Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stanley strive to survive

It's got an all too familiar ring to it. The year was 1962, and Accrington, founder members of the Football League, were forced to resign from the league after going out of business.

Nearly 50 years later, and Accrington Stanley, the club which rose from its predecessor's ashes, are now facing a financial crisis of their own.

The Lancashire outfit have been given just seven weeks to raise over £300,000 to pay outstanding tax to the Inland Revenue.

The fight to survive, and avoid a similar fate as their ancestors, is well and truly on, with over £75,000 raised this week alone.

More than 3,000 turned up for their home game against Darlington on Friday night, including fans from fellow League Two clubs Bury and Morecambe.

All club staff, from players to stewards did their job for nothing, and some season ticket holders even paid for entry to the game. And, with a late 2-1 victory secured on the pitch, it was a winning night all round.

Neighbours Burnley, and their ever-impressive boss Owen Coyle, also staged a friendly game in midweek to help raise funds for Stanley. Over 5,000 turned up on a typically crisp night at Turf Moor to back the club's cause to the tune of £35,000.

It's a sign of the special atmosphere and bond between the Lancashire football family, as well as Coyle's philanthropy. While you might not get a Blackburn and Burnley, or Preston and Blackpool fan wishing one another well, it seems there's genuine affection towards Accrington.

A picturesque view at Accrington's Crown Ground - but the future looks bleak

However, perhaps the reality is that Accrington as a town cannot sustain a Football League club. Sandwiched in-between two Premier League clubs in Burnley and also Blackburn, the club will always struggle to attract support.

Indeed, they often rely on Clarets and Rovers fans attending games when their own side is playing away. Attendances averaged just over 2,200 in their first season back in the 92, but have consistenly failed to break the 2,000 barrier in subsequent years.

Coupled with the current financial climate, which saw them lose the backing of main club sponsors Fraser Eagle, and the challenge to make ends meet is a great.

Accy's manager, the sometimes genial sometimes outspoken, John Coleman continues to work wonders on a very tight budget though. If earning Football League status in 2006 was a great achievement, keeping Stanley up has been even more impressive.

Have they simply risen too far though? Unless a club is lucky enough to have a benevolent and wealthy owner, then attendances and resources will always result in a glass ceiling - a level in the pyramid that the club will never be able to sustain playing at for long.

And, sooner rather than later, they will return back to a level that they can sustain without having to go over-budget or live beyond their means. Did the club, in aiming to restore Football League action to Accrington, stretch themselves too far?

However, the overriding feeling is that having a football club in Accrington is now of greater importance, regardless of what league they are competing in.

When they club went broke in the 60s, it was Oxford United who took their place in the League. Three years ago, it was Accrington's turn to replace the Yellows, but with Oxford currently top of the Conference, history could well be about to repeat itself again.

Accrington will just hope they're around to see it this time.


No comments:

Post a Comment