Step 4 club Whyteleafe have announced regrettably that they withdrawn from the Isthmian South Central League, in a statement issued.
Fans have been left saddened after reading the news, which was posted on Monday afternoon, with concerns raised over it’s future going forward.
For the 2020/21 season, which was then cancelled, the Surrey based club finished in fourth place, picking up 13 points from six games played.
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It is with deep regret and sadness that we informed the Isthmian League earlier today that Whyteleafe FC will not be playing in next season’s Isthmian South Central League.
The club has been forced to give up its Step 4 status after new owners of the Church Road ground refused to negotiate a new lease or licence agreement with the club for the 2021-22 season.
Home to the Leafe for more than 60 years, Church Road was purchased by Irama last year at auction after the previous owners went into administration.
Despite numerous attempts by the Trustees, current management committee and an independent fan led group to discuss a way forward, Singapore based property development company Irama – the new landlords – activated a break clause to terminate the club’s lease on July 31st this year.
This was despite the club paying Irama nearly £50,000 of back rent that the new owners had been told by the administrators was due for the administration period. Whyteleafe didn’t believe this was the case as the club had been paying all the landlords’ costs during that period to keep the ground viable and to protect the value of the facility.
But Whyteleafe FC believed Irama were acting in good faith and also wanted to have an ongoing working relationship with the new owners and despite the lack of income during the Covid-19 lockdowns paid the back rent.
Our withdrawal from the Isthmian League is a devastating blow to everybody involved at the club, the fans, players local community and the wider football family. We would like to thank all of you.
– STATEMENT ENDS –
Three months ago, Whyteleafe confirmed that first team manager Harry Hudson resigned amid talk that a Singapore-based firm has bought up the Isthmian League club’s ground.
Because of this half-million-pound deal, it could see them having to leave their Church Road home and go homeless, giving them an uncertain future with times tough already.
Whyteleafe is one of three non-league football grounds around the country that has been bought by Irama, and that they have expressed interest to buy at least eight more.
The freehold of Church Road was owned by Astrosoccer 4 U Ltd, and the company had been in administration for three years, with the ground offered for sale by Savills Auction back in September. Irama paid £495,000 for a considerable chunk of Tandridge property as reported by Inside Croydon.
The Athletic reports that Irama plans “to focus on providing grassroots for the long term”.
Yet Whyteleafe chairman Mark Coote told them: “Irama don’t seem to grasp football clubs, it’s as if they’re landlords.
“This could end up finishing the club and the community I’ve built over the last 25 years. We’re in a very difficult position. Terminating the lease means Whyteleafe don’t have anywhere to play.
“This isn’t all Irama’s fault. The current climate doesn’t help. We are getting bits of help from the Football Association but it will be very difficult for our club to survive.”
The Rush Foundation, set-up in the name of the former international, has stated charitable objectives to encourage and enable youth sport. References to the Foundation are included on Irama Sport correspondence.
An Irama statement to The Athletic said: “We want all teams to continue playing at our grounds and welcome them to contact us directly if they wish to continue playing at our properties.”
Harry, who has been with the club for three seasons, said in a statement (three months ago) that he felt that he had taken the club as far as he can.
His decision to leave follows the FA’s decision to curtail the 2020-21 season and was made now to give the club as much time as possible to find a replacement before the start of the new season in August.
“I have enjoyed every minute of my time with the Leafe and fully appreciate the opportunity that the Chairman gave me to manage at Step 4,” said Harry. “It was a very difficult decision for me to make and I should like to thank everybody at the club for their trust in me and the fans for their phenomenal support. I will always have fond memories of my time with Whyteleafe Football Club.”
The club has expressed its thanks to Harry.
– STATEMENT ENDS –
WHYTELEAFE’S LEAGUE HISTORY:
1964-65 – SUR SEN – 7/15 POS
1965-66 – SUR SEN – 5/16 POS
1966-67 – SUR SEN – 9/17 POS
1967-68 – SUR SEN – 14/16 POS
1968-69 – SUR S-P – 1/15 POS
1969-70 – SUR S-P – 7/14 POS
1970-71 – SUR S-P – 8/15 POS
1971-72 – SUR S-P – 12/17 POS
1972-73 – SUR S – 12/16 POS
1973-74 – SUR S – 6/16 POS
1974-75 – SUR S – 5/15 POS
1977-78 – LON S-P – 13/16 POS
1978-79 – LON S-P – 15/18 POS
1979-80 – LON S-P – 7/16 POS
1980-81 – LON S-P – 3/16 POS
1981-82 – ATHEN – 13/19 POS
1982-83 – ATHEN – 8/20 POS
1983-84 – ATHEN – 4/21 POS
1984-85 – ISTH-2S – 5/19 POS
1985-86 – ISTH-2S – 5/20 POS
1986-87 – ISTH-2S – 12/21 POS
