THE existence of Bedlington Terriers Football Club remains in doubt this week following their failure to repay a £15,000 loan.
Trystar Construction Limited, of Choppington, has served a winding up order on the Ebac Northern League division one club, and a hearing is scheduled to take place on Friday at a court in Newcastle.
But while the club remain optimistic of reaching an agreement that will keep them alive, Ritchie Wharton, the businessman behind Trystar, says the club have made no effort to resolve the situation.
Club chairman Ronan Liddane said in a statement, that the order comes from a loan taken out before he took on the role of chairman last season.
He said: “When I took over I was assured on three occasions that there was no debt at the club.
“When this loan came to light I tried to negotiate the situation with Mr Wharton, but his main focus was on winding up the club and taking the scoreboard, which is not ours but Mr Bob Rich’s property.
“Our legal team are now in negotiations and we are confident that the matter will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and the club will continue with its main focus of playing football.”
Bedlington Terriers are no stranger to financial difficulty, after coming close to folding almost seven years ago.
In a statement released by Mr Wharton’s lawyers, the club is accused of paying back only £937.50 of the £15,000.
The statement read: “Samuel Phillips Law Firm act for Trystar Construction Limited in relation to winding up proceedings issued against Bedlington Terriers Community Football Club Limited.
“Trystar Construction loaned Bedlington Terriers the sum of £15,000 which was to be repaid by monthly instalments commencing in December 2011.
“£14062.50 is still owed to Trystar Construction.
“Trystar have sought repayment of the loan and issued a statutory demand asking for repayment.
“Bedlington Terriers withdrew their application to set aside the statutory demand.
“No offer of repayment has been made.
“Mr Ritchie Wharton of Trystar Construction states that the club have not tried to resolve their financial position, and continues to pay their players high wages each week.
“Trystar Construction have issued winding up proceedings and there is a hearing at Newcastle County Court on February 22 for the court to decide whether to make a winding up order.”
It’s not the first time the club has faced financial hardship, the team almost disappeared at the end of 2005-06 season before former chairman Dave Holmes stepped in with another local businessman to rescue them.
Last year the club attracted national media attention when American businessman Bob Rich showed his support and agreed to sponsor the shirts and provided Welfare Park with an American style scoreboard to use during matches.
They also enjoyed a pre-season trip to Buffalo in the United States thanks to Mr Rich.
Northern League chairman Mike Amos said of the current difficulties the club is facing: “My first reaction is one of shock.
“I’d been involved in a previous effort to rescue Bedlington Terriers and really believed that they were on a firmer financial footing.
“The Terriers have been good Northern League members and seemed to have made substantial progress both on and off the field.
“As a league we will do all that we can to help them through the latest problems.”
The latest developments saw Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, who is also chairman of neighbours Ashington, raise the matter in Parliament and question what the governing bodies in football are doing to help non league outfits.
He said: “It’s a desperate situation that Bedlington Terriers find themselves in.
“They are a non league club with a tremendous history, a successful history and proud traditions.
“As their MP I have spoken to the chairman and continue to discuss the issue on a day by day basis, hoping that a resolution to the problems can be found.”
He added: “I think it raises massive issues – the difficulties that local football clubs can find themselves in, and very quickly if finances are not available.
“It depends highly on local businesses and the gratuitous nature of the community in non-league football.
“There is just no money trickling through to lower league football and I plan to continue this dialogue with the minister.
“As MP for their area I will do everything I can to help Bedlington Terriers.
“I know from my own experience with Ashington that so many people get involved with football at this level because of their sheer love for the game.
“Yes, we want to see the biggest teams and the greatest players in action, but there are still thousands of people who turn up every week to back their local team as coaches, players, administrators, support staff and most importantly fans, and they want to keep on doing that.
“They do that because of their love of football.
“Ironically, and in many ways sadly, the wages a single Premier League star takes home every week would keep most non-league teams afloat for a year.”