When the axe fell upon Kings Lynn Football Club it was no great surprise, considering what has been going on at the club, not only over the last couple of weeks, but over the last year or two. The biggest warning sign came with the demotion of the club from the Blue Square North. Their ground, The Walks, is a big, fine old stadium but it required work after they were promoted into their new league. It was even rumoured that the council had offered to pay towards the cost of the repairs. The work, however, wasn’t done and the club was demoted into the Unibond League at the end of last season.
Whether this was mere incompetence or a symptom of something more malign is something that we will probably never know. What we know for sure is that is that the financial situation at the club was deteriorating rapidly, and that they continued to spend. The tax bill was up to £77,000 by the time that HMRC issued a winding up order against them and they had debts that were said to be in the region of a further £150,000, but money was still being frittered away on players. The wage bill was said to be £4,000 per week – two divisions below the Blue Square Premier.
At the first hearing at the court two weeks ago, all was adjourned for seven days to try and give the club a little breathing space, but this was a futile attempt at extending the life of a patient that was already clearly in the death throes. The hearing was adjourned for a second time, and there was talk of a last minute takeover bid which came to nothing. The club’s majority shareholder Michael Chinn gave up the ghost at the start of the week and today the club died – wound up. It is now to be assumed that the club’s record will be expunged, and one hundred and thirty years of Kings Lynn Football Club came to an end.
Out of darkness comes light, though. This is probably not the best time to be considering the past. Now is the time to take a moment and consider what can be salvaged from this particular train wreck. The most important thing to remember is that The Walks is a council-owned facility, and it is to be hoped that a new club in the town will be recognised by the council as an asset to the community. It can be, and the way forward for football in Kings Lynn is clearly now a supporters trust run club. Rather than being a burden, a new club should build community outreach into its very consitution and building stronger bonds in a town in which support for the club is clear and obvious.
Kings Lynn is a town that we already know is plenty capable of supporting a club with average crowds. There are some that have expressed concern over whether the interest will still be the same with a new club in the Ridgeons League (where they would be likely to have to restart next season), but these claims seem overstated. Why not sell this as an opportunity to cast themselves free and create the sort of club that they have always wanted to be a part of? There are no barriers to the progress of the club under supporters trust ownership that aren’t in the minds of the very people that are in a position to mould this future. The temptation may be strong, if the opportunity comes up, to give up control of their own destiny to a “consortium of local businessmen” (or whoever). These people, after all, have a tendency to promise the earth.
However, the warning signs are all over the place. When the time comes to make a decision over the future of the new club, Kings Lynn supporters would be best advised to consider Weymouth, Lewes, Chester City, Boston United and a whole host of other clubs on top what happened to their own club. There are people in the world that have all the patter and will be able to sell them anything. Nothing, however, is guaranteed. At the dawning of a new club, the decisions that the supporters of the new Kings Lynn club take need to ensure one thing above everything else – that their new club exists and that it continues to exist.
There is, however, nothing to stop a prudently run Kings Lynn club progressing back to the level from which they fell. It will require time and effort from quite a few people, but supporters might even find that, after a couple of years of indignity and the death of their club, they enjoy the journey back to where they have come from. It is certainly a realistic target.