West Auckland Town FC 'could fold' warns club's general manager
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
ONE of the North East’s most famous football clubs could fold unless new volunteers are found and more sponsors come forward.
That is the stark warning from West Auckland Town FC general manager Stuart Alderson. Mr Alderson is one of an ageing and dwindling band of helpers who take care of off-field affairs at the club, which secured its place in footballing history as winners of the first ever World Cup in 1909.
“There are only a handful of helpers – more are needed. The club, with its fantastic history could possibly fold – it is unthinkable, but it would happen,” he said.
“There are only three of us. I am 70. We need new blood. The help has to come now, not later.”
West currently sit seventh in the first division of the Ebac Northern League. In recent years, the club has enjoyed relatively successful times, reaching the final of the FA Vase in 2011-12 and again in 2013-14.
Under new manager Gary Forrest, West finished fifth in the league last season and despite an inconsistent start to this year’s campaign should be pushing for a top five spot again.
However, it is away from the playing field where the club is experiencing difficulties, Mr Alderson said. “The biggest asset we have got here is we own the football ground. That’s a massive thing, but we just can’t keep it going the way we are.
“Everything that’s been done on the ground in the last 40 years, I have had something to do with – floodlights, changing rooms, the clubhouse – but I am not going to be able to carry on.”
Mr Alderson paid tribute to the efforts of club chairman Jim Palfreyman and match day secretary Clifford Alderson (no relation).
“The chairman is a great help as he does all the paperwork. I am round here [the ground] every day and so is Cliffy.
“There are always lots of jobs to do. If we had more
volunteers it would make things easier for us.
“We can't go on for ever. We have got to get some young blood in from somewhere.”
Mr Alderson said he believed there was widespread interest in the club, pointing to the thousands of supporters who followed West to Wembley for their FA Vase final appearances.
Alongside the appeal for helpers, Mr Alderson said the club needed to attract more sponsors, especially if the team continues to progress on the field.
A change in rules by the Football Association now means the top two sides from the Northern League are promoted to the next level in the football system – along with the added expense that entails.
Failure to accept promotion carries the threat of relegation.
“If you want a good side, you need money. We are finding it is extremely difficult at present to raise money.
“We definitely need sponsors. They are vital to us. Everybody is looking for the same pot pot of money.”
Maintaining the facilities is also costly. A recent collapse to the floor in the clubhouse was repaired thanks to the efforts of several backers giving up their time, Mr Alderson said.
“It's surprising how much it costs to keep this going. It's £100 a month for the insurance. It can be £200 per month for electricity because of the floodlights. We had to put a lot of water on the ground in the summer.”
West Auckland are not the only Northern League club to face up to tough times.
This year's first division is down to 18 clubs. Jarrow Roofing and Team Northumbria folded before the start of the season, while promoted Blyth AFC resigned four games into the campaign.
However, Mr Alderson also pointed to the success of Hebburn Town, which faced a similar situation to West, but who, with local backing, are now riding high in the first division and attracting four-figure crowds.
Anyone interested in volunteering or for further information on sponsorship opportunities at West Auckland Town FC can contact Mr Alderson on 07818 223798 or Mr Palfreyman on 07825 470595.