As the recession seems to pass the big clubs by with their millions of pounds of debt and sugar daddy owners, spare a thought for the fans of Blue Square Bet South side Truro City.
Having been founded in 1889, the club survived extinction in the 11th hour after the intervention of a local nightclub owner and a taxi-firm owner who stumped up the required £50,000 bond needed to ensure Truro can see out their fixtures this season.
So how did all this happen?
Truro City relied heavily on the financial backing of an individual, Kevin Heaney. When Heaney was declared bankrupt in the summer, the club could not cope with running costs and travel arrangements to away games. This has led to a rumoured debt of £700,000, which no club at that level can sustain without any problems. Under the guidance of sugar daddy Heaney, the cornish club gained 5 promotions in 6 years and chasing the dream of the Football League proved to be the undoing of the club.
It is not the first time this has happened in Non-League football, Canvey Island were forced to resign from the Conference National in 2006 after Jeff King ended his funding as the club could not continue ‘with gates around 4-500′ He had taken his side from the Essex Senior League up to the Conference National and enjoyed incredible success in the FA Trophy and a memorable FA Cup run in which they dumped Wigan Athletic out at the JJB Stadium. The club was forced to rebuild from the Ryman Division 1 North, a fate which Truro looked destined to follow.
Why should teams like Truro City, Farlsey Celtic, Darlington, and Northwich Victoria be pushed towards extinction when clubs such as Manchester United can harbour millions upon millions of pounds of debt without being sanctioned, when the hardworking clubs of the community with a core of close knit supporters are left heart broken when their club owes a pittance in comparison to their professional counterparts.
How can this be ended?
Partnerships could be introduced between non league teams and football league clubs to assist the long term futures of the clubs that mean so much to so many people. When Rotherham United were in administration neighbours Sheffield United provided assistance by loaning several players including Stephen Quinn whilst providing funds to help pay wages. Surely, a similar thing can be done by big clubs with small teams in trouble. In the case of Truro City the closest clubs would be Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City, both have experienced financial trouble in the past.
The winding up of a club does not just affect the fans, players also face a huge problem. For players in the non-league football provides a huge slice of their weekly income and to lose work as a semi-professional player could prove costly. This shows the need of stability with any club as people’s livelihoods are at stake and careers could be shattered due to the mismanagement of any club.
This can be seen at Portsmouth, who made huge redundancies to staff members working at the ticket office and the canteen, affecting the lives of the real people on the street. not just the players and board members.
The FA and the Football League need to ensure each and every club have a suitable set up and have a low risk of becoming reliant on rich owners. Clubs at every level need to be self sufficient and settle for the level they are best suited.
It is always good to dream, but in cases like this, the dream can sometimes turn into a nightmare!