27 January ~ Having nearly seen their club fold less than half a decade ago, Wrexham fans are once more fearing the worst. Their rugby league tenants, the Crusaders, have taken out a loan for £700,000 using The Racecourse Ground as security, while the stated aim of Wrexham's two owners, Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts, is to sell the club but keep the ground. The club's problems began in 2002 when Pryce Griffiths, known as "Mister Wrexham" and a man who had seemingly seen his stewardship of the club as a civic duty, sold out to a property developer.
Having seen the man they trusted sell up for a handsome cut of his successor's profit, fans battled to save The Racecourse. After four years of bitter turmoil they prevailed but were unlikely to trust the next incumbents of the boardroom. It seems they were right to be wary; there's a familiar look to the actions of the current board, who took a debt-free club out of administration in 2006.
Development is currently taking place on what used to be the club's car park. The board argue that construction of blocks of student flats is required to wipe out Wrexham's debts and cope with running costs which have spiralled out of hand. Yet those debts were racked up by the current board, who were extravagant in allowing a succession of managers to rip up the squad and start again. The wage bill soared as in each of the three seasons between 2006 and 2009 Wrexham used more players than they had in any other campaign since they first played league football in 1890.
The owners took the land in return for covering the debt they'd run up, and will retain future profits through Wrexham Village, a holding company which owns the ground and both football and rugby clubs. The revelation last week that the ground has been used as security to keep a new rugby league franchise alive was the icing on the cake. The Crusaders came out of administration on Christmas Eve having only completed two seasons in the Super League; if they go under again, the ground will be lost.
Mind you, as Wrexham Village plan to dispose of Wrexham FC and retain The Racecourse, charging rent for the privilege of staying at the ground the club has called home since 1872, it's probably lost anyway. Mansfield and Stockport fans will recognise the predicament Wrexham find themselves in. Mark Griffiths