28 May ~ Until this week Southern League Premier club Merthyr Tydfil FC had no idea where they would play matches next season, what league they would be in and what they would actually be called. A former Conference side and participants in the 1987 European Cup-Winners Cup, Merthyr started last season with a 10-point deduction due to entering administration. This was seen by the supporters' trust, "Martyrs to the Cause", as the only way of getting rid of former owner Wyn Holloway, whom many blame for the decline of the club.
Merthyr spent all last season effectively being run by the trust who managed to fund a team capable of surviving relegation, which they managed with a final day draw, while also finding £600 a week to pay the administrator, all on average gates of around 300. During this period there were no realistic offers for the club, so it was expected that it would be formally wound up. A new club, still playing out of the council-owned Penydarren Park, would then reform and start next season a couple of leagues lower in the English pyramid. The Football Association of Wales stated that they had no objection to Merthyr remaining in the English pyramid and an application was made to the FA to reform the club in a lower league next season.
However, earlier this month the administrator advised the trust that he was in negotiations with a property developer to sell the lease of Penydarren Park. As the site is council owned and built on a Roman fort there would seem to be little prospect of any development being given the green light. This left the club effectively in limbo – with no idea what ground they would be playing in next season they could not apply to join any league. The end of the administration period is June 12. While it could be extended to October the trust has concluded that it is better to pull out now and leave the administrator and any potential developer to fund the club, effectively calling the bluff of both parties.
At an emergency meeting held by the supporters' trust on Tuesday night, fans were advised that, while the long-term aim was to return to Penydarren Park, it was now almost certain that they would have to play at another ground next season. With this in mind they have registered with the Western League – mainly comprising of teams from Somerset, Dorset and Devon – and will ground share with Welsh League club Taffs Well. With the immediate issues of a ground and league to play in almost resolved it seems likely that the old club will be liquidated on June 12, with a reformed Merthyr continuing next season. Whether the new club will be financially viable playing 18 miles away from home and whether it will ever return to Penydarren Park remain to be seen. However, fans remain optimistic, citing the recent success of Newport County, promoted to the Conference for 2010-11 as an example of how a club can recover and climb back up the pyramid. Paul Ashley-Jones