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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Battles lie ahead for Wrexham

Gareth Jones
BBC Wales business correspondent

Wrexham FC
With football clubs around the nation embarking on the new season on Saturday, BBC Wales analyses the financial status of the three biggest Welsh teams.

Wrexham FC has had a troubled time over the last few seasons, and with the saga over a possible sale continuing, will this year be any different?


The Wrexham squad had been in training

for the testimonial they're playing at the Racecourse earlier this month. Not so long ago, there was serious doubt over whether they'd start the season at all.

Last year the club had debts of 4m and is now in the hands of the administrators.

Manager Dennis Smith has had to prepare for the coming season against the worrying financial background. "The administrators have been good as have the supporters' clubs. We're doing the best we can in the circumstances."

Financially, last season was a disaster.

Going into administration is bad enough for any company - you lose control to outside accountants who can decide to wind you up. But in football, administration also means the automatic deduction of 10 league points.

Alex Hamilton, Wrexham FC owner
Alex Hamilton had threatened to evict the club from the ground

In Wrexham's case it was enough to get them demoted to League Two. That in turn meant the loss of several players who felt they couldn't stay.

Alex Hamilton is the man the fans blame for the club's crisis. He owns Wrexham FC and quite separately, the club's ground the Racecourse.

A property developer, he had threatened to evict the club from the ground. Lindsay Jones, secretary of the Wrexham supporters trust, remembers how, last season, players and bills were not paid.

"This was a team that was pushing for promotion. But after a few months of not getting paid, you could really see the players getting demoralised."

Whoever's responsible for Wrexham woes, many other small clubs around the country face major financial problems. To survive they sell up to businessmen, who sometimes turn out not to have the club's interest at heart.

According to Swansea University's Professor Peter Sloane, an expert in the economics of sport, white knights from business also sometimes lack the expertise needed.

Some clubs now are doing quite well under the ownership of their supporters
Vince Alm, UK Supporters Federation

"Often they don't apply the same sort of management techniques they would in other industries, perhaps because they treat it as a hobby," he said.

Some want clubs to be taken out of the hands of business people altogether. A few clubs are now being run by supporters' trusts. Vince Alm, a member of the UK supporters' federation, says trusts are the coming thing.

"They are the alternative. Some clubs now are doing quite well under the ownership of their supporters."

Perhaps a combination of supporters' trusts and local business is the best way for now. In Wrexham's case, supporters are injecting 3,000 a month into the club and looking to two local businessmen, Neville Dickens and Geoff Moss.

It's thought they're offering to buy Wrexham for three or four million pounds and according to the chairman of the supporters' club, Carroll Clark, they're the best hope they have.

"As supporters we can only come up with peanuts compared with what it takes to run a football club. I think you have to rely on local business people really."

The problem is Mr Hamilton shows no sign of wanting to sell to Dickens and Moss. The administrators, meanwhile are taking him to court to try to challenge his grip on the ground.

As Wrexham gear up for their games, there are a lot of battles still to be won off the field if they're to have a chance of surviving on it.


SEE ALSO:
New stadium gives Swansea lift
03 Aug 05 |  South West Wales


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