Duffers’ Diaries: Whatever could be next for football in Ilkeston?

Who knows what's in store when it comes to football at the New Manor Ground.
Who knows what's in store when it comes to football at the New Manor Ground.

It’s fair to say the past few days have been very strange when it comes to covering the ever-changing fortunes of Ilkeston FC.

Having been aware a takeover of the club was imminent for a little while - and urgently needed as well given the court date set for Monday - I’d heard nothing throughout last week to suggest it would happen in time.

Then I finally spoke to owner Nigel Harrop on Sunday night who told me a deal had been done and All Eight Sports Management were drafting out a statement to release the next day - timed not coincidentally to go public just before the court hearing in Liverpool.

I was e-mailed the statement late on Sunday night and woke up on Monday expecting at the very least an adjournment so that the takeover could be completed and the various debts paid off, most importantly that owed to Hire Intelligence Ltd and which put the Robins in court in the first place.

Of course, things are rarely that simple, and as was the case in 2010 I was quite surprised to see that the presiding judge had wound the club up, not convinced that the terms of the takeover were secure enough to ensure creditors would be paid.

On the face of it, that’s that. Much has been made of Nigel Harrop and All Eight’s attempts to try and salvage the club by doing a deal with Hire Intelligence, but as I write this on Tuesday another huge spanner has just been thrown in the works.

The Northern Premier League, perhaps understandably, have refused Ilkeston a licence following several breaches of the rulebook last year, let alone the huge cloud hanging over their future, and chucked them out of the league.

That, in my eyes, will surely put paid to any hopes the club had of surviving, although as I write it’s yet to be confirmed what effect it’ll have on the proposed takeover.

Ilkeston are likely to have to drop at least one more level if they were to survive, and with respect to the likes of the Northern Counties East League, the Midland Football League and beyond, that’s probably not the level of football prospective buyers had in mind when it came to wanting to buy the club.

If anyone else fancies taking it on, good luck to them, but the chances of the creditors getting any of their money back get slimmer by the day, which is a very sad situation given many are individuals with mortgages to pay and mouths to feed.

Assuming all attempts fail to solve all these problems then the club will be officially liquidated next Monday at the latest and, frankly, that’s horrendous and the result of years of poor decisions, mis-management and numerous other unhelpful elements that give a club at this level little chance of achieving whatever dreams they might have.

We can spend all day playing the blame game and many fans do so, but the fact is that those responsible for playing a part in the club’s downfall - and it would seem there are a few - know who they are, even if they’re not prepared to recognise they did anything wrong.

On the flipside, and if we were to assume for a second the club is somehow saved in the next few days and the owners are willing to drop a few levels, I still foresee numerous problems ahead.

Firstly, Hire Intelligence aren’t the only creditors, far from it, and others will be queuing up wanting their cash.

All Eight have said they will talk to each and every one of them to work out a way forward, but if they’re expecting all the creditors to settle for some kind of payment plan to get their money back they may be disappointed.

I see little chance of those owed money being willing to sit patiently and hope that the new owners generate enough money out of Ilkeston FC to ensure they’re paid back. They’ve done that for long enough and I expect most will want whatever they’re owed paid back straight away and in full, otherwise we could be back in a similar situation to that we’ve seen over the last few days before too long.

If All Eight are somehow prepared to pay everyone everything straight away, they’ll need a fair few quid handy to do so. The company was only set up in March, so just how much cash they have lying around would be interesting to know.

As I say, I fear a lot of these issues may become irrelevant now following Tuesday’s news, but given I’d already written all of that before it broke I figured I’d keep it in...

Another factor in all this of course, and perhaps the most important, is the supporters.

Robins fans have by and large had enough and attempts to create a new community club are in full swing. It’s clear they don’t want their club to be owned by independent businesses/businessmen any longer, regardless of whether All Eight manage to save Ilkeston on this occasion.

I can’t really argue with them. As someone who has covered this team extensively over their entire existence, I too am highly frustrated by what’s happened and the fact that a promising future has most likely turned to dust.

So with the initial creation of Ilkeston United Community Football Club comes a great opportunity for what would hopefully be greater longevity and in a far more agreeable manner when it comes to supporter interaction and input.

Of course, should Ilkeston FC survive then I’d imagine Ilkeston United will be put on the back-burner for the time being, but it’s looking increasingly likely now that those plans could well be allowed to go full steam ahead.

Having checked it out with IFCSG chairman Duncan Payne it would seem starting up next season might be cutting it a bit fine, but a year preparing may not be a bad thing given the infrastructure required to operate successfully and with the facilities Ilkeston would have a their disposal were they to stay at the NMG.

But as we now sit in a slight state of limbo and await what happens next, there can be no doubt that the football landscape in Ilkeston needs to change dramatically if we’re to avoid being in a similar situation yet again before too long.