It could be another turbulent summer ahead for North Ferriby United as news has emerged that the clubs owners Steve and Eman Forster have given all they can to the club and are looking to pass the club on to any willing volunteers who feel they can run the club. At the end of each season Ferriby fans are used to being asked to help tidy the ground up and give it a lick of paint but to be asked to take over the club is on a different level!
After recently being relegated back to the National league North, Ferriby supporters will have been hoping for stability this summer as Steve Housham tries to prepare and build a team ready for next season. Steve Forster did reassure the supporters club that if no one is found to take the club on this summer they will continue as normal until a takeover can be agreed upon with an interested party.
Since taking over the club The Forster’s have pumped a significant amount of money in to keep the club running at it’s current level. They decided two seasons ago to significantly cut the playing budget in order to make the club more sustainable. That has now been achieved despite the club still gaining promotion to the National League thanks to shrewd business and management by Billy Heath. The season Ferriby had in the National League will have cost them far more than previous years in the National League North and that appears to have taken it’s toll. Steve Housham didn’t have the resources at his disposal to keep the team up and now they are back at a more sustainable level. The owners are finding the running of the Football Club is taking up too much of their time as they also have their business interests to attend to.
The owners have been looking to sell the club for some time as they have not seen any reward for their investment in the club as gates haven’t increased even after Ferriby were promoted. They also have a family and businesses to run and the club is becoming a weight around their neck. There were rumours last summer that a potential buyer may have been found but nothing ever came of it and now the owners are willing to give the club away, debt free, to willing volunteers. This seems to hint at the potential of Ferriby becoming a “fan-run” club like FC United of Manchester.
The idea of club’s becoming fan-run is becoming more and more prevalent especially in non-league. Years and years of financial miss-management have led to club’s going under and folding. This is obviously devastating for supporters and several Phoenix clubs have risen from the ashes of the club that came before and they are often run by a group of supporters who didn’t want to see their club die. A recent example is Hereford FC. Formed as a phoenix club after Hereford United were liquidated in 2014 The Bulls went to Wembley in their inaugural season as they reached the FA Vase Final. The new club was set up by a small band of supporters but they took 20,000 fans to Wembley and have been backed by local benefactors. Here lies the problem for North Ferriby United. When they got to the FA Trophy Final in 2015 3,500 Ferriby fans travelled to Wembley and only 10% of those turn up week in and week out. The 300 or so who turn up every week are a loyal bunch but they would have to invest so much time and money into the club that it would be difficult to see it working at National League North Level.
The club has been run in a similar way for several years but that was at Evo-Stik Premier/North level. If the club were to go down a similar route now it’s hard to see them staying in the National League because there simply wouldn’t be enough investment available from a band of supporters. This would see Ferriby back at the Evo Stik level, the 8th and 9th divisions of English football, were they could probably be run sustainably by supporters but even then that is uncertain because the club struggled to get more than 200 through the turnstiles in those days.
The news has sparked debate amongst the fans especially on Twitter with some angry at this news because after two summers of turbulence this is the last thing they wanted to hear. Steve Forster has given reassurance he will stay on as Chairman until a takeover can be agreed so now the club appears to be at a crossroads. They could become fan-owned and drop down to the Evo Stik League or even the counties league or a “Sugar Daddy” could be found who would keep Ferriby at National League Level. Anyone who knows anything about non-league football knows that approach doesn’t always work. Just look at Forest Green Rovers they have lost 5 million pounds in two seasons and still haven’t made it into the Football League. Sugar Daddy owners can quickly lose interest and pull the plug and that would be a disaster.
Good luck to whoever takes the club on and we all hope they can run the club sustainably and successfully for years to come!