WORDS: DOMINIC BLISS
After seeing their club go under last December, Hereford supporters immediately set their hearts and minds to rebuilding it from scratch. Now back home at Edgar Street, they are almost ready to begin their journey as a new club with fans at the helm from next season. We found out how they managed it
When Hereford United disappeared from the football pyramid, there was absolutely no doubt in the minds of supporters that the Bulls would be reformed. The question was: how do you go about rebuilding your football club from scratch?
Hereford United – who competed in League One as recently as 2008/09 – were 90 years old when the club was wound up by the High Court last December, mid-way through the Southern League season. After several disappointing seasons, they fell out of the Football League in 2012 and, at the end of their second season in the Football Conference, found themselves expelled from England’s fifth tier for financial irregularities, having failed to meet a deadline to pay off debts to various creditors. Six months later, with the debts still unpaid, the club was wound up.
However, plans for a supporter-led rebirth of Hereford FC were hatched immediately and it was soon announced that a local businessman, Jon Hale, who had earlier been chairman of the Hereford United Supporters Trust (HUST), had registered the name Hereford Football Club with the Herefordshire Football Association, in conjunction with the trust and a group of local businessmen.
The new club will offer HUST the opportunity to become the largest single shareholder, with individual and corporate benefactors being barred from owning more than 24 per cent of shares of the new club. When the proposal was put to the Trust membership, almost 97 per cent of those who voted were in favour.
It is worth noting that the benefactors putting up the start-up capital do not wish to be named publicly, although we understand them to be lifelong Hereford United fans and successful business people. However, they do not wish to be courted for further funding, nor do they wish to undermine the Hereford FC board in any way. We have been informed that the benefactors understand they will see no return on the capital they are putting in, or dividends on the shares they purchase.
And so Hereford FC is now in operation, but a fully functioning football club requires much more than just a name. Let’s take a look at the Bulls’ to-do list if they are to be ready for the 2015/16 season.
You could argue that the one group of people to come out of this sorry tale with any credit is the supporters of Hereford United themselves and they continue to stick by the club in these uncertain, although admittedly exciting times.
Despite not knowing which league they would be competing in next season, the club began selling season tickets on April 2 and, remarkably, almost 550 season tickets have already been sold. Meanwhile, a recent charity match between a Hereford United Legends XI and a Hereford United Supporters Trust team attracted an attendance of more than 700.
Edgar Street was home to Hereford United from the year of their formation in 1924 right through to their demise last year, when its gates were padlocked as the club was wound up.
On March 27, the ground on which Ronnie Radford’s goal put Newcastle United to the sword in one of the great FA Cup upsets of all-time (pictured at the top of this post) was secured as home of the new Hereford FC when a five-year lease was agreed with the council. The hope is that the ground will be hosting Midland League games at the very least next season, although it is possible that the club may even receive an invitation to compete at a higher level.
Edgar Street is in need of some repairs which may prove costly and will be organised by the club, but there are also plenty of other works to be done around the ground, which volunteers will be required to carry out. The groundswell of popular support for the club means there is no shortage of potential candidates for helping to get the new club off the ground and prepare their home for the season ahead. A dedicated volunteers coordinator, Ken Kinnersley, has been appointed, and can be contacted on Twitter (@kenkinnersley)
People have been encouraged to get in touch with the club by commercial and office manager Chris Ammonds, who appealed to volunteers to come forward if they feel they can be of any use at all, whether they can offer a specific trade or skill, or simply offer some time for simple tasks like helping tidy up the stadium.
There was no shortage of applications for the manager’s job and, following a five-week process, Peter Beadle was appointed last week. He is a familiar face at Edgar Street, having steered the club clear of relegation from the Conference in 2013/14 by overseeing back-to-back victories over Alfreton and Aldershot in the final two games of the season. Although the club would later be expelled from the league due to their financial affairs, the fans still remember their joy at staying up on the final day.
With the 2014/15 season still in progress, it remains to be seen which players Hereford can attract to the club, but Beadle has spoken positively about the task of building a squad from nothing.
“Not being involved in football since the early part of this season I’ve managed to get to quite a lot of games in at all levels and managed to see quite a few players,” he said. “I’ve got a wish list…but we have to be careful and do things right because teams are still in their seasons with a couple of weeks to go. We have got our eye on a large amount of players. All players we feel that could do the job and wear the shirt with pride.”
They may be waiting to hear which division they will be competing in next season, but the club has already lined up a series of pre-season friendlies, beginning with a game against fan-owned FC United of Manchester, then local non-league clubs Malvern Town, Wellington FC and Merthyr Town.