Hidden away in the back pages of a couple of local newspapers, another football club is dying. It’s a club that has been to the brink before and, unlike, other, bigger clubs that have faced financial problems this season, they haven’t exactly hogged the headlines over the last couple years or so. Farsley Celtic have crossed our rainbow, firstly when their chairman openly considered changing their name to “AFC Leeds” to try and grow their local support and secondly when they fell into serious financial difficulties during the summer over an unpaid a £200,000 bill to HMRC which resulted in their near expulsion from the Blue Square North. It was only at the last minute that a new consortium was believed to have stepped in after the club entered into administration.
Seven months on, Farsley Celtic are still in administration, and the wolves are back at the door. Leeds City Council had offered to lend club president John Palmer the money to buy the club, but the deal through earlier this week. The club is said to owe £750,000 overall to its creditors, and a sizeable amount of this is owed in fees to Mazars, the company that has been managing the administration. The administrators turned down the offer to purchase the club (and had described a second offer to buy the club as for “their own business purposes”, which would seem to indicate that those concerned had been largely interested in the site of their ground), which meant that their game against AFC Telford United this evening was postponed. The administrators now state that there are forty-eight hours for another offer to be submitted to the club, otherwise they will pull the plug.
In other words, then, there is no further funding for Farsley Celtic and, even considering how desperate things were last summer, this is a new low for the club. Perhaps surprisingly, they have been performing reasonably well on the pitch this season. They are seven points above the relegation places and would have been pushing for a play-off place had they not had ten points deducted for entering into administration in the first place. Supporters, however, have been largely left in the dark by everybody, with only occasional press releases from Mazars on the status of current negotiations that have often been scant on the sort of detail that fans have come to expect in the modern era.
Whether the club finds new owners is in the balance. There seems to be no organised supporters group at Farsley that can step in and take action to try and save the club so, at present, all the eggs are in the basket of the council lending the money to John Palmer to complete a take-over, so all eyes will now fall upon the Football Conference who, just than seven days after they expelled Chester City from the Blue Square Premier, may now be called upon to take similar action against Farsley Celtic. In this respect, by withdrawing funding from the club, Mazars could be said to be playing a very dangerous game. There is surely no way that the council would agree to fund the takeover of the club if it was suspended or expelled from the Blue Square North. The death of the club would surely be inevitable, even though some are saying that this would just lead to a two division relegation for a reformed club.
Where, though, would it play? This is the major concern for supporters of Farsley Celtic AFC. At Chester City, the stadium is council owned and there are reasonable grounds to hope that the local council will help a new club, if or when the old one finally withers away and dies. At Farsley, though, it is a different matter. The club sold a proportion of the land around its ground, The Throstles Nest, a couple of years ago and didn’t receive full payment for it. They own the remainder of it still, though, and it seems that the smell of this meat has attracted the vultures. The administrators have no option but to work in the best interests of the creditors, though, and, after months in administration and with no hope of the club being purchased at a price that is agreeable to creditors, it is hardly implausible to believe now that everybody concerned just wants a slice of The Throstles Nest.
Yet again, though, the needs of the supporters seem to be the last thing on the minds of all concerned with the death of Farsley Celtic, and the fact that these same supporters are so much in the dark demonstrates in itself the perils of not mobilising at the onset of financial difficulties. The talk of the club having been “saved” at the start of this season now seems to have been little more than a postponement of what might have happened during the summer and the continuing existence of the club is now in the lap of the Gods. Whether Farsley Celtic can now find themselves some sort of “saviour” in the next forty-eight hours is one question – whether the creditors of Farsley Celtic AFC are actually interested in the club being saved is another one altogether.