Ilkeston FC fans staged a protest on Saturday at the way their club has been run.
The Robins’ long-awaited relegation was finally confirmed after a 2-1 home defeat to Stourbridge.
It ended their five year stay in the Evo-Stik Premier Division and means Division One South football will greet Ilkeston next season, a return to where they were when reformed in time for the 2011/12 season. It’s been a truly torrid season for the New Manor Ground club.
And fed-up fans made their feelings knowin in the 23rd minute of the contest.
In a statement. which was released to the media post game and can be read in full below, a spokesman for the fans said they were felt let down by the club’s owners over the last nine season.
For nine years long suffering Ilkeston supporters have had to put up with a succession of owners who have let them down through ineptitude, mismanagement and making decisions which are not in the best interests of the football club. It speaks volumes for their patience that it has taken this long to make their feelings abundantly clear. During that time the fans have lost one club, and came perilously close to losing this one two years ago, not that the powers that be had the integrity to tell us about it at the time. Now, yet again and through no fault of their own, these very same fans are turning up at games wondering if it might be the last.
Nigel Harrop is the latest in a long line. Each and every owner for the past nine years has been given every chance to show that they care about the club and its fans and Harrop is no exception. We gave him that chance. But he refused to embrace the opportunity.
He once said that he was going to run the club as a business. I would now like to ask:
What business ignores the feelings of its core customers? What business blames its customers when a promotion fails? What business does nothing to lure back customers who leave in droves? What business turns away clients who could have provided a valuable revenue stream? What business closes down all means of communication? And, strictly on a football level, what sort of management has a club shop devoid of merchandise, a situation so dire that the fans have had to produce their own? Which other semi professional football clubs have alienated the local community to such an extent that they find it virtually impossible to attract any form of sponsorship or advertising revenue?
For two years Harrop has driven away the very people who wanted to work with him and help him to succeed. By his steadfast refusal to communicate he has dug himself into an ever deeper hole and left us to make our own conclusions about how he has operated. Not all of the club’s problems can be directly attributable to Nigel Harrop but his handling of the situation and his antipathy towards supporters make it impossible to be sympathetic towards him.
He now has the opportunity to sell the club and go for good. I urge him not to put any obstacles in the path of the prospective buyers and get the deal done now. It has been dragging on for too long and each passing day increases the damage he has done to our club.
There have been many victims of Harrop’s ownership, not least the players who went on strike last Saturday following non payment of wages for over a three month period. Other club personnel have not been paid. And given the debt the club has found itself in, there are plenty of creditors out there who just want the money that Harrop owes them.
The club is a source of great embarrassment to supporters and our name is tarnished. Rival clubs and their supporters have been damaged during his tenure. Workington last week because of the strike. Hednesford Town whose fans came to see 84 minutes of football action only for the floodlights to fail thanks to his non payment of a utility bill. Those fans were not refunded. Think about Stafford Rangers, Whitby Town, Stourbridge and Spennymoor Town whose early season schedule was disrupted because the league had suspended our club from competing until certain football-related arrears had been paid. Because of Harrop’s silence, no official club apology has ever been forthcoming to these clubs or their fans, his total lack of respect is staggering. Our club is in disrepute and it will take time for our reputation to be restored.
Our club’s reputation is in tatters just six years after it was formed. Harrop’s predecessor, who must also shoulder some of the responsibility for our perilous situation, boasted at the outset that the club’s model was unique to football and how other clubs would follow our lead. The model remains pretty unique and most non league clubs are run on the same traditional values that they always have. Many of those clubs, with a much smaller fan base, continue to outperform us on the pitch, have a strong community identity and are friendly and welcoming. These are the values we should strive for here. Fans are realistic with their expectations. We don’t come down to the club for the glory. We don’t want false promises and grand dreams of EFL football, we just want a club that always tries to maximise its potential but also lives within its means. These perpetual crises have to stop. Boom and bust football just doesn’t work and I implore any potential buyers to take heed and learn from the mistakes others have made.
Throughout all of this the supporters have remained incredibly proud of our young players who had the courage to stand up to Harrop and who, in the most desperate of circumstances, have soldiered on without pay for months. It is now our turn to stand up to Harrop because enough is enough.