Kettering Town have become the latest high profile non-league team to hit serious financial difficulties. This started to become apparent last season when players went unpaid and things have gotten steadily worse since then. The club were demoted to the Evostik Southern league after signing a CVA agreement that would end a transfer embargo that has been looming over the club.
As things have gone players have refused to play and train, leading to a recent game against Bashley (which could end up being their last) the club could only field ten players, and after a fine first half performance, where they restricted their guests to just one goal, ended up losing 7-0 in front of just 304 people. Their following fixture could not be fulfilled and had to be postponed due to the Poppies not being able to name a squad, and their next game is under threat for similar issues, and is also dependent on the power supply at Nene Park (their home since leaving Rockingham Road in 2011) being switched back on.
After existing since 1872, and turning professional 19 years later, they have spent their entire history in the non-league pyramid of English football, and were founding members of the Football Alliance in 1979. They had stayed in the division ever since bar a few years a decade ago. They have had good pedigree in the FA Cup, being the competitions biggest goalscorers with 774 goals in nearly 350 appearances. They also reach the third round in the early nineties and the fourth round just a few seasons ago, and reached the FA Trophy final twice, only to be unsuccessful on both occasions. This is the club where Ron Atkinson began his managerial career, and where Paul Gascoigne spent his entire management career (granted it was only 39 days long). They truly are the nearly men of English Football, and now they have been reduced by crippling debts, uncertainty over ownership and serious managerial issues (the club are on their fourth manager of 2012 as this is written).
It is a shame when the FA speaks so much about grass roots football that issues like this are allowed to develop, whilst the clubs at the top of the game are allowed to build up debts of hundreds of millions of pounds. There has been more and more non-league clubs going out of business over the years, and while some of them are living beyond their means, there is a big problem with owners who come in and are allowed to run the club into the ground. These clubs have a history and a big part in the local community, and the state of football in this country would be a lot better if all clubs were treated equally and given more assistance as and when needed from the ruling body, this is happening at a time when the FA showed off their new £105m training centre for the England squads.
*Whilst writing this piece, another non league club, Truro City appear to have been unable to save themselves from liquidation. A number of plans to save the club was rejected this Thursday (Oct 11), including a bond from Truro council to help pay the players wages, although that would only have been 50% of one months wage, when the players were owed three months pay. Manager Lee hodges could not guarantee that even with this payment, that his players would play at the weekend against Dover Athletic in the Blue Square South. Expulsion from the league will almost certainly mean the end of over 120 years of history for the White Tigers.