15 May ~ Many clubs are finding it difficult to keep even their most loyal supporters happy these days. But at Lincoln City, times are particularly hard. In addition to suffering dwindling attendances, the Imps recently found themselves the subject of a large-scale protest after the board turned on disgruntled fans. After five unsuccessful play-off finishes under the late Keith Alexander then John Schofield, the Imps struggled for four years. A winless run of 11 games at the back end of 2010-11 saw them slip into the Conference where they had previously played one season, in 1987-88.

Manager Steve Tilson was sacked in October after three wins in his first 14 matches, although his successor, ex-Birmingham stopper David Holdsworth, proved no better, leaving fans perplexed at the club’s inexorable decline.

Despite suffering relegation form, chairman Bob Dorrian backed Holdsworth and called on fans to see the team through to the end of the season unscathed. With Lincoln limply staving off successive relegations, a protest prior to March’s home match with Newport County was organised. The board soon released a strongly worded statement condemning the protest, using inverted commas to describe "supporters" voicing dissatisfaction. The statement claimed that any protest would further destabilise the team’s relegation fight and was motivated to undermine the board’s authority.

The statement drew furious reactions from supporters online. Some suggested it would only make the protest more forceful. Others voiced concerns that the board had launched an assault on free speech and rights to protest. More bizarrely, prior to the Newport game the club announced that the main stand, which houses the directors’ box, would be closed during the match due to a water leak. Conspiracy theories abounded, with some suggesting the board had concocted the story to excuse themselves from facing angry fans.

The protest saw a sizeable turnout of fans calling for Holdsworth to be sacked and Dorrian to resign. Conversely, what followed was City’s first win in two months. Having faced criticism and requests for the statement to be retracted or reworded, the club made a half-hearted attempt with a website story thanking fans for their support during the Newport match. This included a picture from inside the bowels of the main stand of buckets and flowing water, presumably included to keep conspiracy theorists quiet.

From there, the team completed a hat-trick of wins. The remaining matches saw City limp over the finishing line to guarantee Conference survival with one game to spare, albeit aided by results elsewhere. A "boardroom blog" appeared, updating fans on decisions made by the Sincil Bank powerbrokers. Dorrian also sanctioned subsidised transport to the final match at Ebbsfleet to thank supporters for sticking by the side despite their "indifferent form" away from home over the season. Whether these moves will be enough to repair the fractured relationship between club and supporter, however, remains to be seen. James Prentice

Comments (6)
Comment by Lincoln 2012-05-15 15:47:46

The demonstration ammounted to about 30 people, hardly a mass protest. The statement was a terrible peice of PR though and didn't help matters. The problem I have is that the board seemed to be blamed for everything yet they are ones working hard to keep Lincoln afloat. The fans are leaving the club behind while the board are busy sinking in money they will never see again and making moves to keep the club out of administration again. They are not perfect but they could be a lot lot worse. I think a lot of Lincoln fans presume there is someone who has a suited fashioned from £50 notes and an oil swimming pool in his house who is just desperate to pump in trillions of pounds into the club but the evil board are denying him this chance. The reality being a few people have said they might invest and writing all about it in the local papers and having live internet chats on some fans' sites and generally lapping up the lime light without actually doing anything to help the club

Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-16 09:08:00

*Chuckles* G-T-F-C!! You forgot to mention you were thrice played off the park by your county rivals this season to further compound your misery.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-05-16 09:45:19

New county rivals :) And I wouldn't call the game on Boxing Day being played off the park. Two teams played some awful football, but Lincoln were the more awful of the two.

Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-16 16:07:55

You were. It would have been at least three had Elding not missed his customary sitter. Once the French lad went off injured you were never in the game. Great atmosphere though.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-05-16 18:28:53

He looks to have had a few fish suppers since leaving Lincoln. We have been mostly dreadful all season and once our tactic of playing out wide and crossing badly got sussed out by Grimsby and they defended narrow as there really was no danger out wide it was a nothing of a game.
Atmosphere was decent, few of ours let it down though by spending another day in front of the box with mince pies. Hopefully when we are going for top spot next season will be a bit more interest

Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-16 19:06:02

Yeah, I hope we're both up there. GY on top at the end though! It's a shame Gainsborough lost v Nuneaton. Another Lincolnshire derby would have been nice and I've never been to the Northolme.

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