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Monday, 22 December 2014
Former chairman Mark Jenner insists football will continue at Homelands PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 August 2010
ASHFORD TOWN’S future still remains unclear tonight, despite the crisis club issuing details from sole owner Tony Betteridge today, writes Stephen McCartney.

Mr Betteridge, who owns the freehold on the club’s Homelands Stadium, won his fight to take ownership of the troubled Kent club at the end of last week.

The club have gone from one crisis to another during the summer months.

Manager Steve Lovell guided the club towards safety in Ryman League Division One South with a final day home win over Chatham Town. 

But the club’s troubles came to light with a boardroom battle between Mr Betteridge and Mr Don Crosbie, and as a result, Ashford Town face falling into football oblivion.

The club were suspended by the Football Association as a result of an unpaid fee of just £2,000 to sign a couple of players on loan from Ebbsfleet United.  

Ashford Town withdrew from the Ryman League on 20 July and Lovell has stayed true to his word and stayed on as manager, with a loyal bunch of players continuing pre-season training in the hope that they will be playing football soon.

Speculation was rife yesterday before Faversham Town’s Kent League Shield game against Herne Bay that Ashford Town was no more.

Lovell issued a statement to www.ashfordtownfc.co.uk late on Friday night.

He said: “I have talked with the new owner (Mr Betteridge) of the club and have this to say to all Ashford fans.

“When I came to this club I made an agreement, I will remain manager until I am sacked or told to leave.  I have always given my word and honoured by contract.

“There is still a long way to go until we can play football for this coming season, but unless things are sorted by this Sunday at midday, I will have to hold a meeting with all players and advise them to seek new teams.

“But like the captain of a ship, I will stay until the end.

“I would also like to say thank you to all the fans who have rallied, when people left, when things needed doing, all the volunteers, who without which the club would have struggled on a day to day basis.

“Thank you to all the fans who have stayed and supported the team - even when results were not going our way.

“Remember, all things happen for a reason, and hopefully the club can now look forward.”

The Kent League have already published their opening day’s fixture list - and so has the top-flight of the Kent County League - and there is no sign of Ashford Town.

Today, Supporters club vice-chairman Matt Parker spoke to Mr Betteridge.

“Tony was keen to stress that after the court case ended on Thursday he wanted to speak to the Kent FA and Ryman League about a league for this coming season,” Mr Parker told www.ashfordtownfc.co.uk.

“Unfortunately the appeal process took away any time to sign legal documents on Friday, meaning at the current time the club is run by the administrator. Due to the process nothing can happen until Monday.

“He admitted more than once that Ashford Town is currently in limbo.

“He wanted to put across his side of some of the statements made in the past 18 months.  During his co-ownership Tony states he paid players wages, including towards the end of the 2008-09 season, and at times he was left confused by the actions of his co-owner (Mr Crosbie).

“Tony stated he didn’t want to come out of the Ryman League, but admits that Mr Crosbie had to do it so the court case was heard before the summer recess.

“Tony hopes that there will be football for Ashford Town this season, but time is not on his side.

“Speaking to Steve Lovell this morning he said that he still has not received guarantees that he requires and has laid out all the facts to the players.  He doesn’t believe the majority of players will be able to sort out new clubs within 24 hours and hopes tomorrow to be more fruitful.”

The actions of certain people has seen the club split within it’s foundations.

Club secretary Elaine Orsbourne and her husband Alan, who undertook several duties ranging from administration, boardroom hospitality, kit and treating injured players, quit and press officer, Sam Dixon has recently publicly explained his reasons behind his exit.

Posting the following message on the fans’ forum, Mr Dixon said: “I would just like to say that I am no longer associated with Ashford Town Football Club.   Having known Don Crosbie for some years and worked closely with him throughout his time at the club, I know he only ever had the best interests of the club at heart and gave his all to make the club a success for the fans.

“Don Crosbie is a football man and always will be.  Seeing him after some defeats proved how much the club meant to him.

“People are of course welcome to their opinions but until you know the full story why (do supporters) feel the need to come onto a club forum to gloat about someone who only gave their all for a football club?

“For me the club is all about the fans and I sincerely hope you have a bright future at the club and concentrate on the place where it all matters - the pitch.

“I am a Gillingham fan, like all Gills fans support local teams and want the best for football in this county.  I have spoken to a few and all are very sad about the situation but wish Ashford Town FC all the best.

“I have nothing to hide.  I came in with Don and gave my all in trying to make the programme as good as I could, and as I’m a loyal person I will leave with Don, with my head held high, which is exactly what Don Crosbie should do.”

Basically, no-one actually knows what is going to happen to a football club that was formed back in 1930, and supporters just want to take up their places on the terraces to support the Green and Whites, managed by a man who should take a lot of credit on how he has acted during these depressing times - Lovell.

Mark Jenner, the chairman before Crosbie and Betteridge took the reigns in March 2007, gave his take on the current situation.

“I might be able to clear a few things up having also spoken to Tony today and during last weeks turmoil,” he said, in a message posted on the club’s fans’ forum.

“First of all the process of insolvency, Don Crosbie had sought to steal away the club by way of a pre pack administration via a friendly Administrator. This was contested and Mark Fry of Begbies Traynor, formerly Administrator of Southampton FC, was appointed as independent Administrator by the Court. 

“Having invited bids on Thursday, Tony Betteridge's bid was declared the winner despite it being a lower figure as Don Crosbie’s

“Don Crosbie’s bid was conditional and it was thought unlikely the conditions attached could ever be met.

“Don Crosbie attempted injunctive action against the Administrator which failed to overturn the original decision. By the time this was confirmed it was late on Friday leaving no time to deal with any of the formalities of transferring the assets of the club out of administration or to contact any of the football authorities to determine where it will be possible to play for the coming season.

“Tony Betteridge has made contact with Maidstone to try and secure their continued ground sharing as at least in the short term the income will be valuable to getting things moving again and at the very least to keep football ticking over at the Homelands. 

“The bank account remains frozen until the formalities are dealt with, I understand there is about £6k available there which will have to be used to pay down any football debts such as Ebbsfleet which do not become extinguished by the insolvency process as do all the other debts. The FA will need to be satisfied this is done before a new registration can take place.

“Tony Betteridge will be contacting the Kent League tomorrow but the latest news that there are now no players to form a team will not help to resolve that issue with the new season due to start next week. So that remains an unknown at this point.

“Just to slay a few myths, there are no plans to merge with Maidstone, a daft idea, no plans on developing the land at Homelands, since I live near the ground I have always made it plain 'over my dead body'. The 200 club money is safe in its own account and will be handed over at the right time.

“The next few days will resolve most issues so everyone will just have to be patient, there is no magic wand and quite a few obstacles to be overcome. This is not an authorised statement but if anyone posts intelligent questions on here I will endeavour get some answers on your behalf where possible. 

“In the meantime I suggest everyone considers the war to be over and to get behind whatever plan emerges to maintain football in Ashford. There are no other choices. On the positive side the new club will be completely debt free with a solid owner who is not without resources, its partly up to you to persuade him how to apply some of that resource.”

Quotes courtesy of www.ashfordtownfc.co.uk
Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 August 2010 )
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