Lynch responds to criticism over Badgers crisis

Barriers are blocking entrace to Coronation Park, home of Eastwood Town FC. Photo by Lizzi Lathrop.
Barriers are blocking entrace to Coronation Park, home of Eastwood Town FC. Photo by Lizzi Lathrop.

The former owner of Eastwood Town, Steve Lynch, has responded to criticism from many of the club’s supporters and from Broxtowe Borough Council surrounding the current crisis at Coronation Park.

Lynch has been the subject of a great deal of anger from fans following the Badgers’ recent demise, which could see the club fold in due course.

The council also claimed Lynch and the club had been given ample opportunity to pay off crucial debts, and that it had no other option but to end the club’s lease at its ground.

But in a statement sent to the Advertiser this week (see in full below), Lynch claimed he had spent a lot of money trying to help the club get back on its feet since his arrival, and that he was confident any issues involving council debts and other notable arrears could have been sorted out.

In response to Mr Lynch’s statement, Broxtowe Borough Council leader Cllr Milan Radulovic reiterated his comments in last week’s Advertiser that Eastwood Town could be allowed no more time.

He said: “I refute the claims that we could have done any more given the time they’ve had.

“The decision to put the locks on was not taken lightly at all. If an individual goes two or three months without paying council tax they get a court summons. Eastwood Town failed to pay rent for three years.

“We’ve a duty to the taxpayer and gave the club every chance to pay its debts.

“For many years the council took a lenient stance but the time has come to say enough is enough.

“I offered two years ago to try and discuss things at the club in front of everyone, including fans and staff. This was refused.

“The debts weren’t paid, and now we are keen to move forward and are committed to making the ground a community sport facility, not only for football but also including building an artificial pitch and a skateboard park on the premises.

“Several teams and organisations have approached me wishing to use the facilities under the current terms.”

Meanwhile, the Nottinghamshire Football Association has echoed the council’s claims that Eastwood Town were given plenty of opportunites to make rental payments prior to the termination of the lease of Coronation Park.

Notts FA development manager Ricky Stevenson said: “The Nottinghamshire FA have been working with Eastwood Town FC Ltd since before the start of the season when we were made aware of financial difficulties due to issues over running and ownership of the club.

“The Nottinghamshire FA have supported both the club and Broxtowe Borough Council in meetings to discuss possible solutions and Broxtowe BC have been most helpful and supportive in giving Eastwood Town FC Ltd every opportunity to make repayments for accumulated debt dating back to 2009.

“The club have made no rental payments for current use of the facility and the debt therefore has increased which has left Broxtowe Borough Council with no option other than to take action.

“We are working closely with Broxtowe Borough Council to ensure the facility is kept for community football use so local players can benefit from the use of these facilities.”

The full statement from Steve Lynch reads as follows:

“When I took over Eastwood Town in October 2011 the club had outgoings of £3,250 per week with an average income of £700, which I thought I would be able to slash down to cut losses, however, with so many players on contract this proved to be a near impossible task with only a few players leaving during the course of the season.

So I personally had to loan the club £45,000 to complete the season and even this left a shortfall when a further £12,500 had to be loaned just to be able to start the next season in the Northern Premier.

Various bills and bailiffs turned up at the club for outstanding amounts from the 2009/10 and 2010/11 season, some of which were not in any of the paperwork when I took over but all of which the club were liable to pay with charges and court fees added.

This season I have paid in another £6,500 between July and November to help the club yet again.

I resigned as director and shareholder in December to allow fans to run the club as I have had no real involvement for 18 months apart from paying money in to support the place.

My regret is I did not let Albert (Harbon), Tracie (Witton) and George (Barnes) do this far sooner as they have done more in the last three months to support and stabilise the club than at any time prior to this.

The club had changed its memorandums of articles in 2011 to be a not for profit club, in order to apply for business rate relief which would help the club by reducing the amount payable by 80 per cent per year with the focus on making the clubhouse more community-based with the inclusion of more kids teams, which happened, and the plan to get a scholarship academy going at the club was also in process. However, to date Broxtowe Borough Council have refused the application.

This process of not for profit for football clubs is used throughout the country and makes the difference between a club surviving or not, with councils having the discretion to say yes or no.

In real terms 95 per cent of councils allow this as they see clubs like Eastwood to be the heart of the community and that need supporting, so for them to say they have done everything they can to help is not accurate.

In Eastwood’s case it would mean the outstanding rates would be £5,200 which the club would be able to start to clear.

The club had also applied for the rateable valuation to be looked at and a hearing was due to take place on March 12 as the rateable value at Eastwood is higher than any other non league club in Nottinghamshire and only one club in Derbyshire has a higher rateable value of £7,000 or more, but has nearly double the area.

The other large amount liable to the council is £12,500 for pitch maintenance from 2009 which is disputed by the owner at the time, however as it is in the club’s name and once again the club is liable. This also was not in any paperwork at the club.

With regard to the forfeiture of the lease, this process can be challenged and overturned by the High Court, however it would need the support of the fans and the community to make this happen as funds would have to be raised to settle the outstanding rent amount and support those in charge to keep the club going.

The choice is the fans’ - to work to keep the club alive or shut it down.

It is all very well taking to social media to complain and slander people but it’s a lot harder to get up and do something to help.

So the challenge also goes out to the council to show they support the club and want to help keep it alive by granting the discretionary rate relief to the club and in return I will cancel the loan agreements for what the club owes me so that the club can stay alive.

Talk from councillors is very cheap but by this action they will put the club back on its feet and work with the supporters to run the club.”