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Gateshead FC: On the brink of extinction

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Gateshead need your help

Usually, when your team finishes 9th in the table, just two spaces below the play-off places, the season is considered a relative success. Players can rest after a gruelling 46-game schedule is finally put to bed, holiday's are booked, relaxation time with friends and family is well earned for both players and staff.

For Gateshead FC, though, their story is a far cry from the sandy beaches and hotel bars most players will be experiencing this summer. That is, mainly, because the club no longer have any. The north east outfit, who are currently members of the National League, find themselves in dire straights following a fairly promising season on the pitch.

They have no players or staff left, with several of the Heed's squad from this season being sacked via email or text by the club's owner Ranjan Varghese this week. Left-back Scott Barrow is the only contracted player currently at Gateshead, with his deal expiring next month; when that comes to an end, not one person, both on and off the field, will remain at the Gateshead International Stadium.

Last Saturday's match against Barrow could well be the last at the Gateshead International Stadium. (credit: @gatesheadfc)

Midfielder JJ O'Donnell played out the final stages of his contract employed by the club as kitman, after his playing agreement finished prior to the campaign ending. O'Donnell was then made aware of his release via email, alongside manager Ben Clark, his assistant Ian Watson, press officer Dominic Scurr, general manager Alisha Henry and club therapist Annie Davis.

Now, fed up with what is happening to their beloved side, the Gateshead Supporters' Group, Gateshead Soul, have announced plans to form a brand new breakaway club. With the backing of local MP Ian Mearns, Gateshead Soul chairman Bernard Williams said that the group have key stakeholders ready to come on board, with plans for a potential new management team already in place ahead of the forthcoming 2019-20 campaign.

Should the trust be successful and create this brand new club, it will be placed in step seven of the non-league pyramid - the Wearside League. However, special dispensation is often granted to breakaway clubs with a huge following and substantial financial backing, meaning there is a chance of them being placed in the Northern League Premier Division - step five of the pyramid.

Gateshead made it through to the National League play-off final in 2014, now they're on the brink of extinction.

"We were left with just 14 senior players"

We spoke to the Gateshead Soul Supporters Association regarding the situation surround the club at the moment, and what exactly their plans are for the future.

You finished 9th this season, just eight points behind the playoffs - what exactly went wrong for you guys? 

The play-off push was severely damaged due to the lack of players we had on our books at the club. The reasons for this became apparent when we realised the league had placed us under a transfer embargo in September (Which the club tried to keep quiet), this was in response to their concerns around the owners being unable to fulfil their financial obligations. 

The owners then sold our top scorer, Scott Boden for 12k when the HMRC came looking for an outstanding sum, believed to be around the 10k mark, despite promising at a talk-in with fans that no players would be sold against the manager’s wishes.

It didn’t stop there, Fraser Kerr was sold in the New Year for the paltry sum of 4k behind the manager’s back. They also touted our Captain, Scott Barrow through an agent that was instructed by Joseph Cala without either Scott or his own agent’s knowledge.

We also couldn’t keep hold of important loan players Luke Armstrong & Luke Molyneux because we failed to pay loan fees to their parent clubs.

This all culminated in the final squad of players becoming fatigued, through no fault of their own, and unfortunately, they fell just short in the end.  We were left with just 14 senior players, many of whom were in their first season of full time football.

When did you start to notice just how bad things were?

We had concerns from the start, a quick google search on the names of the people involved, especially Joseph Cala, showed the type of people we were dealing with.

Our fortunes on the field may have blinded some fans into thinking things were working well in the club. However, when Mike Coulson stood down as general manager after over 20 years of service to the club we really felt like this was the time to take action, hence the creation of Gateshead Soul.

I'm led to believe that if you were to start this new side, you would start in Step 7 of the non-league pyramid. That is obviously a huge step down in regards to standard of football, do you feel confident you'd be able to attract the right sort of players ready to fight their way back through the divisions?

Of course, we have every confidence we’ll have the right management team in place to put together a very competitive squad of players.

We may get special dispensation from the FA to compete at Step 5 which would be huge bonus to our new club. We have the backing of key stakeholders and authorities in the community to help build the team on and off the pitch.

How many players and staff do the club currently have on their books? (if any)

The current club has one player left on the books, Scott Barrow, Club Captain, whose contract runs out at the end of June.

Will you be able to keep hold of the stadium, or look to move elsewhere?

Fortunately, we have the backing of Gateshead Council and we are currently in discussions to find a suitable option to play our home games.

Obviously £50,000 is the amount you're aiming to raise, what exactly would that money enable you to do for your potential new club, and when would you need to have the wheels in motion for it to be ready for the forthcoming 2019-20 campaign?

The money raised will help us to fund our club on and off the field, added to that, as previously mentioned, we have the backing of key stakeholders within the community to help our cause.

We hope to establish ourselves as a community run club which is ran by the fans, for the fans. We have upcoming meetings in place with the FA to ensure we can start our campaign for the 2019-20 season.

Every little helps

Unfortunately, this sort of thing is becoming all too common in lower league football, with owners seemingly not bothered about the welfare of their clubs or, more importantly, their fans.

Gateshead Soul have created a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for their proposed new venture, with any donations greatly welcomed. They have currently raised just under £5,500 of their £50,000 target.

See the link below for more details:

On behalf of everyone at FootyAccumulators, we wish them all the very best of luck.