Why are Lowestoft Town facing financial crisis?
- Credit: James Bass
Lowestoft Town have confirmed they are in deep financial trouble as deputy sports editor Mark Armstrong asks what happens next for the Blues?
This moment had been coming for Lowestoft Town.
Sunday night's announcement that the club faces 'critical' financial problems confirmed the erosion of its status as the region's premier non league side.
Some of the current situation has been brought on by themselves. Some of it hasn't been.
But some of their issues can be traced back to the day Lowestoft beat AFC Hornchurch in the 2014 play-off final. It was their fourth attempt to get into the National League set up, the previous three occasions ending in heartbreaking defeats in the final.
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But no-one was thinking about those losses when players, directors and fans danced with joy on the Crown Meadow pitch after beating Hornchurch 3-0 in one of the best days in the club's history.
But it would prove to be the club's zenith and, in truth, there has been a steady decline since.
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By their own admission the club was not ready for the step up to the Conference set-up in terms of administration and logistics.
As soon as the Leagues Committee put Lowestoft in the northern section it spelt trouble. Money that had been earmarked for the playing budget had to be siphoned away to meet the financial demands of regular 500-mile trips.
MORE: Lowestoft Town reveal financial crisisMore than ever Lowestoft would be relying on then chairman Gary Keyzor to make up the financial shortfall.
Lowestoft's success to this point had been bankrolled by Keyzor but it was a dangerous model for the club to be run.
Keyzor knew it too and tried to put a structure in place that didn't rely on his goodwill... no-one could be found.
As Keyzor started to reduce his funding of the Blues to consolidate his business interests outside the club, it became harder and harder to keep the Blues competitive on the field.
Key individuals, so central to their ascent through the non league pyramid, also started departing.
Director of football Craig Fleming left for Southampton's academy, legendary figure Micky Chapman headed for the exit, ending a 33-year association with the Blues.
Ady Gallagher took sole charge but given a budget that was significantly less than had been afforded to get into the National League, relegation followed.
Standards dropped, on and off the field, but fans' expectations didn't.
Outside investment was desperately sought and Keyzor admitted he was keen for someone else to take on the chairmanship - someone with deep pockets preferably.
The final straw came in the summer of 2016 when Lowestoft saw their academy effectively taken away from them by then players Danny Crow and Michael Spillane and their Road2Pro venture.
MORE: Lowestoft boss worried at non-league shake-upKeyzor helped put the club back on an even keel along with some savvy management from Gallagher, who ensured Lowestoft survived in the Bostik League Premier.
But Keyzor had had enough by September last year and stepped down to let Alan Green have a go at leading a team of directors with their objective being to find investment.
Efforts have been made but no-one has come forward.
The longer the wait goes on, the club is plunged deeper and deeper into debt, saddled with a playing squad they can't afford along with supplier bills that can't be paid.
In the short term Lowestoft need to get to the end of the season under manager Dale Brooks after Gallagher, another man steeped in the Lowestoft tradition, called it a day as boss in November. There are 11 games to go, starting tonight at home to Hendon (weather permitting), and they are far from safe in the Bostik Premier Division but if they can retain that status you would hope they have more options come the summer.
Whether the current players are willing to put their bodies on the line with no guaranteed financial compense is obviously a worry.
Brooks has succeeded so far and deserves praise for rallying a set of players who will, understandably, be looking at their options understandably. It is to their credit they have performed the way they have over the past month despite not being paid.
In the short term Lowestoft fans, and the non league community, need to come together to help save the club and get to the summer.
In the longer term you hope individuals and organisations, with ideas and money, come forward in their time of need.
If they don't then there is a very real chance that Lowestoft will be wound up...a situation no-one wants to see.