Richard Brook reports on a cruel contrast in football fortunes.

It must seem a particularly cruel joke to Kettering Town Football Club and their supporters. Monday 2nd September 2013 saw the end of the summer transfer window. The total spend, for the window, was a new record: a massive £630 million. If the enormity of that figure has not quite sunk in try counting to it. It was also the day that Gareth Bale was finally unveiled as a Real Madrid player, following his protracted and inevitable transfer from Tottenham Hotspur. Bale’s fee was another world record costing Real £85.3 million. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, proved that he was not “tight” by paying £42.5 million, for German forward Mesut Özil. These sums of money in themselves push the boundaries of taste and decency – although as football fans we all become somewhat immune to hearing such figures bandied about in this context.

For Kettering Town, 2nd September 2013 had a very different atmosphere. The Poppies were served with a winding up order, at the High Court. Although the order is subject to an appeal, if that appeal fails the club stand to go out of business cutting short their 141 year existence. Ten months ago to the day I felt compelled to write a similar piece about Hereford United and many of the points from that piece hold true. The club were formed in 1872, before some of the best known football institutions in the land. This means as with many of our clubs there is history passed through families stretching back to the industrial revolution. This kind of history cannot be casually tossed aside as if it does not matter. This football club is someone’s heritage, and however strongly you might feel about your football club, there is someone that feels like that about Kettering Town.

In fact if you go back almost a year, to my Hereford article and look at the comments section on The Daisy Cutter, you will see that I referenced Kettering Town as a club I could just have easily written about back then. The club has faced a long line of court appearances and has avoided going out business in the past by arranging to pay a portion of their debts by Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA). It is this succession of financial failures that has led to the Poppies on field decline. The club currently reside in the Southern League Division One Central, the eighth tier of English football.  Just two years ago Kettering were in the Conference Premier – the peak of non-league football.

The latest winding up order, originates from a debt owed to Rushden & Diamonds Ltd – a shell company remaining from the club of the same name, who were themselves wound up two years ago. The shell company have no affiliation to the phoenix club, AFC Rushden and Diamonds. Kettering’s debt originates in unpaid rent from the time when the Poppies home games were played at Nene Park. If Kettering’s appeal should fail, the club will be in the hands of a receiver tasked with selling assets to pay the debts before bringing business to a close.

Kettering claim to have verbally agreed a £50,000 settlement, until Rushden & Diamonds Ltd. Changed their calculations to £70,000. As such Kettering intend to apply for a recession order, as the amount of the debt is in dispute, with a view to overturning the winding up order.

The Poppies have had a couple of high profile managers and were the first club to have a shirt sponsor. Ron Atkinson managed Kettering through a successful period in the 1970’s that saw the club win the Southern League in 1973 and miss out on election to the Football League by just 5 votes in 1974. In 2005 Imraan Ladak, Mick Leech and Paul Gascoigne took over the club. Gascoigne was installed as manager. With the world watching, Gascoigne’s reign lasted a mere 39 days before his successor Kevin Wilson was reappointed. Ladak cited Gascoigne’s drinking; the former England star retaliated with allegations that Ladak interfered in managerial decisions.

In 1976 Chief Executive and Manager Derek Dougan put the club ahead of its time by signing the first ever shirt sponsorship deal with Kettering Tyres. The FA objected so Dougan changed the wording to “Kettering T” suggesting that the ‘T’ stood for Town. Under threat of FA sanctions the club backed down. Shirt sponsorship became a legal part of the English game a year later. Kettering like every club at every level have their own unique stories and no club should be allowed to fall from existence without a fight.

For anyone that does not know, this Saturday, 7th September 2013, is Non-League Day. Each season during an international break there is a designated day to go and support your local non-league team, when Premier League and Championship teams are not in action. I am not going to state that people should travel to go to Kettering’s game because the income from Non-League Day is important to all non-league sides. That said if you are local to Kettering or especially minded to help them this Non-League Day might be vital to the club’s chances.

The Poppies are promoting Non-League Day themselves and if you attend their Non-League Day fixture, and can show a season ticket for any Premier League, Championship or other Football League Club, you can get in at their concessionary rate of £5.

Additionally Kettering fans are seeking donations, of any amount whatsoever, to help the club survive via a PayPal account. Details of this can be found on the @savekettering twitter account.

Football club’s like Kettering Town wherever they are in the pyramid, matter just as much as Premier League club’s whatever Sky Sports News manufactured news day might have you believe. There is a real injustice that their existence is threatened over a sum reported to be to £58,000 while other clubs are agreeing transfers of £85.3 million for a single player. Support your local club on Non-League Day. Support Kettering Town’s fight to survive.


Follow on twitter: