Barry deserve more than a footnote in history

Gary Pritchard

Gary Pritchard

Tuesday, 14 May 2013, 12:29

One of Wales’ most famous and most successful domestic clubs have been effectively reduced to a footnote on the Welsh Football League’s website.

On Monday night, the management committee of the south Wales based league met to discuss the withdrawl of Barry Town by their controversial owner, Stuart Lovering.

With just two games remaining, both against Ton Pentre, Lovering had given notice he was pulling the club out of the league … but why, I hear you ask.

Unfortunately, that question seems destined never to be answered.

No statement was released to the press, no mention has been made on the Welsh Football League’s own website, apart from a footnote to the League’s list of tables which reads “Barry Town have withdrawn from Division One – record expunged”.

It’s a sad indictment that a club with such a proud past and such a promising future have been reduced to a footnote on the Welsh League’s website.

Having reached the Welsh Cup semi finals, losing to eventual winners, Prestatyn Town, Barry Town are a club bouncing back hoping to recapture some of the glory days of the 1990s.

And it’s been a long and winding road back for the seven time Welsh Premier League champions.

In 2003, with mounting debts and facing administration, the club lost the majority of its players and backroom staff.

And it was under this financial black cloud which Lovering arrived, buying the club and presiding over its relegation from the Welsh Premier League to the Welsh League Second Division.

Having been unsuccesfull in his many bids to sell the club for a grossly inflated price, Lovering then set about making life as difficult as possible for his own club’s managers, players and supporters.

In 2004, with rent going unpaid to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, and despite the fans paying part of the club’s debt, Lovering opted not to settle the debt but to move the club 20 miles away to Treforest.

Despite returning to Jenner Park in 2006, the fans’ only contact with their club’s owner came as he either reduced playing budgets, sacked managers or banned supporters from Jenner Park.

But throughout the chaos, Gavin Chesterfield, succeeded in securing promotion from the Second Division.

Following yet more threats from Lovering to pull the plug on the club unless he found a buyer for the club, the Barry Town Supporters’ Committee was formed in January 2009.

Taking responsibility for all footballing matters, the BTSC – a non-profit organisation – reached agreement with the council for the use of Jenner Park and set about raising money to pay for the team.

The rebuilding of Barry Town under Chesterfield and the Supporters’ Committee has been one of Welsh domestic football’s success stories in recent seasons.

With two successful Welsh Cup runs under their belt which saw their voiciferous and colourful fans making a welcome return to grounds the length and breadth of Wales, the club turned its attentions to an ascent back to the Welsh Premier League.

But Lovering’s meddling refused to go away.

Despite apparently promising to keep out of the club’s footballing matters he installed himself as club secretary and finally carried out the threat he had held over Barry Town since his arrival.

BTSC who have worked tirelessly to keep the club alive; paying the players, paying the rent as well as paying the club’s league subscriptions and fines were kept in the dark as the Welsh League met to discuss the club’s withdrawl.

Unfortunately for the fans – and for any right minded football fan – the League opted to accept the club’s withdrawl and expunged their record.

The BTSC have a right to appeal to the Football Association of Wales and one only hopes that for the good of Barry Town and for the good of Welsh football, the governing body remembers it is the guardian of the game, rather than the guardian of the rule book.