The lengthy, drawn-out saga that has been Northwich Victoria Football Club reached something of a denouement this evening, with a vote taken by members of the clubs Supporters Trust to split from the old club and forge ahead to start their own from the start of next season. The decision was reached with a massive majority – a vote of one hundred and forty-five people in favour of the split and four against – and it can be considered a damning indictment of the way that the club has been run over the last few months and year that this vote ended up as close to absolute unanimity as it did. It was also a rare demonstration of positivity to come from a club which has come to resemble a slow motion car crash over the last few months or so.
For those amongst you that haven’t been keeping up to date with this story, there is no quick synopsis which could completely depict the ball of madness that this club has become in recent years. It lost its ground, The Victoria Stadium, to a company based next door to it after failing to take up an option to purchase it from the liquidators of the company that had previously owned. Having failed a CVA (leading to a somewhat extraordinary debate between the administrator himself and the owner of the club over who was liable for payments which hadn’t been made under the terms of the Arrangement), the club was demoted at the end of last year and forced, as a result of ground grading regulations, to play its home matches forty-five miles from its home town, in Stafford.
These ground grading regulations, however, have not been accepted by the clubs owners Jim Rushe. In August, with crowds for “home” matches at Stafford failing to get into three figures, the club sought to take the matter beyond the Football Association (who had ruled that the home that Rushe wants for the club, the former home of the now-defunct Flixton FC, hadn’t met ground-grading requirements by the Northern Premier Leagues end of March deadline – a simple fact which is a fact of life in non-league football and has been for some years) to the European Court of Arbitration for Sport, only to find that the CAS would not hear the case because the FA has its own arbitration process. This arbitration case was adjourned last month and is expected to be heard at the end of this month.
Against such a background it is hardly surprising that the clubs Supporters Trust had come to be expected to take some sort of action, and it is this that led to this evenings vote. The path to this evenings vote, however, has been about as far from smooth as can be imagined. The Supporters Trusts own forum, which has become a de facto web forum for all of the clubs supporters over the last couple of years or so, has become a battleground between a relatively small number of pro-Rushe agitators and a number of the Trusts membership. Quite why people who are clearly fundamentally opposed to the Trust have been allowed to continue to spout their bile for so long without being banned is a mystery, but this forum has come to resemble a train wreck in recent week, with almost every thread descending to slanging matches with wearying regularity. The sooner these people are left out in the cold for good, the better.
More curious than even this have been the comments of Graham Bean this week. Bean, a former South Yorkshire policeman, chair of the Football Supporters Association and the FAs the first Compliance Officer, now runs a company called Football Factors, which specialises defending disciplinary charges within the game. As a former chair of the FSA, we might have expected Bean to have a little sympathy for the plight in which the supporters of the club – through no fault of their own, something which cannot be understated – have found themselves – have found themselves, to the extent that they were forced into tonights vote. On his Twitter account, Bean had this much to say on the subject of the Supporters Trust (and the spelling of these tweets has been left as per the original messages):
“So any Club purporting to be NVFC is open to legal challenges…..”
“The name Northwich Victoria FC is interlectually property right owned”
“Hope the NVFC Supporters Trust know Football’s Appeal System as well as JIm Rushe does……..if not then theyve got problems……”
“Question – Has NVFC Supporters Trust got the finance to defend a legal challenge to their constitution?”
“Legal advisors suggest Serious questions being raised about the validity of the composition of tomorows NVFC supporters trust spm . Oh dear.”
Beans messages raise more questions than they could ever possibly answer. Does he seriously believe that the new club for Northwich will take the name “Northwich Victoria FC” or that – and this is particularly pertinent when we consider what a toxic brand the club has become over the last few years or so – it would “purport to be” Northwich Victoria FC? What aspect of the Supporters Trust seeking to sever its ties with this wretched cadaver of a football club would have anything to do with “Football’s Appeal System”? Who would seek a legal challenge to the constitution of the Supporters Trust or raise questions about the validity of the composition of their meeting this evening, and why? And in a broader sense, considering that the Northwich Victoria Supporters Trust has been taking the advice of Supporters Direct for some considerable time, could he be considered to be questioning the competence of that organisation? Considering its close working relationship with the Football Supporters Federation, we can probably be forgiven raised eyebrows at a former chairman of the FSFs direct predecessor aiming broadsides at a Supporters Trust, of all things. Beans company Football Factors, meanwhile, has been in administration for the last eleven months.
None of this, however, is the concern of the supporters of the new club for Northwich any more. Tonights conversation that has been one that has been held before, at Wimbledon, at FC United of Manchester, in Enfield, Scarborough, Bromsgrove and Chester, and we shall repeat what we have said before on this sometimes difficult and often emotive subject. No-one knows where this new club will end up – what name it will take, where it will play what league it will end up playing in or at what level of the game it will eventually settle at – and it is fair to says that the hard work for all concerned starts first thing in the morning. What we do know, however, is that the supporters of once a football club have seized the initiative and can now start working towards building a club of which the town of Northwich – the part of it which doesn’t support local rivals Witton Albion, that is – can be proud, which rebuilds relations with local businesses that had been severed by the unpaid invoices of the Northwich Victoria FC, which re-engages its dormant support and which controls its own destiny, no matter what that may turn out to be. It will be one hell of an adventure, and it should go without saying that we wish them all the best with their fresh start.
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