Football: Barnet given stay of execution by their fellow clubs: Debt-ridden side win 25 per cent support to stay in League but must find pounds 500,000 to survive. Phil Shaw reports

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The Independent Online
BARNET, who were given an unconditional stay of execution by their fellow Football League members yesterday, will now go cap in hand to those clubs who picked up their prize assets on free transfers in an attempt to raise the pounds 500,000 they need in order to survive.

The newly promoted Second Division club, pounds 1.3m in debt and with only six registered players, unexpectedly secured the 25 per cent support they required to scupper a resolution by the League Board to expel them at an AGM held at Nottingham Forest's ground.

Thirty-eight clubs backed the League's motion and 18 dissented - giving Barnet almost a third of the votes cast - with one abstention. Remarkably, 13 clubs failed to attend or even vote by proxy.

Stephen Glynne, Barnet's acting chairman, claimed they had defied a League 'vendetta'. But he warned that unless the club found a new backer within a week, or could persuade the likes of Forest, who have signed their pounds 500,000-rated striker Gary Bull, to compensate them, they would have to resign anyway.

'After today's vote Barnet are in a position to continue in the League, but only if we attract close to pounds 500,000 in funds,' Glynne said. 'If we don't, we'll reluctantly have to resign, which will be going with dignity rather than being expelled.'

Glynne felt it would be 'not unreasonable' for Forest and Southend - whose manager, Barry Fry, late of Barnet, signed three players released by the League after the Hertfordshire club failed to pay their wages - to make 'a token payment'.

However, the Forest chairman, Fred Reacher, said he had voted against Barnet and believed it would be 'pure hypocrisy' to make any donation. 'I don't think we are obligated to give them anything,' he said. 'No one has come here today and said they'll put money into Barnet, and I don't think they'll survive.'

Gordon McKeag, the chairman of the League Board, confirmed that the embargo on Barnet recruiting staff would not be lifted until they paid their players, including those who have left, a sum believed to be in the region of pounds 200,000. He added: 'The wisdom of this vote may not be clear until the end of the season. If Barnet fulfil their commitments, we'll be delighted. If they fail to do so, today's decision will have been unfortunate.'

Wolves' chairman, Jonathan Hayward, indicated that the presence of 40 Barnet loyalists swayed some delegates. 'The feeling was that they have a very committed set of supporters and that they were being punished for the misdemeanours of someone else.'

Hayward wanted 'certain criteria' established to prevent 'the wrong people' gaining control of clubs. This was as near as anyone came, publicly, to censuring Stan Flashman, the former Barnet chairman.

The verdict was bad news for Walsall, who expected to take Barnet's place in the Second Division, and Halifax, who hoped to regain their League place. Roy Whalley, Walsall's chief executive, said they would have preferred promotion by right, but added: 'It's generally accepted that Barnet have breached every regulation in the book. The public will find it hard to understand how the oldest league in the world can accept this type of behaviour.'

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