Monday, May 16, 2011

Burscough FC

The following is a complete copy and paste from a news report concerning Burscough FC, the club I support.

I could copy and paste the dozens of angry, confused and emotional messages and forum posts from across the League and Non-League communities, or the Burscough fans who have found themselves in the middle of one of the most rapidly developed rug-pull stories in a part of the football industry which has an unfair share of unfortunate events. I could let rip myself, because the walks to and from work have given ample opportunity to refine exactly what I feel about the people currently travelling down the road which would see the home of football in Burscough - over a century of the game in the middle of a small village in West Lancashire - vanish at the stroke of a pen. From many perspectives, that fate has already occured. Victoria Park is a no-go area, the club effectively wiped off the map without a chance for supporters to gather their thoughts.

Across the Internet, and beyond, the reaction from football fans up and down the Leagues has been edifying. To their credit, Skelmersdale are being as welcoming and supportive as they can, though the finer details of the ground share into which Burscough is being forced lies beyond the finanical reach of those desparately trying to save the club from extinction.

The Burscough supporters message board can be found here. As of last week, the club's official website has been taken down for reasons unexplained.

The future of Burscough FC is in the balance after the Chairman and Secretary were sacked by post and the team was moved to nearby Skelmersdale in dramatic new developments in the long running ownership saga.

Discussions over the club’s future has led to the owners of the club sacking the Chairman and Secretary with immediate effect, as fans wait and see if they will even have a club to follow next season.

Chairman Frank Parr and long-running secretary Stan Petherbridge were sent letters on Saturday (13 May) informing them they are no longer needed at the club.

According to Keith Forshaw of the Burscough Supporter’s Club: “This morning Stan Petherbridge was informed by post that his position as club secretary has been terminated with immediate effect.
“Martin Gilchrist has appointed his son as the new secretary. Stan was informed to end any correspondence regarding the club and cease to use any official BFC letterheaded paper.”

Meanwhile, Chequer Properties, the owners of the club, will pursue a ground share with nearby Skelmersdale United, moving the club out of Burscough for the first time since its foundation in 1946.

Owners Paul and Martin Gilchrist have signed an agreement to share the ground and plan to sell Victoria Park. However, unlike when the company bought the club last year, they refused to promise to offer Burscough an alternative ground once they moved out.

A covenant on the ground states the current site can only be built on if there is another site for the team to play on in Burscough.

This means any move to Skelmersdale should be temporary, but it is believed Chequer Properties are searching for ways to bypass the covenant and permanently move Burscough out of the town.

However, things could get even worse for Burscough because of the added cost of renting Skelmersdale’s ground. With crowds of around 150 expected to drop dramatically once the club is no longer playing in Burscough, the club’s days seem numbered.

The club’s website has been removed, with only a sign stating it is ‘under construction’ in its place as fans await the owner’s future plans for the club.

Fans are already in discussions about the possibility of a new Burscough team owned by the fans after seeing their team, which won the FA Trophy as recently as 2005, ripped away from the village it serves.

A member of the Supporter’s Club says ‘wheels are in motion’ to create a new supporter-owned club, and talks have begun with Supporters Direct, an organisation which advises on setting up and running football trusts.

Property developers Chequer bought the club last year when it was struggling financially. Chequer had already bought the rights to build on Victoria Park and completed a takeover of the club when previous owner Chris Lloyd.

Chequer Properties originally promised no intervention in the playing side of the club, but have already sacked manager Andy Gray in February to the dismay of the supporters.

Chris Stammers, Gray’s replacement, was forced to deal with player sales as the club struggled in the Evo Stik Premier and were relegated to the First Division this season.