The Bailiffs Cometh: Kettering Town’s Final Hurrah At Rockingham Road
On the pitch, Kettering Town have picked up a little of late. Two consecutive draws have lifted them just out of the relegation places in the Blue Square Bet Premier and, even though the club’s transfer embargo remains in place, they even managed a full substitutes bench their match against on Tuesday night. However, while manager Mark Stimson may be be getting somewhere close to achieving alchemy on the pitch, the club’s financial situation continues to be a source of major concern going into the new year and, whilst a home league match against Luton Town on New Years Day, the question of whether or how Kettering Town will able to survive above or beyond the end of this season while playing at Nene Park remains a depressingly valid one.
Chairman Imraan Ladak has claimed that the club’s transfer embargo – in place over non-payment of money to Crawley Town over two players that were loaned to the club during less fallow times – will be lifted next month, but it doesn’t seem as if too many of the club’s support believes a single word that comes out of his mouth any more. Ladak also claims that the club’s financial difficulties would be essentially resolved if “two sums of £48,000 and £158,000 that we believe are outstanding” were paid by sponsors of the club, but it seems again that his exhortations to keep the faith are falling upon deaf ears at the moment and, while there can be little question that just over £200,000 would be very handy to any club playing at their level, as times goes on and still this money fails to materialise, it starts to feel more and more as if it ever will – and even if it does, what is becoming apparent that the economics of the club’s move to Irthlingborough was based upon a fundamentally flawed plan. If there actually ever was a plan at all, of course.
On Monday morning, however, those turning up at the club’s old home at Rockingham Road in Kettering itself, where the social club that was being sub-let to the club’s Supporters Trust by Kettering Town Management Limited, were given something of a shock when they found that the gates to the ground had been locked by bailiffs acting for the property developer Ben Pickering, who is the owner of the ground and with whom Ladak had failed to agree an extension on the club’s lease beyond 2013. Of course, such situations seldom occur without somebody being made aware of it, and a representative of Pickering’s solicitors, Howes Percival, subsequently confirmed that they had served notice at Rockingham Road in November in order to remedy the breach of the tenancy contract.
Interviewed by BBC Radio Northamptonshire during the week, the Kettering Town Supporters Trust Chair Mark Severn stated that, “things weren’t right at the club, so we’d had a discussion to be prepared for any eventuality – but we didn’t realise it’d happen in twenty-four hours”, before going on to add that, “We felt it was important, when the upheaval occurred in the summer, that we had a base in Kettering for Kettering supporters.” Now that base is gone, and there is a strong case to be made for saying that the club’s links in all but name with the town that they called home from 1872 until last summer are now dead. The supporters trust will certainly miss the social club, which was a critical base for fund-raising, but perhaps just as important as this is the symbolism that being locked out of Rockingham Road represents. The loss of the ground is one thing, but that the club was presumably aware of forthcoming action but doesn’t seem to have informed the supporters trust speaks volumes about a club which has been managed in recent times in a manner that can only be reasonably described as somewhere between cavalier and reckless.
The home league match against Luton Town on New Year’s Day will bring some much needed money into Kettering Town, yet it still feels as if this club is still heading towards a point of no return. If the supporters trust is to look into a new club as a contingency plan for the possible failure of this one, though, the clock is ticking, and without a home in the town to return to, the first job of a new club in the town would have to be to try and secure a new home back in Kettering and keep hold of as much of its current support as it can. If such a plan is going ahead now, though, it is being kept very quiet. The trust voted not to form a breakaway club during the summer and has continued to support the current club, in spite of serious reservations on the part of some members at the time that the vote was taken to move to Irthlingborough.
If Imraan Ladak’s credibility is shot to pieces with the club’s support base, perhaps now is the time for the supporters trust to become more vocal in its criticism of the chairman, to make it clear that it may be able to offer an alternative should the worst come to the worst and to offer a rallying point for supporters of the club who are sick of having being told repeatedly that everything is going to be okay without seeing anything material to back this up. The end may or may not be nigh for Kettering Town Football Club, but the future may yet be up for grabs. It is time for the supporters of Kettering Town FC to fight – metaphorically speaking – for the future of their club.
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