Eastwood Town Football Club looks in danger of folding after 61 years in existence.
The Badgers’ Coronation Park ground has been padlocked by landlords Broxtowe Borough Council and the long-term lease to the club terminated with immediate effect.
That throws the Badgers’ entire existence into jeopardy, with the events of this week being the strongest indication yet that the club’s life could be about to come to an end.
The ground’s gates and office doors were locked up on Tuesday and notices posted forbidding anyone to enter without permission from the council.
A meeting with club officials on Wednesday then resulted in the council terminating the long-term lease of the Coronation Park pitch and facilities to the football club, leaving the Badgers homeless and unable to fulfil their fixture with Kidsgrove Athletic this weekend (see league statement below).
In a statement issued by the council on Tuesday, they claimed Eastwood Town FC had not paid any rent since 2011 and presently owe £45,135.06. More than £26,000 of this is in respect of business rates.
The statement continued: “The council have made repeated attempts over the years in order to engage with the club to try and set up repayment plans to enable the club to remain open.
“This has included extensive involvement with Nottinghamshire Football Association. Representatives of the club have attended repeated meetings however no payments have been made.
“In cases such as this the council tries every route possible in order to keep such community organisations open and running but a complete failure of the club to cooperate in any way has left the council with no alternative.”
The council’s portfolio holder for resources, Cllr Pat Lally said: “The council tried everything to keep Eastwood Town FC open, however we cannot do this on our own.
“We know the disappointment that this will cause to those who support Eastwood Town FC and both local members and officers have repeatedly tried to get the club to face up to its financial situation and work with us.
“The management of the club simply have not tried to resolve the situation. It is a mark of how much time and effort the council have been prepared to invest that this situation has been on-going since 2011.”
Those comments were then echoed by the leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, Cllr Milan Radulovic, who told the Advertiser on Wednesday that the authority could no longer tolerate the alleged failure of the club to pay up.
He said: “We ultimately have a responsibility to the taxpayers as it is they who are losing out when rent and bills aren’t paid.
“We’ve tried on so many occasions to make contact with the club and to arrange payment of the debts, but nothing has happened.
“With debts mounting up and figures getting out of hand, we felt we had no option but to lock the ground and terminate the lease, with the full support of the Nottinghamshire Football Association.”
Incredibly, the latest situation comes little more than a week after a winding-up petition served by HM Customs against the Badgers was dismissed in the High Court.
The club is expected to release a statement before the weekend. In a text message to the Advertiser earlier this week, club owner Steve Lynch denied that all of the council debt stemmed from his tenure, but has since been unavailable for comment.
While the immediate future remains unclear it is feared the club will fold in due course.
A statement issued by the Evo-Stik League on Thursday said: “An e-mail received yesterday evening (Wed) from the secretary of Eastwood Town Football Club advised the Northern Premier League that the club would not be able to meet current fixture obligations due to a notice being served by Broxtowe Borough Council prohibiting entry to the Coronation Park ground.
“The full content of the correspondence plus any additional information received from the club will be considered at a league board meeting this coming Sunday, January 26.
“The Eastwood Town v Kidsgrove Athletic First Division South League fixture scheduled for Saturday 25th January is postponed.”
“The Northern Premier League will not be making any further statement with regards to Eastwood Town FC until after Sunday’s meeting.”
For more from Broxtowe Borough Council leader Cllr Milan Radulovic, including his thoughts on the future of football in the town, see www.eastwoodadvertiser.co.uk.
by Mark Duffy (Twitter - @DuffersSport)