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Non-league Clubs in Trouble

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A number of non-league clubs are in trouble. Blue Square South club Lewes need to find £48,000 by tomorrow or face an Inland Revenue winding up order. The problem for the club is that Lewes, nice though it is, is hardly a football town and any fans there are can go into Brighton or even up to London without too much difficulty. Former League club Chester City, now in the Blue Square North, have not paid their players for November and December and now they have been told to find other clubs. At Conference club Kettering, Imran Ladak has quit as chairman saying that he will no longer subsidise it to the tune of £5,000 a week. Ladak has been involved in a long-running dispute with the FA in which he claims he has been the victim of poor communications. However, a bigger issue is that Kettering are not eligible for promotion as the lease on their Rockingham Road stadium runs out in three years and there has been little support from the local council for a new stadium.

However, there is a limit to what local councils can reasonably be expected to do. Zamaretto Midlands side Bromsgrove Rovers, once a Conference side, have complained that the local council is killing off the club. £350,000 in debt, they offered creditors 5p in the pound. They needed 75 per cent of creditors to accept the offer, but only 68 per cent did. Among those who rejected the offer were HM Revenue and Customs, to whom they owe £75,000, and the local council. No one likes to see a club disappear, but a council owes a duty to its taxpayers as a whole, not all of whom may be football fans. The days when football clubs could expect to run up big debts with the taxman and then not get chased for the money are over. Indeed, David Sullivan, who is interested in purchasing West Ham but has also been looking at other clubs, said on Radio 5 today that he had been alarmed by what he had found out about the financial condition of clubs. He feared that one Premiership club might go under, while a number of Championship clubs were teetering on the brink.

However, non-league clubs defeated in the 3rd round have benefitted from their cup run. York normally lose £300,000 a year and received a £150,000 boost from their trip to Stoke City. Luton's trip to Southampton earned them about £150,000 which will be used to reduce budgeted losses. Barrow made £200,000 from this year's cup run. However, the club's regular attendance of 1,000 - 1,300 at home games is not really enough to support Conference football, let alone promotion to the Football League. 1,600 - 1,700 is needed for the club to break even, but they are aiming at an average of 2,010 for the remaining games of the season to help them financially.