By Hugo Varley,
Those fighting to preserve the future of North Ferriby United received a welcome boost last week– but their battle is still far from over.
The 2014-15 FA Trophy winners have endured a turbulent season on and off the field with the Villagers in danger of being cut adrift at the foot of the Northern Premier League.
At the same time, the club’s controversial owner Carl Chadwick has caused uproar on the terraces with a proposal to relocate the club to a site on Dunswell Park and change their name to East Hull FC.
Last week the Northern Premier League formally voiced its opposition to Chadwick’s plans, prompting a celebratory response from members of the ‘Save North Ferriby United’ campaign, which has been protesting against the proposals ever since details of Chadwick’s intentions began to emerge a number of months ago.
Matthew Kempson, who writes for the club’s fanzine and has played a leading role in the supporters’ campaign, told The NLP: “It is brilliant to see the Northern Premier League has come out in support of our cause.
“The current ownership is attempting to steal the identity of North Ferriby United and it is absolutely vital that the footballing community comes together to stop the theft of our club.”
While last Monday’s announcement was music to the ears of Kempson and his fellow North Ferriby fans, several hurdles must still be jumped if their campaign is to be successful.
As things stand, an FA panel is due to pass judgement on Chadwick’s proposals in the coming months, with the NPL’s recently expressed viewpoint likely to contribute to the decision-making process.
Kempson added: “We think the FA is likely to discuss the situation in April, so we ultimately face a rather nervous wait until then.
“We have submitted a lot of evidence to the FA and I know that we have a very strong argument to present to them, which will hopefully persuade the panel of the detrimental effects that any relocation or name change will have.
“Unfortunately we could well find ourselves in a difficult position whatever happens.
“If the FA acts as we hope they will and choses to reject Chadwick’s proposals, our problems are likely to still be far from over.
“The feeling among many fans is that the current owner has burned his bridges with both the supporters and the local community and it is hard to see how he can come back from something like this.”
The developments of recent months have added to what has been a miserable few years for the East Riding club following back-to-back relegations from the top-flight to Step 3. And with the club rooted to the bottom of the NPL?table, a third straight demotion looks to be almost inevitable.
Hopes of a potential resurgence were raised in October when former captain Paul Foot was handed the managerial reins.
However, the new boss has so far failed to galvanise the Villagers and fans have become increasingly concerned by rumours of potential boardroom interference.
“What has been worrying is that the club’s former owner Jamie Waltham appears to be having a say on first team affairs and has been seen in the dugout recently,”?Kempson added.
“Waltham is the man who originally came up with the plans to relocate the club and is someone who we thought was a thing of the past but unfortunately he is friends with Chadwick and we fear that he is still pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
“Added to this it seems as though some aspects of the club have ground to a halt at the moment.
“For example, the pitch, which used to be of a really good standard, has fallen into a sorry state, while there has been next-to-no communication from the club in recent weeks, which has left fans in the dark as to what is really going on.
“It is certainly a tough time for all supporters at the moment, but the news this week has given us all hope and could well be the first step on the road to a better future.”