Time For A New Football Club For Gateshead

At an opening meeting held at the Pelaw Social Club on Tyneside last night, a brave but inevitable proposal was made. A crowd of around 200 people turned out to hear the Gateshead Soul Supporters Association confirm their wish to sever the cord with the team that they support and start afresh. It has been reported that there was a small amount of dissention towards the plans, but that overall a majority of those in attendance were in favour. The new club may be able to start in the Northern Premier League, but it is more considered more likely that it would be placed in the Wearside League.

Those in attendance were informed that the new club has the support of the council and of the local MP, Ian Mearns, and also that there are already potential stakeholders in place. It is unclear from the outset whether this new club would be trust owned or whether it would have a significant shareholding, but a Go Fund Me page set up has collected just over £6,000 towards a target of £50,000 to get it up and running for the start of next season, an encouraging start for the new club. If this momentum can be maintained, there should be no issue with getting the new club set up for the start of next season.

The support of the local council seems especially significant. After all, they own the International Stadium, and they have just evicted Gateshead FC from there. Gateshead claim that they will be playing there next season, but they have been evicted from the stadium over the non-payment of rent. Even if they now paid everything up to date, the contract still has to be legally terminated in order for the eviction to have taken place. The council could, should it wish to, offer the tenancy for the International Stadium to the new club.

The confirmation that the club would be staying at the International Stadium came, perhaps unsurprisingly and with more of a hint of desperation about it, from Ranjan Varghese, who earlier today completely contradicted a statement that he had issued earlier in the week when being interviewed by BBC Radio Newcastle this morning. On Tuesday, a statement issued by the club written by Varghese which contained the following:

It has become more and more apparent to fans, players, officials and sponsors that the International Stadium is not ideal and we have been working hard behind the scenes to identify an appropriate venue that could become our new home.

We are currently exploring several options and expect to make an exciting announcement in the coming weeks.

This morning, however, he said the following:

I never said that we were going somewhere else. We are going to play in the Gateshead International Stadium, and we are not going anywhere. This season we are going to play there, and we have this new board, and we will have a team and we will be playing there. So, everything will be fine.

We have a fantastic relationship with the council, we have a fantastic relationship with the Football Association, and we have a fantastic relationship with the league and everyone.

That’ll be the council who’ve evicted you, the Football Association that is currently investigating Joseph Cala (who failed the Owners & Directors Test himself but has been acting very much a shadow director over the course of the season just ended despite this), and the league that may well expel your club altogether at its AGM in a few weeks time, then. It doesn’t feel as though Dr Varghese has the first idea of what he’s even talking about.

This wasn’t all that Varghese had to say in this interview, either, though. He confirmed that the club’s reserve coach Dave Dickson will be managing the first team next season. It’ll be quite a step up for Dickson, who’s currently managing the reserves in the Bay Plastics Northern Football Alliance League. They’re in ninth place at the moment, in a sixteen team division. Varghese also confirmed that he is no longer actively looking for a new buyer for the club, though, it is still for sale at a price, and he now claims that it is debt-free. Presumably all the players and other staff have been paid in full and in cleared funds, then, and the rent arrears paid in full, along with anything outanding to HMRC. Good news, if true.

In reality, though, it all sounded like a fever dream, or – more likely – a panicked and desperate reaction from somebody who with the feeling that walls are closing in around him. The media are more interested in him now than they have ever been before, but Google searches for his name aren’t going to be terribly flattering for some considerable time, now. The Football Association and National League are starting to take a strong interest in goings-on at the club over the course of the last year or so. And now a bunch of the supporters – no-one knows exactly how many yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it was the vast majority of them – are breaking away to form their own club. It’s doubtful that this was what he had in mind when he got involved in the first place.

But spare your sympathy. Ranjan Varghese is a grown adult who became involved in all of this entirely of his own accord. Whether he is or isn’t the person actually running the club – and we don’t believe that he is – a football club has been dragged to the brink of death within a year of his watch beginning. This is a situation of his making, and should it collapse around his ears then he only has himself to blame for getting involved in the first place. Another nail was smacked into the coffin of Gateshead FC, but at this stage it feels like death and rebirth would be a blessing for those who care about it.

The full statement released by the Gateshead Soul Supporters Association is reproduced below. You can donate to their Go Fund Me here.

Gateshead Soul Supporters Association needs your help to save football in Gateshead:

Our club, Gateshead FC, has been completely decimated by a spiteful and morally bankrupt group of charlatans following the end of the 2018/19 season.

The current situation at ‘Gateshead Football Club’ is nothing short of abysmal and a complete insult to the borough of Gateshead which has had a football club proudly representing it for almost 80 years.

Following the sacking of all staff members via email, the Gateshead Football Club we used to know is no more.

Countless lies have been told over the course of the season as the 79-year tenure of a football club under the Gateshead name playing in Gateshead is set to come to a shameful end.

And with no players, staff or home – it’s heartbreaking to admit that the evil which somehow got its clutches onto our once proud football club has well and truly killed it.

‘Gateshead Football Club’ is now nothing more than a name owned by some charlatans who seem perfectly content destroying it with no sense of remorse or decency. It is beyond saving and we cannot afford to wait any longer for the FA to act.

As previously mentioned, our only option as a committee of fans that will ensure football survives in Gateshead under the Gateshead name is to form a new club together.

Establishing a new club would be a real project that we want everyone to be part of. New clubs will be considered for step 7 in the non-league pyramid, but can get special dispensation to achieve as high as step 5.

We would look to have a competitive budget which can be achieved through various income streams the most important of which will be this Go Fund Me page.

This will help provide a solid foundation and starting point to allow a new club to hit the ground running for the 2019/20 season.

We will need as many backers as possible but the end result could be something truly special.

We will have a club to support, one that we can be proud of on and off the pitch.