Evo-Stik Premier Division club Shaw Lane AFC have announced their withdrawal from football.
The Barnsley outfit made headlines last season as they reached the FA Cup first round, ultimately losing 3-1 to League Two Mansfield Town. However, without the necessary backing, the club have outlined their withdrawal from competition in the following statement:
‘It is with great regret and sadness that Shaw Lane AFC (first team only) have informed the relevant bodies of their withdrawal from all Football matters with immediate effect. It has been well publicised that the club has been trying to attract inward investment in the last few weeks to take the club forward. This announcement does not affect the Junior Section, which remains unaffected by this news.
Chairman Craig Wood, the club’s owner, feels that he has taken the club as far as he could and was seeking fresh investment to take the club to the next level. This was not forthcoming within the timescales necessary therefore; exploratory talks had taken place with a Wakefield based consortium, which again could not provide the required guarantees necessary for the club to compete in step 3 of the football league pyramid.
The objective when Shaw Lane FC started was to give Barnsley a non-league football club, which could work together with Barnsley FC and the council to become an asset for the community and a development club for the Borough’s promising players. Unfortunately neither of these bodies shared his vision and Craig has decided to retire from the club and concentrate on developing his business and spending more time with his young family.
The last 6 or 7 years has been a great journey and all efforts have been made along the way to establish ourselves as a sustainable football club. The fact that we were a new club that wanted to play at the highest level possible brought with it a number of challenges; primarily it was imperative that our fan base grew with the club, which should always be the case when a club is progressing through the football pyramid. Unfortunately, our fan base has remained consistent to that of 5 years ago when the club gained promotion to the NCEL. This level of support is not sustainable for a club playing step 3 Football. I have been asked; “why don’t we drop down to a level that is sustainable?”, but to be honest, I have no appetite for putting my all into a football club playing at anything other than the highest level possible.
Secondly, for the club to consolidate the rapid progress that we made it was imperative that we incorporated the name of the town in which we play within our title. It was always the objective to play at a level slightly higher than the Northern Premier League. Unfortunately, as a new club, it was always going to be difficult to establish an identity and we were very proud to represent the town of Barnsley. Our application to do this was met with hostile and aggressive resistance at times from Barnsley FC, but more disappointing it was also objected to by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and our own County FA.
With all this in mind, I have had to question why I should continue putting all my efforts into it when clearly there is no appetite for this club in the town of Barnsley. I feel sorry for our small but loyal band of supporters and volunteers and I apologise wholeheartedly for having to make this decision, if they are hurting, I can assure you I am hurting just as much, after all, I was a fan more than a Chairman.
I know it takes time to build a football club, but we wanted to do things a little differently from most clubs. Most can trace their origin back to a miner’s welfare or suchlike where a ground was given to them. I bet some football fans of non-league cannot tell you the origins of their ground or who actually owns it. People would say to me: “why didn’t Shaw Lane buy their own ground?” Well to answer this simply, contrary to what many people think, I am not sat on an oil well with a spare 10 million sat in an offshore account; I run a modest business in which I work damn hard to make a profit year on year.
To date, Shaw Lane has cost me personally well over 1 million pounds to achieve what we have. Naively I thought that if we could get this club to a seriously competitive level then people would want to support us locally, not in any way as an alternative to Barnsley FC, but as another club for local people to follow in our catchment area. The concept of Shaw Lane was always a gamble, which unfortunately has come as far as it can. We set out a 5-year plan back in 2012, which was to be knocking on the door of the National League and to play a Football League side in the FA cup, with great pride, we have achieved this and it would have been a fairy tale to be able to take the club even further.
The reality of the situation, however, is that I cannot do this on my own and inward investment from like-minded people together with supporters coming through the turnstiles was always the key to ensuring the clubs sustainability.’