Weymouth Football Club, one of the ongoing financial basket-cases of the last three years in non-league football, might have finally reached the end of the line. Reports on the BBC this morning confirmed that, with talks with new buyers having collapsed, the club’s administrators are planning to wind the club up this morning. It will be the first folding of the new season should it come to pass. Perhaps the local businessmen of the area, almost all of whom seem to have been involved in the running of the club over the last three years, finally ran out of patience with the belief that the club could continue to trade.
Administrators were called into The Wessex Stadium a few weeks ago, but talks with consortia hoping to buy into the club have proved to be fruitless. With debts approaching half a million pounds and only Blue Square South football being played, this is perhaps hardly surprising. The administrators cannot allow the club to continue to run up debts while in administration, and the players at the club are already not being paid. If they see no way out, as is starting to become more and more likely, their ultimate responsibility is to ensure that the club is wound up as quickly as possible.
The likelihood is that, should Weymouth Football Club fold completely, their record would be expunged and the Vlue Square South would continue with twenty-three clubs. The overwhelming smell to come from The Wessex Stadium has been one of a rot that set in long ago. There is no reason why a football club with a catchment area the size of Weymouth can’t be successful, but for years the club chased a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that didn’t really exist and with new “investors” often seeming to be more interested in the value of the land upon which their stadium sits than the wellbeing of the club that plays there.
It is this that is probably the most disturbing aspect of the situation at Weymouth. If the club goes bust, then so be it. Football clubs obviously cannot be allowed to continue to spend and live beyond their means and there will be occasional casualties. The big loss, however, is the potential loss of a sports facility – the stadium itself – to the community. Weymouth owns its ground, which will be sold off to the highest bidder should the closure come, and this will immediately hamstring the club’s supporters trust should they decide that they wish to form a new club.
At most clubs that have fallen into difficulties over the last few years, this hasn’t been a problem and it highlights one of the curious paradoxes of stadium ownership. Clubs that play at grounds owned by their local councils and get into difficulty at least have the comfort zone of knowing that the facility will remain and that any new club will be able to continue to play at it. Grounds that are privately owned, however, have to be considered by the administrators to be an asset of the stricken company running the club and have to be sold as part of any liquidation proceedings. The tragedy of Weymouth is likely to be that the town will be left perhaps permanently without a football stadium rather than it being temporarily without a football club.