Historic club hunts rich benefactor

STEPHEN PULLINGER It's the grass roots of the English game and a world away from pop star footballers, Wags and the prawn sandwich brigade.At Yarmouth's wind-swept Wellesley Ground gates have dwindled to fewer than 50 spectators a game and the club's moment of glory in the FA Cup victory over Crystal Palace is consigned to yellowing newspaper cuttings.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

It's the grass roots of the English game and a world away from pop star footballers, Wags and the prawn sandwich brigade.

At Yarmouth's wind-swept Wellesley Ground gates have dwindled to fewer than 50 spectators a game and the club's moment of glory in the FA Cup victory over Crystal Palace is consigned to yellowing newspaper cuttings.

But now the Bloaters have been forced to follow the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham - and are on the hunt for a rich owner.

Yarmouth Town, currently 14th in division one of the Eastern Counties' Ridgeons League, will soon find themselves propping up - alphabetically at least - an even less auspicious table on the Clubs in Crisis website.

Past chairman and committee member Arthur Fisk, 67, said they were resorting to posting the club's details on the website in a bid to find a saviour.

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He said: “An oil sheikh would do us fine or perhaps our rich benefactor could be someone in the US whose long-lost relatives came from Yarmouth.

“Who knows, it could be someone with an architectural interest in our grade-two listed stand which, built in 1892, is regarded as the oldest still standing in the world, and is our real claim to fame.”

Mr Fisk, a retired manager at Bird's Eye and a committee member for decades, admitted a local businessman was a more likely saviour but said numerous approaches had so far proved unavailing.

He said candidly that any benefactor would have to put his hand in his pocket to the tune of at least £10,000 a year just to make up the club's losses, and there was no possibility of a lucrative ground redevelopment being on the horizon.

“The Wellesley Ground is owned by the borough council lock, stock, and barrel, and we own absolutely nothing but the goodwill,” he said.

The Bloaters' financial problems had come to a head at the last committee meeting when chairman Julia Banham was forced reluctantly to quit because of the growing demands of her children's clothing business.

Mr Fisk said: “There was no one to fill the vacancy and that prompted our decision to reorganise the club. We are still a solvent club with a bank balance of about £40,000 and at our current rate of expenditure we could exist quite comfortably for another two years before hitting crunch time.

“However, as custodians of this 110-year-old club we wanted to give someone the opportunity to help us before we reach dire financial straits.”

The £4-a-head gate money now barely covered the expenses of the three officials and on top of that the club had to find money for the rates, rent, and £10-a-match players' wages.

He said: “We want to get back to the premier division but have got to be realistic about attendances because football at this level does not seem to have the same attraction these days. Even for the last local derby with Gorleston we only got a gate of 100 when we always used to get 300 people along to that.”

That contrasted with the club's 1950s glory days when 8,000 fans packed the Wellesley Ground and cheered them to an FA Cup first round victory over Crystal Palace.

Anyone able to help the club financially is asked to ring Mr Fisk on 01493 658750 or write to him at 13 Wedgewood Court, Gorleston.