One of the most curious aspects of the ongoing crises at Weymouth Football Club over the last couple of years has been that every time the club has got into trouble, someone has called on “local businessmen” to bail the club out. This line was trotted out again this week by their new incumbent chairman Ian Ridley after The Terras slid out of the Blue Square Premier last week after three seasons. Ridley returned the club, where he had previously been involved (brilliantly documented in his book about his time there, “Floodlit Dreams”), after the removal of… too many different people in too short a space of time.
The club has sailed close to the edge over the last couple of years on several occasions now, and every time one starts to think that they may be out of the woods they seem to slide very quickly back into trouble. Ridley has to make some very harsh decisions about the future of the club. They are believed to be half a million pounds in debt at the moment and Ridley has put the cost of relegation at £100,000. The club issued shares in the hope of raising some much-needed funds, but the reaction was disappointing and the future of the club remains in some danger.
Where Ridley seems misguided is in his hope that, yet again, “local businessmen” will come out of the woodwork and help the club again. Weymouth is a town of a little over 50,000 people and various local dignitaries have over the years, for reasons from the largely altruistic to the almost completely self-serving, been persuaded to part with cash in order to keep the club alive. Whether yet another consortium can be found, especially in the current economic climate, remains to be seen. Weymouth supporters could certainly be forgiven for wondering whether this seemingly eternal search for a panacea in a sharp suit will ever really come to anything.
In theory, there is absolutely no reason why a football club cannot flourish in Weymouth. They averaged crowds of around 1,000 even when struggling, regularly came close to 2,000 when doing well and still hold the record crowd for a Blue Square South match, when 5,022 people turned out to see them play St Albans City in 2006. They are, however, massively hamstrung by the ongoing issues surrounding the ownership of land immediately surrounding their stadium and the fact that said stadium, although opened only twenty years ago, is already somewhat outdated and, of course, the colossal debt which they carry.
Ridley states that as “a club of honour”, they will work as hard as they possibly can to avoid entering into adminstration, and it is a minor miracle that they haven’t done so already. This is the honorable path to follow, but it remains a distinct possibility that they will have little option but to enter into insolvency proceedings in order to survive into the new season and, if that means starting ten points behind everyone else, then that is a price that they may have to pay. They surely cannot keep lurching from crisis to crisis forever. That said, however, they have shown remarkable durability in the past and Ridley may yet pull another rabbit out of the hat.
Tonight’s post is a cut down version of what I had hoped to post, but server problems meant that we were “down” for a couple of hours this evening. Many apologies.