That such a volte-face should come about so quickly was, to be perfectly frank, a surprise. This time last week, Wrexham FC had been sold to a consortium led by Jon Harris which was probably backed by Colin Poole and that, they wished us to believe, was that. Although it felt as if the fight wasn’t over yet and a visit to Poole’s Netley Hall in Shropshire at the weekend may well have been an embarrassment to him – not least because of several of the comments that his wife made at the time – there was still a suspicion that this particular battle was slipping away from the supporters of the club. While there was nothing to link Wrexham Supporters Trust with the direction action method that had been chosen by some of the club’s support, it seemed likely that the rest of this week would be spent with thinly-veiled (if veiled at all) accusations that the trust itself had been behind such actions, along with further allegations being made.
They didn’t have to wait very long for the allegations to spring forth. An article on the Daily Post’s website stated that there had been two arson attempts made against the student flats that cluster around a part of The Racecourse Ground, and Ian Roberts was quick to attempt to link this to other events with the somewhat extraordinary statement that, “If it does turn out that it is connected to the sale of the club, then this is not sport – which at the end of the day it’s just a game of football – this is terrorism.” It is not, at the time of writing, known whether there is any link between this incident and the recent rise in tensions concerning the future of the club. Until such time as they confirm a link, the only reasonable thing to do is assume that there isn’t one. The Leader Live, meanwhile, followed the party line of that catch-all word “intimidation” in their description of the effect the weekend’s events may have had upon Poole’s future involvement with the club.
Such considerations, however, were, in the overall scheme of things, mere ships that pass in the night in comparison with the news that started to leak from the club’s supporters forum later this morning. Wrexham FC, it was being said, first in hushed voices, and soon after with more than hint of celebration, was to be sold to the Wrexham Supporters Trust. The truth of the matter is, of course, more complex than this. The WST still have to complete due diligence and ensure that there are no nasty secrets hidden in the club’s accounts. At that point, the real work can start. The WST will not own the ground, but will have time to raise the money to purchase it and complete the process of securing it for the good of the entire town. After a decade of being shunted from pillar to post, of being living, breathing proof of the failure of the model of football club ownership that they are now seeking to break free from the straitjacket of, the possibility of controlling their own future may just be starting to appear on the horizon.
It goes without saying that this will not be easy. Reports of losses being made by the club over the last few years have continued to be horrifying, and these have to stop or be brought under control. It may mean a reduction in the club’s circumstances for a while, but this would have had to happen no matter who the new owners were. To lose, as has been suggested, £1m per year in the Blue Square Premier is, put simply, hopelessly unsustainable. It could not continue, and these losses are the biggest single reason why the club is up for sale in the first place. This is the reality of football in the lower divisions. None of this means, however, that supporters of the club should have any reason to feel particularly pessimistic about their future, for should this sale be completed there is every chance that they can make it work.
To this extent, the hard work will begin with confirmation that the sale has gone through. Football clubs have a tendency to have a symbiotic relationship with their clubs, an affection that runs deep but can be distracted or put to the back burner. Wrexham FC is capable of bigger crowds than it has been of late. The supporters trust needs to rebuild bridges with local businesses and supporters that may have drifted away over the years. As important as this, though, the club’s support itself now needs to be unified. Internecine arguments from months or years gone by need to be forgotten. Every single supporter needs to join the trust. Significant amounts of money have to be raised to keep the club solvent and to push forward with the purchase of The Racecourse Ground. With this control comes this responsibility, but they can do it. There are plenty of examples of clubs that have in recent years.
Over the last few months, Wrexham’s supporters have fought an outstanding rear-guard action against those that have been circling their club over the last few months or so. When Stephanie Booth attempted to wrest control of it whilst neglecting to mention that she was barred from acting as a company director until next year, it was they that made this critical information public. When the dismal Van Morton proposal, with its stench of Stephen Vaughan hanging in the air, got too close, it was their suspicion and protests that were the leading reasons behind the group’s withdrawal. When Poole, another barred director and a man also disqualified from acting as a solicitor, was set to get involved, they also saw him off through after a legitmate protest at his property. But for their vigilance, any of these people could now be in charge of their club by now – that they aren’t is an indicator in itself of the extent to which these supporters deserve their chance. Moreover, and most importantly of all, the Wrexham Supporters Trust has conducted itself with dignity and courage throughout a difficult few months. They deserve their chance and, if you are a Wrexham supporter reading this, they deserve your support too.
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