1987-88 – ISTH-2S – 7/22 POS
1988-89 – ISTH-2S – 2/21 POS
1989-90 – ISTH-1 – 14/22 POS
1990-91 – ISTH-1 – 9/22 POS
1991-92 – ISTH-1 – 20/21 POS
1992-93 – ISTH-1 – 14/21 POS
1993-94 – ISTH-1 – 16/22 POS
1994-95 – ISTH-1 – 11/22 POS
1995-96 – ISTH-1 – 15/22 POS
1996-97 – ISTH-1 – 9/22 POS
1997-98 – ISTH-1 – 19/22 POS
1998-99 – ISTH-1 – 18/22 POS
1999-00 – ISTH-1 – 7/22 POS
2000-01 – ISTH-1 – 9/22 POS
2001-02 – ISTH-1 – 20/22 POS
2002-03 – ISTH-1S – 5/24 POS
2003-04 – ISTH-1S – 17/24 POS
2004-05 – ISTH-1 – 9/22 POS
2005-06 – ISTH-1 – 18/23 POS
2006-07 – ISTH-1S – 20/22 POS
2007-08 – ISTH-1S – 11/22 POS
2008-09 – ISTH-1S – 18/22 POS
2009-10 – ISTH-1S – 15/22 POS
2010-11 – ISTH-1S – 16/22 POS
2011-12 – ISTH-1S – 21/21 POS
2012-13 – KENT-P – 6/17 POS
2013-14 – SCE – 1/17 POS
2014-15 – ISTH-1S – 5/24 POS
2015-16 – ISTH-1S – 15/24 POS
2016-17 – ISTH-1S – 14/24 POS
2017-18 – ISTH-1S – 8/24 POS
2018-19 – ISTH-1SE – 8/19 POS
2019-20 – ISTH-1SE (ABANDONED)
2020-21 – ISTH-1SE (ABANDONED)
Fans reacted with the Step 4 club withdrawn from the Isthmian South Central League…
@OfficialWands: From all at @OfficialWands we are saddened to read this news. @WhyteleafeFC are a terrific football club, always a great away day & day out for a neutral & we hope that you can bounce back from these difficulties as clubs like the Leafe are vital for communities & youth football.
@JackReeveTNC: Desperately sad, I thoroughly enjoyed my trips down to the ground having moved to the area in recent years.
@hastingsufc: All at The ‘U’s are saddened to hear this! Bounce back ‘Leafe!
@Ed25Terror: Dreadful. My favourite away ground. Hope you can come back stronger after this devastating blow.
@KizWxm: Awful news. A nice ground and a nice club. Best of luck for the future.
@LiamDHFC: This is a sad day as property developers strip communities of their assets. Keep on fighting for the club and make their life as difficult as possible. The fact that this company has the backing of a high profile ex player is even more shocking
@AdrianVanAalst: This should be a warning sign to all lower league clubs. @OfficialIanRush & @iramasports are not buying up grounds out of the kindness of their hearts
@benburton71: So many good times at “the leafe”, just hope this isn’t a sad end for the club 🤞🏻 ☹️
@hackbridgeharry: Really sorry to see this….
@Sportywagon: Some of this sounds familiar. Iam devastated to hear this, having visited u on many occasions both independently & with @DulwichHamletFC always a welcoming & professional club at a lovely ground. Keep fighting, get your local community involved & call them out ever chance u get
@BedfontFeltham: Terrible news. So sorry to hear this. It sounds a bit like @DulwichHamletFC‘s ground problem from a few years ago.
@felixrbaker: Gutted. I have loved watching the Leafe over the past couple of years with my family. It was a great community club. I sincerely hope this is not the end
@MarkFretwell9: Gutted for you guys. As a TMUFC fan, I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Church Road. Always got a warm welcome there. A really nice friendly club. Really hope you can bounce back from this.
@HarlowTownFC: Really sad to see this. Fingers crossed you can bounce back sometime soon.
@EdgwareTownFC: We’ve been in a similar situation with property developers that forced us to lose our home of 69 years and saw us spend 6 years dormant. We send our best wishes to all of you and hope you enjoy better times soon
@NickDuGard1: Very sorry to hear this and a warning for all clubs on short leases. Hopefully Whyteleafe can find a way back soon
@nonleaguenext: Ian Rush… shameful.
@kent_hatchet: Absolutely disgraceful treatment. Heartbreaking for all @WhyteleafeFC
@SportingLeafe: We can blame Irama for not allowing us to climb out of this hole. We can’t blame them for digging the hole in the first place.
@1_keate: We want our club back 💚🤍
@Nicholaslcfc17: Very sad to lose any club . Hope they can get going again
@StephenDown3: This is awful news. I always enjoyed my visits to you. I hope that you are back up and running again soon.
@meader_d: Devastating news for all the fans, staff and anyone connected with the club. So much for Irama looking after grassroots
@DanielEngland98: Sad news hopefully can come back for the 2022-2023 season some landlords don’t have club like Steve Dale did at bury fc who said he never heard of them and didn’t know the had a club hopefully the pheonix club might step in and the fa with the Premier league and something can get
@JamesFleury91: That a former professional footballer has been involved in the sale of a football ground in favour of buying property for profit is a betrayal of community and of the sport. V poor from Ian Rush. Fingers crossed you can find a new site for 2022/23.
@rhak137: So sad to see this. So much for people caring about grass roots football, this is just wrong
@NEILRHODES9: Absolutely disgusting behaviour from Irama sports and Ian Rush to force our local club out of our community.
@Davie42782790: Absolutely disgusting, sorry for all the people who run the club and fans
@Blind_Tudor: Bloody property developers really annoy me with this!
@SteveKuhne: Terrible shame. A club with a decent history. I remember playing there a few times in the late 80’s