DIVISION One South club Rainworth Miners’ Welfare have made the heartbreaking decision to resign from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League at the end of the season and take a voluntary move down to step 5 of the National Leagues System.
The Wrens were promoted as runners-up in the Northern Counties East League three years ago, but as a village miners’ welfare club they are finding it increasingly difficult to compete on a level financial playing field, and believe the long term future of the club will be best served by dropping down one step, hopefully back to the NCEL Premier Division.
The club is justly proud of its achievement in becoming the first and only Miners’ Welfare side to compete at step 4. But, having gained promotion, the hoped for increase in attendances has not materialised as the football fans of the community have tended to go outside the village to Mansfield and Nottingham for their weekly ‘fix’ rather than to support their own club where, since their promotion, attendances have generally struggled to reach three figures.
At the same time some vital income streams have dried up making it even more difficult to compete at a level where players’ wage demands can sometimes tend to be unrealistic.
And, being affiliated to the local miners’ welfare club, there is the added handicap of no profit to be made from bar takings, which most other clubs can rely upon, since the football club cannot go into competition with its parent body.
Thanks to the prudent running and administration of the club, Rainworth are, unlike a number of their neighbouring clubs, free of debt, and are determined not to allow themselves to go into the red to meet the financial demands of playing at their current level. And although they would dearly love to continue to enjoy the prestige of playing at Step 4, they insist that to do so would be to allow the heart to rule the head.
Chairman Kim Wright said: “The decision to drop down was not made lightly, but was taken with regard to the club’s future sustainability.
“We have been in this league for three years, during which time we have gained wide respect and praise from our fellow competitors for our ground facilities, hospitality, organisation and competitiveness. They all now know where Rainworth is, and recognise the values for which the club stands and which it strives to uphold.
“Unfortunately clubs at this level cannot run purely on any of that, therefore after looking at predicted financial forecasts, and taking into account the falling income (attendances plus external inputs) and rising player budgets, the only option would seem to be to play within a league that matches our financial capabilities.
“At all stages everyone within the club has been fully informed of the situation and, although they may not all like the decision, it is better to be realistic now than to put ourselves in compromising position next season or at some time in the future.
“Rainworth Miners Welfare FC are in a stable financial situation, we will continue on full budget until the end of the season, and hopefully add a few more points to finish in a respectable position in the division.
“We have delayed making the decision to leave until the last possible moment in order to allow all other financial avenues to be followed up, with the aim of staying within the Northern Premier League if at all possible, but with the country in recession there are a limited number of people about willing to become benefactors. And, as the attendances have dwindled over the past years, we at the club all have to pull together and respect the decision made for its long-term sustainability.
“If, in years to come, the club does gain more financial input we will not rule out rising back to the NPL. We have been there, we have made many new friends, and we have enjoyed and gained from the experience.
“We now know what is required to run a viable club within this league so that, if and when the opportunity presents itself at some time in the future, we will be able to make a clear judgment.”
Meanwhile, in a letter from the Evo-Stik NPL to the club accepting the resignation, league secretary Angie Firth said: “On behalf of the Directors and Officers, I would thank you for your participation in the Northern Premier League. It has been a pleasure to have you with us for the past three seasons and you should all be proud of your achievements and your conduct whilst in the NPL. You have done yourselves, your club and your town proud.
“We wish you well for the future and hope to be able to welcome you back to the NPL in the future.”