In the recent vote on forming a breakaway Northwich side, 97% of fans voted in favour. A new fan owned club is born.
In the end it wasn’t even close. A vote of 141 for to 4 against means that Northwich Victoria Supporters Trust will break away from Northwich Victoria to form their own club for the 2013-14 season.
This is truly a monumental and brave decision by the Trust as, on the outside, it looks like it could split the fan base. The truth of the matter is much different however as the average attendance for the Vics exiled in Stafford is 83 and the Supporters Trust numbers over 200. With the ST now actively looking for a ground to play on in Northwich (probably Witton’s ground) the likelihood is there will be two Northwich teams next season one in Northwich and one in Flixton. For the non-diehard fan it is fairly obvious which one they’ll go to if they don’t fancy Sky’s offering that Saturday. If the ST can find a ground in Northwich, or very close, they will have the best possible start.
A potted history of how Northwich Victoria reached the point where fans left to form their own club can be read on this very blog.
The man who handed in the petition to trigger a vote on a breakaway club, Tony Rogers, gave a speech (in full here) just before the vote was taken explaining some of the reasons why Northwich ST should breakaway and start afresh. He said: “Vics isn’t a business that’s owned by one individual, where the history has been inherited with the price tag. Northwich Victoria Football Club is the moral property of the community, of this town and the proud history is the life blood of the fans and supporters. The fans are the club and the club is the fans and we want to stop feeling ashamed about Northwich Victoria, we want to feel that pride and passion again.
“Tonight members have a once in a lifetime opportunity to regain the true meaning of a community based football club. Owned by the fans, for the fans and of the fans of our town. We also have a moral duty to the generations of Northwichers no longer with us to right the wrong.
“We have the opportunity to leave a legacy for our children as the founding members of a new fans owned football club, not a new history but a new name and a new chapter in the current history of Northwich Victoria.”
Current Northwich Victoria owner Jim Rushe had an odd reaction to the news of the ST’s defection saying in the Northwich Guardian that they were welcome to start their own club. He said: “I’m all for it, I don’t want the grind of all the speculation any more. Of course I’d prefer it if the fan base wasn’t split, but it is.
“I hope the trust forms its own club, because only then will they find out how hard it is to keep one going. It takes many hours in a week, and I’m not sure they’ve taken that into consideration, it’s an enormous undertaking.
“You can’t run a football team from behind a desk or on a computer. Sometimes you have to make a decision on the spot, without the help of a committee.
“Let’s see who steps up; who will be the one to make those difficult choices?”
This does seem a pretty strange reaction to the loss of a huge proportion of fans and, presumably, income. How does he expect the club will be able to survive?
Rushe also claims to have a big announcement within the next two weeks which will signal the Vics return to Northwich but apart from ground sharing with Witton – which they have refused in the past – there seems to be no other option in the town other than building a stadium. Something the club, thousands of pounds in debt and playing to tiny crowds cannot afford.
Rushe’s reaction shows his inflated view of himself – ‘if I can’t do it well, how can anyone else?’ On the BBC Radio 5-Live Non-League Show this week Rushe uses all the old favourite excuses of failing chairmen at football clubs. He said: “The club had four days to go when I got there. I’ve kept it going with my own personal money for the last five years; I’ve not asked anybody to contribute.
“I’m not saying that I haven’t made mistakes along the way, I’ve made many, but I’ve learnt from them and carried on. I’ve paid a high price for things that have gone on a long time before I was there.”
So he managed to tick off ‘it’s not my fault’, ‘I’ve put loads of money in’ and ‘I was a white knight’ all in a few sentences. He’s only got to disregard the fans as an entity in itself and he has hit the jackpot.
Rushe added: “I own all the shares along with my son so therefore it does make it my club.
“Northwich Victoria is the club that I own the shares of and we will eventually end up back with the genuine supporters of Northwich Victoria.”
Yep. There it is. That ‘build it and they will come’ attitude. You have cracked it Jim, you really have.
Thankfully the Supporters Trust no longer has to wait and see what mess Rushe has managed to get the club into this time but instead get to take matters in their own hands and create a club which can represent the community and hopefully become something that all of Northwich is proud of.