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Debts threaten the future of Watton United

PUBLISHED: 09:30 08 September 2013

Watton United FC

Watton United FC

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Senior players at a 120-year-old football team have had to drop four divisions amid fears the club could fold because of its debts.

Watton United was fielding four sides last season, at an annual cost of about £12,000. But it was forced to withdraw its first team from Division One of the Anglian Combination and is now fielding a side in Division Five, in which its reserves had played.

The club could no longer afford its second-flight status due to debts which last year stood at £1,700.

Paul Woods, vice-chairman and fixtures secretary, said the reason for the shortfall was because “the players were playing but weren’t paying”.

Half of the club’s funding relies on the players’ £10 monthly membership, which goes towards renting the Watton Sports Centre ground. But the club’s committee and managers found as players failed to pay fines and fees, the club was forced to fill the funding gap for them – leaving them in debt.

“We are still not sure it was the right decision, but from a financial footing we are in a far better position,” said Mr Woods, who has played and been on the committee at the club since he was 16.

“It was dropping down or potentially folding the whole club. Last year some players were playing but weren’t paying their monthly fees or paying back their fines.

“Then we got a situation where we are saying we won’t play you because you are not paying your money, but still had to field a team because the league would fine us for not fulfilling the fixture, and had to use these players.”

Prior to the change, committee members said it cost around £3,000 a year to run each of the club’s four teams, which includes pitch and facilities hire, equipment, transport, referees and league affiliations. The club will now run another two teams.

Watton town councillor Paul McCarthy is a life president of the club and said he would be asking the town council to discuss funding for the sports centre, which will help the football club funding. “I really feel the council should support the sports centre,” he added. “The responsibility is on the council – they are there to look after people of the town.”

It is not the first time Watton United has been hit by off-the-field difficulties – in 2000 it dropped four levels into Division Two of the Anglian Combination from the Eastern Counties League due to floodlighting problems.

Anyone who wants to play for Watton should email info@wattonunitedfc.co.uk

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