‘Frustrated’ Isthmian League chairman Nick Robinson fears that we could be set to see a certain non league club unfortunately fold.
Robinson spoke on the sad plight of Whyteleafe Football Club whose resignation from the South Central Division this summer has been confirmed.
Since being a league secretary in 1982 and latterly at the helm, Robinson said he had done all he could to help them in their ongoing dispute with new landlords iRama which mean we end us losing them for good.
Lawyer Robinson’s attempt to be an intermediary proved futile despite the Isthmian League trying to show that they want to see an end to a disagreement with the club after they initially tendered their resignation in mid-June, allowing them to stay within the constitution in the hope a deal between Singapore-based iRama and Whyteleafe could be agreed.
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iRama bought the freehold to Whyteleafe’s Church Road at auction for around half a million pounds after previous owners, AstroSoccer4U Ltd – of which Whyteleafe chairman Mark Coote was a director – went into administration in 2017 and were wound up in 2020.
Women and youth teams who have used the Whyteleafe name are continuing to use the facilities, while the first team have no home, and with the dispute between the club and landlords concerning the lease and financial issues, Robinson fears the worst.
“We are just very sad,” he said as quoted in the Surrey Live. “I’ve tried to bring the parties together and got criticised by iRama.
“They claimed they were helping the club but I find it difficult to understand how.
“Whyteleafe is an unincorporated association and I feel very sorry for the trustees because clearly the Singapore company aren’t letting this go.
“It’s quite worrying for the state of football. We have lost Whyteleafe and Abingdon [who also claim to not have been able to negotiate a deal with new owners iRama].”
On Whyteleafe’s predicament, Robinson added: “When this situation first happened, we said to the club, ‘we will keep you in the constitution and we’ll do everything we can and I promise to broker a meeting’, which I did, and that didn’t work.
“I think Mark [Coote] is very upset. Whyteleafe FC would not have survived up until now if it wasn’t for Mark Coote.
“I assume the club will now just cease to exist. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“They are an unincorporated corporation so the members, such as they are, are responsible, and to be honest that’s the worry for everybody.
“If iRama are determined, they could make life very uncomfortable for people. And iRama have got a ground that they can hire out to anybody if anybody can afford the terms.”
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At the time of going to press, Whyteleafe were unavailable for comment but vice chairman Clive Davis has previously commented it would be “devastating” for him to see Whyteleafe fold.
“It’s been my life for the past six years and the people who are going to suffer are the fans of the club which has been going for 75 years,” he said.
iRama have claimed in a statement issued in June they’ve done everything they can to help the club, saying: “We have tried and have still been actively trying to accommodate the Whyteleafe first team as we know how much the club means to the fans and the players and we want to ensure that the community that has been built all these years continues to thrive.”
With both parties blaming each other, that seems not to have worked, resulting in a statement on the Isthmian League website which confirmed: “The club joined the League in 1984 and has been in continuous membership since then. “The club initially resigned on the day of the league’s AGM this year when it was decided to retain the club in the constitution of the league.
“It was the hope of many that the club would be able to resolve the problems it had over the use of its ground but that has not been the case.
“The board has therefore sadly acknowledged the resignation, and the club’s fixtures will be removed from the league’s schedule.”
There is also concern for Abingdon Town who are also going through the same thing at Whyteleafe. A lot of fingers crossed and praying we’ll get to see them play again one day in the near future.
As a ‘frustrated’ Isthmian League chairman fears the club could be set to fold, fans took to give their reaction on the news of the resignation…
@PeterVale8: Sad day when this happens in the non-league family. Let’s hope they can bounce back as soon as possible.
@AdrianVanAalst: @iramasports & @Ian_Rush9 coming soon to a non league club near you
@RobinMorgan277: It’s now up to the local planning authority to refuse any potential redevelopment application to nip similar appalling applications in the bud.
@the_hillians: Totally gutted to see this 😢
@TrevorWAllman: Such a shame. Used to enjoy my trips down to Whyteleafe, not only to the football ground, but wandering round the environs as well as paying my respects at the @RoyalAirForce War Graves at the Church near the ground.
@toboboly: @tracey_crouch Disgusting from @iramasports and @Ian_Rush9 – a community asset stripped and destroyed
@KayleeJS: It’s weird, I remember doing lots of stories around them being one of the first to get a 3G pitch and what a great move it was … little did I realise at the time it was the beginning of the end 😔
@Ctrl_Alt_Leafe: Shame on you @Ian_Rush9
@Ollie_Underwood: Gutted to hear this, hopefully we’ll see @WhyteleafeFC back soon #KeepFighting