A DAY after Northwich Victoria was relegated to the lowest level its team has ever played at, owner Jim Rushe says he will not resign.
He told the Guardian that it is wrong to blame him for the club’s third demotion in as many years, only one of which was because the players on the pitch were not good enough.
“I don’t feel that what has happened is my fault,” he said.
“But as the owner of the club, I have to accept some responsibility as I’m the one in the driving seat.
“However I’m determined to fight on and won’t be relinquishing control.
“ I think I have enough support [to carry on].”
Yesterday, Tuesday, an Football Association (FA) appeal board agreed with the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s decision earlier this month to punish the club for breaking finance rules.
However it decided that expulsion from the competition was too harsh a sanction, instead ordering that Vics play in its second tier from next season.
The team, which finished as runners-up to Chester in the Premier Division, will not compete in this week’s promotion play-offs either.
“I’m angry,” said Mr Rushe.
“The verdict looks bad on me, and the club. It just feels like every time certain people get a chance to kick us, then they do.
“It’s a decision of huge magnitude for everybody associated with Northwich Victoria – me, the players and the supporters.
“I think it’s the thing that has devastated me most since I came to the club [in 2007] because we should be preparing for a play-offs semi final.”
Vics were charged before Easter for two offences; first, for not complying with a legal accord made with firms to which the club owes money – a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – and second, for not telling the league that it hadn’t.
Mr Rushe was summoned to a hearing to offer his explanation, but it was not enough to convince members of a league disciplinary panel not to take drastic action.
He denied he was guilty of both, and still does.
“I want to prove to the doubters that the promises I made were not empty ones,” he added.
“I haven’t told lies, and the truth will come out.”
He did not say when, or how.
Mr Rushe does admit that the firm that pays the players’ wages, Northwich Victoria Football Club (2007) Ltd, has failed to do what was expected – that is payment of a £10,000 sum to transfer membership from the club’s previous incarnation, Northwich Victoria Football Club (2004) Ltd, to the new one – when it joined the league in the summer of 2010.
However he told representatives from the game’s governing body at Wembley yesterday that he did not know that an insolvency expert, hired by him, asked a judge at Manchester High Court in February to rip up the club’s CVA.
“We were left with no alternative,” said Gary Pettit, from business recovery specialists Marshman Price, last month.
“It is with deep frustration and regret that we have had to take such a course of action, but the directors of the club have always been aware that this would happen if they did not comply.”
In papers sent to Companies House, he said that Vics’ owner had reneged on an accord to find £2,500 each month for its long list of creditors.
Mr Pettit blamed ‘protracted negotiations’ for taking action more than two years after writing off close to two thirds of every unpaid bill in return for receiving the remainder owed in instalments over the next five years.
“[Mr Rushe] sought to claim payments were not due and pleaded ignorance as to his obligations,” he wrote.
However Mr Rushe was listed as the club’s second largest creditor, behind the tax man, when the CVA was agreed in December 2009.
Vics entered administration seven months earlier.
“It remains the case that I have never seen a penny of the money paid out by the FA following our cup run in 2009, it was given to the club’s administrator,” said Mr Rushe today, Wednesday.
“As far as I was concerned, that sum was to be used to pay off part of the CVA.
“If I had been paid the cash owed to me, which I spent keeping alive the club after it entered administration, then I would have paid the monthly instalments myself.
“But that hasn’t happened.”
Tomorrrow, Thursday, marks the third anniversary of Northwich beating Oxford United in front of a crowd totalling more than 10,000 fans in the club’s last game in non-league’s top tier.
It will play in a division four levels lower later this year.
Relegations off the field, first from the Football Conference in 2010 and now from the Northern Premier League’s top tier, persuaded fans to call for change in a protest at the weekend.
Mr Rushe indicated that none is likely to happen soon.
He said: “I heard the chants, but I’m still unsure as to in what way they want things to be different.
“Do they want me to resign tomorrow? What then?
“Do those same people think that I would spend the money I have fighting the appeal if I didn’t care? If that was true, then I could have walked away last week with pockets less light than they are now.
“It’s not about the money though; I want to continue because I have faith in a model of building up the club from the bottom.
“That may now take longer – it will be at least two years before we can end a season at the top of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League – but I believe we can achieve that.”