They were the trailblazers, the team from the wilds of Cornwall who could afford to fly to games and who rose quickly from nowhere with ambitions of flying straight up to the Football League. But Truro City wanted too much, too soon and found that ambition without solid financial foundations burns far more quickly than the sun. Today, however, a club with 123 years of history was expelled from the Football Conference, and is now set to plummet down through the leagues with the only thinnest parachutes to catch them. Like their dysfunctional cousin Kettering Town, also about to finally lose grip on the window sill and join the fall, Truro are victims of abuse, financial mismanagement, broken promises and warped logic from so-called businessmen who lost sight of the words ‘Football Club’ at the end of the team’s name.
Last Thursday, as storms lashed the south-western peninsular, swirling winds carried mixed messages from Cornwall and from the Conference to Twitter. First the club were saved, the bond required to show they might be able to continue had been paid. Next the bond had been paid but the cheque hadn’t cleared. Hopes were raised and spirits soared, only for the winds to drop and send them falling once again as news of the failure of the administrators attempts to pacify the Football Conference became apparent. By 8pm BBC Cornwall and the local paper were reporting that the lawyers for the administrators currently handling the club’s affairs had admitted no bond had been paid. The confusion seemed to lie between the Conference’s stance that they expected the bond to be paid and the harsh reality from the administrators.
The Conference wanted a £50,000 bond, the administrators Walsh Taylor offered £10,000 guaranteed by Cornwall Council but this wasn’t accepted. Then last Saturdays game against Dover Athletic was postponed, announced by Dover, and eventually some time around 9pm confirmed by the Conference with an air of inevitability. “Saturdays match has, therefore, been postponed in the overall interest of the Competition and to protect Dover Athletic FC against incurring costs and consuming time, that may subsequently prove to be wasted.”Official news from the club was not forthcoming, the club website has been down for over a week – the hosting hasn’t run out, it’s just been taken down but James Moore, solicitor for the administrators told BBC Cornwall that; “It looks as if its heading towards liquidation.”
What the Conference’s statements neglected to mention, was that it wasn’t just Dover Athletic and perhaps their own time which has been wasted. The Truro fans, the newly formed Supporters’ Trust, even Cornwall County Council, spent time, money and effort in a bid to save their club. The players, many deferring wages time and time again, staying when others would have walked, showed faith in the club’s owners and, more recently, the administrators only to have it thrown back at them. In real terms Truro’s debt wasn’t huge and the lease on Treyew Road was set to run for at least another few years. But for the administrators trying to sell a financial basket case as a going concern was always going to be a tough ask. And to many the fall of Truro was almost inevitable, yet another parable of the dangers or mixing businessmen, wild ambition and non-league football.
Appearing seemingly from nowhere Truro City started raising eyebrows a few years back with rumours of big budgets and flash gestures (chartering a plane to a game while they were still in Step Four of the non-league pyramid). But the new kids in the league did good, winning promotion after promotion all the way up to the Conference South. For the fans, at one of the southernmost outposts of non-league it was a glorious few years, of victory and seeing their club finally soar within touching distance of the Conference, and maybe, just maybe the Football League. But this was where the first feathers began to fall. Indeed, the first hint that Truro’s wings might be held with wax came at the start of last season, when the widely-circulating rumour was that the players weren’t being paid. The rumour morphed into a winding up order, HMRC weren’t happy and the club was handed a transfer embargo which descended on them like a fog, stopping new signings and making it increasingly hard for their increasingly embattled manager to even build a squad.
The team travelled to Gloucester City for their FA Cup Third Qualifying Round tie and were soundly beaten by seven goals to four. After the game players complaints over their post-match meal concerned whether they would be able to pay their own food bills that month. Another deferral deal was agreed and none of the players threatening to walk away had actually gone by the time the two teams met in the FA Trophy a couple of weeks later. Kevin Heaney, meanwhile, was buoyant in the boardroom on the day of that FA Cup game, despite the fact that he must surely have known better than anybody about the desperate straits into which his club was falling. After dealing with the two winding up orders Heaney officially left Truro City FC in August, leaving a trail of broken schemes and fractured plans behind him. One of his final moves was to sell the ground to a consortium called JoJo Investco (run by his wife) just before the club went into administration.
His dream for Truro City to play at the Stadium for Cornwall is long dead, with the detailed plans announced two weeks ago now only including the Cornish Pirates rugby team. Heaney had hoped to relocate Truro City to allow him to build houses on the site of Treyew Road. But first his own construction company went under and then Persimmon Homes, linked to the site as recently as the beginning of this year, weren’t interested anymore. The hoped-for white knight – former manager Steve Massey – did look at taking over the club, before walking away, with the ominous comment; “As a business proposition you’d walk away from it, it just doesn’t make sense.” A seven day extension in order to give the club one final opportunity to find that £50,000 bond came to nothing. Talk of an anonymous investor looking to keep the club afloat had been going on all week, but this reportedly collapsed this morning. So what now? Thrown out of the league, still in administration and still in debt, liquidation is now surely on its way and it remains to be seen if the covenant placed on Treyew Road which requires a new ground to be provided if that site is redeveloped will remain valid for either Truro City Reserves or any future “AFC Truro” phoenix club.
The mood from the fans is one of grief in its various stages, some remember the happy times, some are angry, some are looking to the future with a Supporters’ Trust and a fan-owned club. After Farsley, Rushden and a host of other clubs who’ve fallen by the wayside it is especially poignant that the critical point in the failure of Truro City came on the eve of a Non-League Day which was so successful elsewhere. And in years to come, should children be playing in the back gardens of new homes on the site of the ground where Truro fans once cheered on their team they might feel a coldness pass over them, as the angry memory of where 123 years of football history came crashing down continues to linger on. And yet, and yet… with death comes rebirth. Supporters of the club should reform under their supporters trust. They should agitate for a full investigation into the sale of Treyew Road and the events that both preceded and followed this sale. They should rebuild their club away from the sort of speculate-to-accumulators and carpet-baggers that dragged it towards todays final and surely conclusive defeat, and they should bear in mind that their support – their club – is in their hearts and their shared memories, rather than in the dismal details of the limited company that failed them so badly. Truro City will live again. It’s now down to the supporters of the club to decide what they want this new club to be.
Edit: By 5.30 this afternoon, some five and a half hours after the Football Conferences second deadline to pay this £50,000 bond had been paid and three and a half hours after the meeting at which the club was due to be expelled from the league, it is now being reported that the bond of £50,000 required to keep Truro City playing has been paid and that the club is to be allowed to continue to play, although, at the exact time of writing, we are have had no official confirmation of this. We’ll update in the morning, by which time something approaching the truth regarding todays absolutely farcical events may actually have emerged.
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