Macc Are Back
We should probably take our good news where we can get it, at the moment. There will be football in Macclesfield again. It had felt as though this story had run as far as it might. Macclesfield Town Football Club, founded in 1874, had been wound up at the High Court and expelled from the National League. The end. Just two weeks ago, it was revealed that the former club’s Moss Rose ground had been put up for sale on Rightmove, looking for offers in excess of £500,000. The end, it felt from a casual glance, was nigh.
Today, however, came a most welcome surprise. It was reported that a local businessman, Robert Smethurst, had effectively bought the club – to be precise, the leasehold to Moss Rose and all assets therein, including main offices, entertainment facilities and dressing rooms, as well as the club’s intellectual property rights. Former player and occasional caretaker-manager Danny Whitaker, who signed for Town again as a player the day before they folded, has been appointed as the new manager, with Robbie Savage, of all people, on the new club’s board and acting as their Head of Football Operations.
It is the best possible outcome, considering what came before. The heart and soul of Macclesfield Town Football Club will survive completely intact, albeit under the new name of Macclesfield FC for the time being and at a considerably lower level than they have played for a very, very long time. It’s a completely fresh start, which gives the new owners the opportunity to rebuild a club of which its community can be proud. It feels as though it’s been a while.
And they will be in familar company should they start in the First Division of the North West Counties League alongside Bury AFC, although it’s unlikely that they would be meeting in league competition until they were both promoted, as Bury are in Division One North and Macclesfield would almost certainly be placed into Division One South. It’s too late for them to get anywhere near starting anywhere this season – memberships are decided at AGMs, and these are usually held at the first two weeks of June – but this likely isn’t a bad thing.
They surely won’t be short of opponents for friendly matches, should they want them. These things are all relative, but clubs below Step Three can admit heavily limited crowds at present and they may be welcome of the extra revenue. Whether the new club will want to, of course, is a different matter. It would likely be best to save on any wages or other costs beyond the minimum required without the regular income of league competition. Regardless, it’s certainly a considerable advantage over clubs that have to form at short notice, even if the team that starts next season doesn’t much resemble any they may put out over the course of this season, or even the start of next summer.
There’s history in their new surroundings, too. The three divisions of the North West Counties League feature a former four former Football League clubs – Nelson, Northwich Victoria, Darwen, and Bootle, though Darwen are the successor club following the winding up of the original, whilst Bootle stretch this even further, having been formed more than half a century after the original club that had the Football League place. The NWCL itself came about as a merger of leagues which included the Cheshire League, which the original Macclesfield Town in 1968, in their last season before leaving to become a founder member (and, as things turned out, the first champions) of the Northern Premier League.
So, while the senior professional game labours under the weight of the proposals leaked to the press last weekend, there are rays of light from elsewhere and outside of the pyramid. Crowds may be restrictioned – and there’s every possibility that these restrictions will get more severe again before they’re eased in any meaningful sense – but otherwise the grassroots, which has lived with existential crisis for as long as it’s existed, are the closest thing that there is to business as usual in these most unusual of times.
Amar Alkadhi achieved what very football club owners manage, thankfully. He killed a football club. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing terrible football club owners on these pages, but few of them have gone so far as to get a club wound up at the High Court. He, however, is a mere footnote in a much bigger story, a story that goes back to 1874, before the formation of the Football League, when crossbars were still made of tape and goalkeepers were identified by the colour of cap they wore. For 146 years, Macclesfield Town formed a small but crucial part of the identity of the town, and it was inevitable that a club would return, although the manner of its return is a pleasingly tidy surprise. You can liquidate a limited company, but you can’t liquidate a feeling.