FOOTBALL fans say they will launch a new club in the town if enough people promise to back their proposal.
Northwich Victoria Supporters’ Trust plans to talk for the first time tomorrow, Thursday, about its vision for a new version of Vics run, and owned, by followers of the club.
“It’s time for Northwich fans to take on full responsibility,” said trust chairman Paul Stockton.
“That’s why we’re proposing to create a new club owned not by one individual, but collectively and operated in a transparent and sustainable way.”
The trust will present its idea to supporters at an open meeting tomorrow, Thursday, at Lostock Social Club from 7.45pm.
Fans can then say what they think.
Mr Stockton added: “We believe the outcome [of the meeting] will have a major influence on the continued existence and future direction of the club.”
Trust members will be asked to approve changes to the group’s rules to give it greater flexibility to offer a community share scheme to raise money.
Northern Premier League rivals FC United of Manchester have done something similar to collect cash to help pay for a new stadium.
“It’s possible to set up a club that can provide a positive image of the town with a stable financial base and support from local businesses,” added Mr Stockton.
“Of course we acknowledge that what we are proposing may have a detrimental effect on the trust’s relationship with the club’s current owner.
“It may divide supporters, but we’d like an indication of how as many Vics fans as possible feel.”
He said the trust board had made up its mind after Vics’ owner JimRushe told supporters at a meeting last month that he may not have enough money to keep running the club next season.
Mr Rushe’s refusal to accept offers of help from fans, or the trust, had swayed opinion too according to Mr Stockton.
He said: “We haven’t given up trying to establish a working relationship with him.
“But, unlike before, we’ll no longer pursue it. If he comes to us, then we remain open to talks.”
The trust board has confirmed to the Guardian that it would consider buying the current club if it was put up for sale, although an offer would depend upon the state of its finances.
“We’d need to carry out due diligence then report the findings to our members before asking them what they would wish for us to do next,” said Mr Stockton.
Meanwhile Mr Rushe has reaffirmed his commitment to keeping alive the club, which remains homeless, in its current form.
He said: “Northwich Victoria is not dead, and I’m very much focused on keeping it that way. I expect the club to survive.
“This group of players is the best the club has had for a long time and I plan to keep it together for the rest of this season and into next.
“While I do that, work will continue to find a place for them to play that is as near to Northwich as possible.
“Longer term, I’d like to be in a position to build a new ground elsewhere.”
Vics have an agreement in principle to host opponents next season more than 30 miles away from their former home, the Victoria Stadium, at Skelmersdale.
The Division One North club’s ground was due to be inspected yesterday, Tuesday, by Northern Premier League officials to check it is up to standard to host Premier Division matches.
Mr Rushe said that, and not what the trust was up to, was uppermost in his mind.
He added: “The supporters’ trust is entitled to do what it wants.
“They’ve called a meeting this week to talk about forming their own club, rather than looking at ways this one can be saved.”
The trust says it will publish a business case to back up its initial ideas.
It plans to ask Thor Specialities (UK) Ltd, a chemicals manufacturer that bought land in January upon which the Victoria Stadium is built, to hand over the ground’s assets to fans.
Mr Stockton said: “We are actively seeking a positive answer [from Thor] because we see that as key to increasing our credibility with fans and other stakeholders.”
It is now more than a month since Thor managing director David Hewitt promised to find a solution for the benefit of the town.
“It is in everybody’s interest to work together,” he said after a summit with Cheshire West and Chester Council, Sport England and Cheshire FA.