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Recession Hits Non-League Clubs

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Non-league football clubs are taking a big hit as the economy slips into recession. Conference outfit Grays Athletic have cut their players' wages by a 50 per cent payment deferral to avoid going into administration which is technically a breach of contract and allows players to leave. Workington managed to negotiate a voluntary 10 per cent cut. Despite riding high in the Ryman South, Folkestone Invicta are on the verge of financial meltdown. They have reported a downturn in matchday revenue and appealed for fresh sponsors to keep the club afloat. Blue Square South Eastleigh have had to deal with a £100,000 sponorship shortfall and have forced every member of staff to take a wage cut. Salisbury City fans raised more than £45,000 in a fortnight, but the club still faces a huge hole in its budget. They failed to replace the financial backing of former director Peter Yeldon who left at the end of last season. Their situation has not been helped by gates falling by more than 300.

Winchester City, who won the FA Vase in 2004, but have been propping up the Southern League, exemplify the problems that can arise. The club is facing the biggest crisis in its history as it approaches its 125th anniversary. It overspent its budget by tens of thousands of pounds last year. The cash crisis was caused by bigger bills including gas, electricity and water charges. None of the players are paid a salary and just claim petrol expenses, but the club still costs £80,000 a year to run. The challenges are very different from those in the Premiership. Acting chairman John Moody commented, 'Footballs are £40 each and we need a lot of those in a year. Kits are £500 a go. We used to darn socks in the older days but can't any more as nylon socks ladder.' It is hoped that a consortium of six business people will step in to save the club.

Northwich Ground Is Safe

When Northwich Victoria played at the Drill Field it was the oldest continuously used football ground in the world. Now they play at the Marston Arena and they will not be forced out of their new home because of the collapse of the company that owns it. Beaconet Ltd., owned by former chairman Mike Connett, went into receivership at the end of October. Its assets will be sold to pay off creditors. Under normal circumstances, the stadium would be sold to the highest bidder, leaving the club homeless unless it could find enough money to buy it. But because of a lease signed by the club Vics are protected for the next 25 years. Northwich are named as 'successor tenants', meaning that anyone who buys the ground is obliged to let them remain. Rumours of a merger with neighbours Witton Albion have been dismissed. A groundshare has been mooted, but Witton own their own ground and would not want to leave.

Facebook Bid To Rescue Club

An attempt is being made to rescue ailing Leigh Genesis by using social networking site Facebook. Supporters are preparing a bid for the stricken Unibond Premier side through the internet social networking site after club backer Dominic Speakman pulled out. Fans are being asked to share the team's running costs. A Facebook group called 'If Enough People Join We Can Buy a Football Club' has already attracted 800 members in just six days. The last straw for Speakman came when Wigan council reportedly told the Genesis owner it would cost £3,000 a month to steward games in their much-delayed new stadium.