Football is ours, it always has been, but this seems to be lost in the upper echelons of English football. There has been a steady increase in billionaire owners coming into our game and ripping the heart out of clubs we love. This has caused some to turn to Non-League, and in grassroots there’s a mini-revolution taking place, with many clubs becoming owned by supporters. One of these clubs is facing extinction and desperately needs cash by the end of November to steady the dream. That club is AFC Telford United, and they need our help.

AFC Telford United are already a phoenix club, after the original Telford fell into the abyss in 2004. At the time, the chairman and sole stockholder was Andy Shaw. Unfortunately, for both him and the club, his business – Miras Contracts – collapsed which resulted in severe financial difficulties for the Bucks. They went into administration and the fans rallied. Within two months they were able to raise £50,000, but it wasn’t enough to put a dent into the £4 million plus which was owed by the club. United went into liquidation.

On the same day as they saw their team disappear, Telford United Supporters LTD announced they would be forming a new club, and AFC Telford was born. A club owned by the fans to make sure the community still had their heartbeat. The club was put into Step 8, plying their trade in the Northern Premier League. In recent years, the Lilywhites have been bouncing between the National League and National League North, where they currently sit in 19th place.

This week, the board of directors released a bleak statement regarding the immediate future of the club after a lengthy meeting. The statement read:

“The club is now in a position where cash flow is extremely difficult. Income has fallen, particularly from gate receipts, and some key costs have risen. An example of this is the Safety regime now in place at the Stadium which has added the cost equivalent of 400 full paying adults for one game, for one test to the Barriers. Many other costs are increasing too. Some income streams have remained flat including commercial income. We have tried to provide the upmost support to ensure the team on the field is successful, but there is at least one income stream that was budgeted to support this which has as yet failed to materialise.”

“For the record, there is no winding up order against the club nor are we aware of one pending. Players and Off Field Staff were paid on time at end of September. Any other outstanding payroll will be paid over the coming days as usual. The club does have trade creditors though and we are concerned that club has a reducing ability to pay these unless urgent action is taken. Our projections for October, November, December raise these same concerns.  Ideally, we need to raise £25k between now and the end of October, and the same by end of November. The primary way this can be done is obviously by generating as big a crowd as possible for this Saturday’s game.”

The full statement can be read on their website but essentially the books aren’t balancing. How much longer the club can stay afloat for is coming into question – they need help before it becomes a desperate situation.

In modern football, there are many fans frustrated at their owners. Look at the situations at Blackpool, Coventry, Blackburn, and Leeds. Of course there are other clubs, the list goes on lately. Football was always about serving the community, giving supporters some light relief from their day to day lives. Many clubs have lost that feeling, with owners becoming more interested in appeasing corporate hospitality. Increasingly people are losing interest in the upper leagues of English football, instead heading to Non-League to rekindle their love of the game. Within the grassroots structure are many supporter owned clubs, all with the objective of keeping the heart of their community alive. We’re seeing so many clubs lose that heart, becoming cold and corporate.

Those community clubs should be applauded, and true football fans everywhere should do everything they can to help them survive. They might not be your club, they may well be a rival, but without those keeping the dream alive, too many clubs could go the way of the Charlton’s of this world.

AFC Telford face another club created by supporters this weekend, when they welcome FC United of Manchester to New Bucks Head on Saturday. FC United were created due to the disapproval of the Glazer regime at Old Trafford. It seems fate that these two clubs should face each other when one is at a time of need. Two teams born out of similar reasoning – fans wanting to keep the true meaning of their clubs alive. The hope is both sets of fans will turn out in large numbers to help fill the bank with much needed cash, but there is also hope the footballing world can help.

A donation link has been set up on the Telford website. Already the ‘Back the Bucks’ campaign has received over £2,500, with the figure gradually rising. This is where we can all help, by clicking the link and simply giving a small amount you can help a community maintain their dream. Instead of buying that second pint or getting a cake with your morning coffee, donate to AFC Telford United. The Shropshire town have already lost their club once before. Together, as a footballing family, we can ensure they don’t have the heart ripped out of their community again.

Back the Bucks and spare what you can

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