Monday 23 February ~
Seventeen-year-old goalkeeper Joe Prodomo made his first-team debut for Weymouth in their game at home to Rushden on Saturday and was voted Man of the Match. Which goes to show what a terrible day it was for his team – Weymouth lost 9-0, equalling a Conference record for the worst-ever defeat. Like the rest of the club's staff, the first-team squad have not been paid for nearly two months and they no longer had any insurance cover. Prodomo and his ten team-mates from the Weymouth youth side had to be drafted in to fulfil the fixture. It is likely that they will have carry on being picked for the remainder of the season, if the club survives that long.
"Weymouth is the Afghanistan of non-League," said the club's former chairman Malcolm Curtis last month. His outburst came when he pulled out of talks with a fans consortium which he claimed was beset by in-fighting. But Curtis is seen by most observers as the principal cause of the club's financial problems. Having made a large profit on his association with Weymouth by cheaply acquiring land around the Wessex Stadium, Curtis is said to have reneged on a promise to put over £100,000 back into the club. The supporters group were unable to complete their takeover without that injection of cash so the club is now spiralling towards bankruptcy. A fundraising campaign has been set up with the aim of getting supporters to buy shares in the team at 50p a share. Meanwhile several people cashed in by betting on a large Rushden win.
One level below Weymouth, Fisher Athletic of the Blue Square South also lost their entire first team-squad earlier in the season and have since been fielding a collection of local amateur players. They made the national news last week when former turnstile operator Donna Powell took over as manager for one game, against Eastleigh, after winning a supporters' auction. The team only lost 2-1 but another defeat on Saturday made 13 in a row. Weymouth are currently in mid-table but if they go into administration they will have ten points deducted, which would drop them into the relegation zone.
That is probably the least bad option. The club's chief executive Alan Calder has been in talks with the chairman of Dorset neighbours Dorchester Town about a merger, while it is still possible that they may go out of business altogether. The Conference have assured the club that they will face no further sanctions if the youth team have to play for the remainder of the season, although a succession of big defeats could have significant effects for several other clubs should promotion and relegation issues be decided on goal difference. As we said last month, the pursuit of a League place has warped the judgment of many owners of Conference clubs who have spent irresponsibly, then bailed out. Weymouth may yet prosper as a fan-owned club but it could be a long way back.