Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, has had to chop their playing roster and reduce wages because of cash shortages.
Richard Tims, Sheffield FC’s chairman, says talks with potential ‘partnerships’ have been going on for 12 months. The complexity of the deals, though, has meant nothing has been completed, which has forced Tims to make cuts to manager Ian Whitehorne’s playing budget and squad.
The cut-backs came as the club, due to the poor weather, was unable to play home games for two months. Sheffield played their third home game in the space of a week last weekend and play again tonight when they host Newcastle Town, but attendances for all three games will be down on their average, which the club knew would be an issue because so many Saturday games were called off.
Tims says the Evo-Stik First Division South club has lost approximately £15,000 in gate receipts as well as match sponsorship due to the washouts. The lack of funds has resulted in players wages being cut twice by around half over the past two months.
“People, including myself were ambitious at the start of the season, we made our projections and went with that” Tims said. “It was a blow that we haven’t been able to conclude talks yet with potential new sponsors and we haven’t been able to get the crowds we wanted; the recent weather has exasperated the situation. We just need to bat out the season and see where we go from there. We had to lose some of our best players, but we did what we had to. “This is something we’ll learn from, maybe we won’t be so ambitious next season and we are looking at a new model of how to run a non-league club.”
Players were told before their 2-1 defeat to Brigg Town on January 18, that their wages would be cut for a second time, and since then, three of Whitehorne’s key players have left including Stuart Ludlam, Tom Burgin and captain Warren Burrell, who have recently joined Buxton and Worksop Town respectively. More could leave with influential midfielder Andy Gascoigne, who is currently serving a four-match ban, and striker, Zeph Thomas, who scored a hat trick against Bedworth United a week ago, also targets for other clubs.
Whitehorne said: “We are down to the bones at the moment and haven’t got the money to compete at the top end of the league. Players have had to leave because we can’t keep spending money that we haven’t got, that’s the cold light of day. A range of projected incomes just hasn’t materialised. It will be a big achievement if we can keep the squad together, the loss of home games hasn’t helped and we haven’t got anywhere near the same level of support when they are played in midweek.
“Zeph is hot property and we have had a written request from one team and been approached by another. Andy is probably the hottest property in this division and the one above, but he’s been loyal to us. There is still a month to go until the non-league transfer window shuts and we are confident of keeping them, but there are no guarantees in football and if a club comes in who will benefit the player we won’t stand in their way.”
Ludlam said he was left with no real choice but to go. He said: “I had an approach from Buxton and Ian told me to consider the offer. I didn’t want to go, but I was in a tough situation where I didn’t know if I was going to be paid; that’s something you have to consider. I loved playing for the club, there was a great set of lads there and I hope they can get some backing because there is so much history and potential there. Maybe I can go back in the summer, but I am concentrating on Buxton now.”