Rushden’s Diamonds Are No Longer Sparkling

by Mike Moore

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Glittering past successes for the Diamonds

Yesterday Rushden and Diamonds FC were officially expelled from the Conference, marking probably the darkest day in the very short history of many fans second favourite team (if not just for their unique name). Struggling with debts of nearly a million pounds, and having been docked five points last month for unpaid tax payments, the club now face a winding-up hearing on Monday, whilst also now having to plan for a very uncertain future, having admitted they could not guarantee being able to fulfil next season’s fixtures.

Created in 1992 when club founder and Doc Martens entrepreneur Max Griggs merged Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds, the club rose rapidly through the divisions, reaching the Football League in 2001 and gaining promotion to what is now League One in 2003. However, recent seasons saw the club on the side, and Griggs stepped down in October 2003, deciding that he has done all he could do for them.

This season has proved especially difficult for ex-Spurs defender Justin Edinburgh’s side. Yesterday expulsion from the Conference was coupled with an emotional statement on the club’s website, expressing their thanks at the “astonishing efforts” made by supporters and the club’s directors to help aid what they call the club’s “impossible position”. Despite rumours of a possible link-up with former England manager Glenn Hoddle’s Spanish academy group, the club failed in convincing the Football League at last week’s AGM, where they made a presentation outlining this and two other possible investment consortiums revealed by club chief executive Steve Beasant.

Rushden’s demotion does mean reprieve for several other clubs. Southport, relegated from the Conference on a dramatic last day of the season, will now remain in that division at Diamond’s expense. Further down the league pyramid, Thurrock will remain in the Conference South despite finishing in its relegation places, and Bishop’s Stortford will move to the Conference North in order to accommodate for the turmoil. Hopefully their respective reprieves will allow them to rebuild and push for survival next season.

Diamonds, however, if they survive tomorrow’s hearing, will have to re-enter the league at a much lower level, planning to apply to the Zamaretto League, two tiers below the Conference, in order to get the club back on track once they know it’s immediate future. This demotion may provide the club with a useful rebuilding period, allowing them to refocus and start again. Former league clubs, such as AFC Wimbledon, who rose from the lowest rank of non-league to promotion to the Football League, and Boston United, crippled by successive administration periods before recovering back to narrowly missing promotion back to the Conference this season, prove it can be done.

It is a sad way for any club so suffer demotion, yet it seems that as financial issues continue to dog many league teams (as the Football League’s adoption of major monetary limitations last week showed) such a fate could prove to affect many more teams.

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