Football: Non-League Notebook - Financial crisis threatens Hereford's future

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The Independent Online
When Hereford United were relegated from the Football League in May, they were hoping to follow in the bootsteps of Lincoln City and Colchester United, who both won promotion from the GM Vauxhall Conference at the first attempt.

Instead, to their fans' horror, they are in danger of emulating Newport County, who suffered a financial collapse following the drop out of the League in 1988 and were unable to complete their first season in the "fifth division."

A fans' forum this week was shocked to be told that players and administrative staff had not been paid for a month. Last night the supporters were given the chance to help United, when another public meeting was held to try to secure financial support for the beleaguered Edgar Street club.

Peter Hill, the Hereford chairman, has blamed a number of factors for his club's plight. "At the end of last season we knew we needed to find between pounds 750,000 and pounds 900,000," he said yesterday. "Then we discovered that were getting only 50 per cent of the Football League's television money - we were expecting 100 per cent in our first season outside the League. Then a transfer tribunal priced Dean Smith at pounds 42,500 - we were expecting at least pounds 150,000 from Leyton Orient. Then the bank reduced our overdraft limit."

It got worse. Hereford need an average gate of 5,000 to break even - and crowds are down to 2,000. "There are no Al Fayeds here," Hill said. "I'm just a normal football director."

Hereford hope to move to a new stadium by the end of the century, but they will not net all the proceeds of the sale of Edgar Street because the ground is council-owned. They have, however, had a loan of pounds 500,000 to keep them going from the property developers Bristol Stadium Group, from whom they are now seeking a further loan. Their bank has also agreed to pay the wage bill this week.

Hereford still intend to maintain a full-time playing staff this term, and Smith is hoping to bring up to five new directors on board soon. "There is some light at the end of the tunnel," he said.