On the day the Premiership announces plans for its clubs to play matches in far flung destinations Ruislip Manor FC would settle for seeing out this season on their own patch. The club, who play in the Molten Footballs Spartan South Midlands Premier Division, effectively eight levels below the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, have spent the last few weeks staring extinction in the face, culminating in a dramatic fight for life last Wednesday night as the new chairman pleaded with the league to disregard a notice of withdrawal from the competition received from the club's honorary president earlier in the day.
The crisis, as mounting expenses eventually exhausted the resources of the Manor faithful, was one to which many non-league clubs in the capital could relate, though it did have some singular circumstances. The football club was just one of several sporting clubs, including cricket and archery, that were affiliated to a limited company, the Ruislip Manor Sports and Social Club. The Social Club ran the facilities on the twelve acre site while the sports clubs paid membership dues for their officials and players.
Wealdstone FC, themselves without a home ground for the best part of twenty years, used the facilities at Grosvenor Vale for their reserve and youth teams. When it became clear three months ago that the fortunes of the Social Club had declined to the point of collapse four individuals connected to Wealdstone stepped in and acquired a majority shareholding in the Social Club before inviting Wealdstone to use the ground for first team matches from next season. Ruislip Manor are very welcome to stay, too, and have been offered the chance to play rent-free for the remainder of this campaign, but from the start of next season they would potentially be looking at paying a reported ten thousand pounds a year to keep playing at their traditional home.
However, the Manor's more immediate problem was fulfilling even this Saturday's fixture. All the club officials had recently resigned en masse, but John Barnett, the club president for 25 years, had offered at an emergency public meeting on January 29th to provide funds to see the virtually penniless club through to the summer. That was enough to enable Ruislip to resume playing following an enforced run of three postponed matches. Tuesday night saw them lose at Biggleswade, but by Wednesday morning the league had received a communication from Mr Barnett asking for the club to be allowed to resign from the league. With no officials having come forward to serve since the emergency meeting that looked like a fait accompli, but the league were still able to consider alternatives. Terry Springer, a newcomer to this level of football, persuaded them that he could steer Ruislip through to the end of this season as chairman and the club was granted permission to continue, starting with another away fixture tomorrow at Welwyn Garden City before a home cup fixture next Wednesday night against Biggleswade Town allows them to benefit from what they hope will be good gate receipts on the night.
Picture via derpunk's Flickr stream.
Victor Klarfeld, a lifelong supporter of Ruislip Manor and leading campaigner in the effort to see the club survive and flourish, told Londonist last night:
We've got a team ready, we've got a new secretary and we've got all the officers in place. Obviously he [Springer] is providing most of the finance, but we've still got to raise something ourselves plus what we take on the gate at home games to see us through this season and then, if we want to carry on in this league next season, we'll be looking to find a major sponsor... One of the supporters has set up a website that links to the [independent club] forum. [The chairman] wants to get a proper website set up, even with PayPal or something if people want to make donations.
This reprieve is a tremendous vote of confidence for Ruislip Manor, but they know that they still have an awful lot of work to do to make anything beyond the immediate future secure. Anybody who'd like to help out is warmly invited to attend an open meeting held by the club's new backer this Sunday at 4:15pm in the Grosvenor Vale clubhouse. Support is also very welcome next Wednesday night in particular and on any other occasions people can get along. The new chairman is also very keen to attract any sponsorship for the club at a time when the media is turning its attention to the Manor's plight.