their agenda), and Scarborough Borough Council have rejected the planning application to upgrade the ground. The NCEL’s offer of a place to Scarborough Town was provisional, “subject to the club receiving planning permission from Scarborough Town Council for floodlights, hard-standing and covered accommodation at its current ground”, and is set to be revoked on the 21st of July. With no permission obtained, it seems impossible that Town will be able to continue to play at the Pindar Leisure Centre, and with the leagues placings settled across the board, there is no place for them back in the Wearside League. The possibility of a last-minute groundshare remains on the horizon, but unless something can be tied up by later today, they will be without a league to play in and will surely effectively cease to exist.
The complexities of the situation regarding the improvements required to bring the Pindar Leisure Centre are one matter, and not one that we are going to enter into a discussion over the rights and wrongs of here. Scarborough Town supporters are holding Sport England, Scarborough Borough Council and the FA responsible for their current plight, although it may be worth pointing out that the issue of them getting planning permission for ground developments is a long-standing one. Whether the decision to resign a place in the Wearside League for a place in the NCEL (with clearly defined strings attached) was entirely wise is also a question for another day. This unfortunate situation does, however, raise the question of why there are two clubs in Scarborough in the first place.
Considering the situation in which Scarborough FC found itself in 2007, it seems insane that there should now be two clubs dividing the modest football support in the town. Of course, a sizeable amount of the reasoning behind the existence of two clubs comes down to personality clashes between individuals. The town of Scarborough, however, has its chances of achieving senior non-league football considerably diminished for having two clubs. After all, supporters of Town and Athletic were all supporters of the same club until just three years ago. Several voices have called pointedly for a merger between the two clubs but there still seems to be a considerable amount of resistance towards the idea, with most of it seeming to come from Scarborough Town. A check of the forums of both clubs this evening found plenty of people from the Athletic side of the divide who believe that one club is the only way forward, but very few from Town of the same conviction (Hugh Bellamy, the Scarborough Town chairman and the headmaster of the George Pindar Community Sports College, is understood to have been in favour of a merger, but he seems to have been in a minority of more or less one and is resigning his position this summer anyway). Yet this intransigence directly affects the future of football in the town.
There are a million shades of grey when it comes to the opinions of football people in the town over the extent to which the local council have the desire to build a decent football facility in the town at all. However, the division between the two clubs makes getting such a facility seem that much more remote than it could otherwise be. In addition to this, both clubs are weakened by the fact that they lose to supporters to the other, and it’s not difficult to reach the conclusion that less committed football watchers in the town could well look at the failure of these two clubs to come together and form the opinion that it’s simply not worth the bother of getting involved in the first place. It’s not a matter of fault, gaining the upper hand or power struggles, and even what happens over the future of Scarborough Town over the next twenty-four hours or so seems beside the point. What really matters is what is for the good of the wider community of Scarborough and, if we presume that most people want a club for Scarborough that plays at the highest level possible, now is surely the time for hatchets to be buried and for these two clubs to come together.
Scarborough Athletic play Merthyr Town in the Supporters Direct Shield at New Bucks Head, Telford on Saturday. Scarborough Town are currently scheduled to play a friendly match at Marske United at the same time.
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.
What a sad story.
I expect some people think it’s all the Supporters Trust’s fault though…
A good article if not completely correct. The Seadogs Trust was not conected in any way with the old Scarborough F.C. and probably provided the local authority with a get out clause when refusing a planning application by the old club. Scarborough Atletic completely ignored the youth set up at GPCSC so an open age team had to be set up for the over 19’s this being Scarborough Town. It was hoped that this team would enable the lads to play at their highest level, Town had no plans to play above their level. Finaly Hugh Bellamy only resigned his post due to the fact that he is taking over a school in the south west of England other wise he would still have been Chairman of the club.
It is with great interest that I have watched Athletics clamour for a merger only really taking pace once they saw Town appearing on the horizon and threatening to over take Athletic in the pyramid, come on Athletic, lets see you put your money where you mouth is, lets see you field a team of local talent from the Borough of Scarborough, once Towns demise is certain.
sour grape anyone?????????????
In response to Stuart:
It is a bit churlish to suggest that Seadog Trust was “not connected in any way with old Scarborough F.C.”. Quite how an organisation formed by fans of Scarborough FC, and with its link to the club explicitly defined in the Trust’s Society rules, can be described as “not connected” to Scarborough FC beggars belief.
Secondly I would like to refute the charge that Scarborough Athletic FC “completely ignored the youth set up at GPCSC”. The youth set-up of the old Scarborough FC was pretty much self-contained under the umbrella of George Pindar Community Sports College by the time the club folded in 2007. Add to this the fact that Seadog Trust was left with an incredibly compressed timeframe in which to get a completely new club up off the ground in time for the 2007/8 season AND the fact that the future of the youth system at GPCSC was discussed by myself with Mitch Cook (head of the youth set-up) at our open meeting in the St Nicholas Hotel – and you might just start to realise why were were more than relieved to realise that we didn’t have to worry about the youth system disappearing, as we were assured that it could continue to thrive under the care of Mitch at GPCSC.
