Saffron Walden Town pull out of league football citing ‘financial problems’

A ROW over money and facilities has derailed the 23rd oldest club in the world on the eve of the new football season.

Following an exclusive by the Reporter last week, Saffron Walden Town FC has confirmed they will be pulling out of Ridgeons League due to a “financial situation”.

It has also been announced that the ladies and girls teams will be breaking away from the club to form Walden Ladies FC at a new facility in the town at Crabtrees.

The abrupt exits have been sparked by verbal clashes between the people in charge of the men’s and ladies teams, due to a wrangle over money for new facilities.

Club chairman John Butchart, angered by the ladies teams approaching sponsors using the club name without his permission, said the council was asking for rent from Catons Lane to spend on new facilities.

“The ground is in need of work. Money should go to the whole club, not to a new facility there or elsewhere.” He added the club is �40,000 short for the new season.

Manager of the ladies team and manager and secretary of the girls teams, Mick Eldred and Dennis Savill, denied any wrongdoing and hit back by saying they had just been “working extremely hard”.

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Mr Savill said: “We need �10,000 to seed a new pitch and so we have made some enquiries – we just feel that all this is very unnecessary.”

Mr Eldred added that no town council funding was sought for the project: “Yes we have a new ground, a deal was agreed five years ago with developers and passed on – we had been paying �50 a game at Catons Lane.

“I have worked tirelessly over the past 11 years to establish the ladies club, our aim was to always have our own ground. Now that this is achieved I find it smacks of sour grapes for the chairman to have a go at us.” He added: “The ladies have brought thousands into the club.”

Speaking on behalf of the council, Mayor Cliff Treadwell said: “There is a strong demand for football pitches, we are fortunate to provide three new pitches under arrangements with developers.

“SWTFC is a commercial venture, and I hope the council are not being blamed for their current poor performance and gate receipts.”

A statement released by the Ridgeons League read: “SWTFC has informed the competition that their financial situation means that they cannot guarantee to complete the season and they have decided to withdraw.

“The club intends to attempt to resolve issues in order to consolidate its financial position over the next few months.”

While Crabtrees undergoes work for the ladies, they will play all fixtures away. For the men’s team the future is uncertain, many of the players have already left although the A team and junior sections will continue.

The club has a meeting with the FA on Thursday to try and plot a way forward and to avoid fines for dropping out of the FA Cup and Vase – but has already been fined �1,000 for dropping out of the league.