Club could be withdrawn from League
14 November ~ While Swansea City's centenary season is coinciding with probably their most successful ever period, not all Welsh clubs celebrating the milestone can do so with such confidence. Barry Town, 40 miles further east, are facing withdrawal from the Welsh League and a threat to their very survival courtesy of their chairman and owner, Stuart Lovering. Barry Town are the most successful club in the history of the League of Wales, wining the title on seven out of eight occasions between 1996 and 2003 and is supplemented by Welsh Cup and League Cup victories.
This domestic success was also occasionally matched on the European stage. The 1996-97 UEFA Cup saw Barry beat Latvian and Hungarian opponents before losing 6-4 on aggregate to Aberdeen. While the home leg of this game was watched by over 6,000, Barry always struggled to attract gates to justify their fully professional status. A swift fall from grace – including an unsuccessful gamble of appointing John Fashanu as chairman – saw the club go into administration with debts of around £1 million in the summer of 2003.
Stuart Lovering took control of the club and adjoining social club in December 2003 by paying £125,000 to clear debts as part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement. However, his motives proved far from altruistic and his nine years in charge have been tumultuous with relegation, a temporary ground move due to a refusal to pay rent and the formation of a breakaway club; Barry FC.
During this time Lovering has repeatedly put the club up for sale, hoping to make a profit on his investment. Each time he has been unsuccessful and since September 2011 the club has been run and funded by Barry Town Supporters Committee. With the team (all unpaid) sitting in the top half of the table, the club seemed set to marks its 100 years of existence as a sustainable, community-based entity. These celebrations began in the summer with a pre-season game against Cardiff City and a fundraising dinner involving past players is planned for later this month.
However, in true pantomime villain style, Lovering recently announced that unless he can sell before Christmas, he intends to withdraw the club from the League, effectively killing off Barry Town. A subsequent bid by the Supporters Committee, backed by the local MP, to buy the club was quickly rejected and the club is currently being marketed at around £170,000. To reinforce his threat Lovering also sacked long-serving secretary David Cole, taking on the role himself and ensuring he can legally carry out his threat to withdraw the club whenever he chooses.
With the future uncertain off the field, on it Barry continue to provide hope for their supporters; they reached the third round of the Welsh Cup last weekend. A home game next month with Cardiff-based Ely Rangers will provide some welcome revenue and positive focus. While no one can be sure how the current situation will unfold, there are parallels with Swansea City. Their own path to success began when their supporters' trust and local businessmen ousted owner Tony Petty in 2002. Barry Town fans will hope for similar success off the field and an eventual return to former success on it. Paul Ashley-Jones