Well, they left it late. At about 4.25 yesterday afternoon and with adminstration looming, Weymouth Football Club were rescued again. This time, the owner is the former Cambridge United chairman George Rolls. Rolls finds himself in an unenviable position. His arrival at The Wessex Stadium comes two weeks after the club itself confirmed that it was looking for a firm of insolvency practitioners that it could use to enter into administration. How much longer they could have lasted without beginning insolvency proceedings remains unknown, but what we can be reasonably certain of is that Rolls is going to have to make difficult decisions if he is going to keep this incarnation of the club alive.
Rolls himself comes with a little baggage, courtesy of a crazy couple of weeks during the summer that led to his resignation as the chairman of Cambridge United. In the space of a couple of weeks, Cambridge lost two managers – Gary Brabin and Marin Ling – with both claiming “irreconcilable differences” having come up between them and the board. Ling lasted just nine days in charge of the club. Ling returned to The Abbey Stadium after Rolls resigned his position The issue casted a long shadow of the start of a season during which some believed Cambridge could have a serious tilt at the Blue Square Premier championship. The instability hardly helped their start to the season (they lost at home to Barrow on the opening day) and the club have stuttered this season, currently sitting in a mid-table position in the league.
Hopefully, Rolls will have learnt a little humility from the episode. He may need it if he going to pull Weymouth’s various warring factions together. They are five points from safety and remain rooted to the bottom of the Blue Square South table, but there are already green shoots of recovery starting to show on the pitch. They haven’t lost in the league since a defeat at the hands of St Albans City at the end of October and last Saturday they recorded a morale-boosting 3-0 win over local rivals Dorchester Town in the FA Trophy, a match which also saw a season high crowd of 1,032 – another small bonus at a time during which every single penny makes a difference to securing the club’s future.
Roll’s arrival at The Wessex Stadium doesn’t in itself cure the clubs problems. The club’s overheads remain horrifically high and the issue of how costs can be slashed in order to keep it financially viable. The club also remains heavily in debt, and it has an obligation to start addressing this rather than continuing to trade at a loss. If this isn’t addressed, then the arrival of George Rolls at the club may prove to be yet another false dawn at a club that has made something of an art form of false dawns over the last three or four years or so.
Hopefully, Weymouth Football Club’s supporters will have learnt a few lessons themselves during this traumatic period. The club’s support has been reduced to the hardcore over the last year or so, and the test facing everybody at the club is how to now rebuild the image of Weymouth Football Club in the eyes of the local community. It has become a byword for being a financial basket case and for infighting. Now is probably as good a time as any for hatchets to be buried, vendettas and spats to be consigned to the history books and everybody that supports the club to get behind the team.
Every time that Weymouth Football Club has been saved over the last couple of years, though, these things have been said and, a few months later, familiar arguments have been rehashed, old ground has been recovered and the same mistakes have been made. The one thing that the club absolutely must not do is start spending money that it almost certainly hasn’t got on trying to avoid the drop from the Blue Square South. Weymouth Football Club needs to find its level and if it turns out that this is the Southern League or the Isthmian League for a couple of seasons while it gets it house in order, then so be it.
Hopefully, though, these are lessons that have by now been learnt. The most important thing about Weymouth Football Club is that it should continue to exist, not whether it brings in trophies or plays in a division that people may think they are “entitled” to be in. Their supporters should look at Kings Lynn, who may well cease to exist in the next few days, and take a moment to consider how lucky they have been yet again. If this actually does turn out to be the beginning of the end of one of non-league football’s longer running soap operas, Weymouth Football Club should, perhaps, change its motto to something appropriate to act as a reminder for those that may forget these lessons over coming years. “Never Again”, perhaps, or, “There But For The Grace Of God Go I”.