Finally, you are deluded to think that Athletic fans are now clamouring for a merger simply because they saw Town over their shoulder one league below them. There have been plenty of fans wishing for a return to one Scarborough club for a considerable time now, some even before Scarborough Town first kicked a ball in anger. I know, because I am one of them.
For the record, I helped set up Seadog Trust, was its chair from inception to the fall of Scarborough FC, and was subsequently chair of Scarborough Athletic FC for its first two season.
Well even today it seems that at least one fan is not prepared to grasp the Olive branch offered. NOW is the ideal opportunity for both clubs to bring thier talents together and create a great club both on and off the pitch
a couple of factual issues for clarity. The Seadogs trust came about as the old club slowly withered and certainly existed before the old club folded and was certainly asked to support the old club which they did in kind but not finacially i suspect that most fans of football in the town joined the trust some for thier own reasons chose not to. It has long been an often shared belief of some of those that did not join the trust that it conspired with the council to ensure the old club folded ( the two and a half million pound debt was the real issue)
its certainly the case that Athletic have led the pursuit of a merged club from the days of the first trust meeting when some vowed never to join but form thier own club some trust members have raised the merger of both parties. many Athletic fdans have sponsered twon in thier first season and again recently Athletic fans wrote to the council supporting the planning application
the truth is much as outlined in the excellent article above one small town two clubs is not a recipe for sucess one club with all the talents of both club would be a considerable non league force.
I am certainly not going to go over old ground again with the Trust and SFC but for Mark to say the Trust supported the old club “in kind” is a joke… and Simon, in what way were the Trust connected to the old club? apart from wanting to take control of it?
The aims and ambitions of Town and athletic are different… Athletic is to get as high up the pyramid in the shortest possible time bringing in players from far and wide to achieve this (not a dig just a fact). Town’s aims were to provide an opportunity for the local lads to develop and play at the highest level possible. That is why it was always unlikely a merger was on the cards…
The way the article is written indicates that Hugh (Chairman of STFC) was at odds with the rest of the committee over the single club issue. He wasn’t, Hugh shared the same vision as the rest of us, in that we should be devloping local talent.
What the article also fails to make clear is the facilities Pindar College has. Anyone who doesn’t know the area will think that the “school playing field” is being used. The college boasts an indoor sports hall, equipped gym, indoor tennis centre, floodlit astro turf pitch, and separate field which contains 2 football pitches a rugby pitch and an all weather cricket strip… the area being used in this development is insignificant and not much bigger than the size of a football pitch. Ironically the pitch is adjacent to the floodlit astroturf…
This is a college development and will go ahead whether STFC exist or not, it is about providing facilities for the student, and local sports teams, yes Scarborough Town would have benefited but so would other teams, such as the Scarborough Pirates Rugby League team…
The author of this articles also questions the decision to withdraw from the Wearside League and in hindsight it was the wrong decision, but the decision was made at the time in good faith based on the information we were getting from the bodies concerned…. I wont go into all the details.
Senior football is finished in Scarborough. Anyone who thinks that the Council will providing a suitable venue at Weaponess is certainly deluded. The Council were talking about that as far back as 1991… and in the current financial climate it just simply isn’t going to happen.
Today is a sad day for football in Scarborough.
And just for the record I was involved in the old SFC Supporters Club. I chose not to be involved with Athletic. I was involved in the setting up of Scarborough Town and on the committee…
There is certainly no bitterness towards Athletic from me… I have people who I count as friends who are involved with the club and many friends who support the club.
Bless, you still really believe all that don’t you Cloughton. I thought that over time maturity and a clarity in thought was meant to prevale.
The trust did not try to take over the club…they tried to get a memeber on the board. Unlike some, Simon and Ben thankfully did not have blind faith in those in charge. As you say…we wont go over that again as it’s like banging your head against the wall….facts dont seem to matter.
I think your post cements the comments in the article about the need for people like you to drop the petty differences and your misconceptions about what happened in 2007 and just bite the bullet. I would be happy to see you at Brid and putting your efforts into a new merged youth setup. Simon has said on many occasions that he regrets not setting up the kids but there was simply no time (less than 2 months!).
time to move on me thinks…………….
Told you some people would blame the Trust…
Please feel free to join our “Unity for Football in Scarborough” Facebook group, which was established in January 2009.
[Comment removed because of abuse]
will everyone stop fora minute and spare a thought for the lads at town all they wanted to do was play football and thats what they did very well in fact some of you could do with a lesson in maturity and grace from them
As a complete outsider with no connection to Scarborough, other than a desire to see the town witness a fresh footballing blossom, the plainly obvious reality is that the town has no means to support any more than one successful club. Political and personal disputes ultimately lead to the graveyard. Despite you (the collective, old Scarborough FC you) humiliating us twice in the FA Cup since 1994, and once in the Associate Members’ Cup it would be a delight to see you return. Get on with it.
am not a town retard but the mother of one of the players who watched them play every week so i know 1st hand how this has affected the lads
[Rest of comment removed because of abuse]
If people want to throw abuse about, can they go elsewhere, please?
Indeed. They’re not doing the “Town” side any good whatsoever.
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