It is now over three years since the dissolution of Scarborough Football Club. In that summer of 2007, a new club was born in their place. But Scarborough Athletic were joined in the North Yorkshire seaside resort a year later by a second team, Scarborough Town.
The existence of two clubs, where previously there was one, has created a certain degree of acrimony. There seems little merit in telling the story again when the excellent Two Hundred Percent blog has already done such a sterling job of it.
Instead, the Seventy Two spoke to Rob Bernard, a Scarborough Athletic fan who has created a Facebook group, “Unity for Football in Scarborough”, which is aimed at raising the profile of those trying to merge the two clubs. What follows is Rob’s opinion of the situation and how it can be resolved:
What is your favourite memory of the old Scarborough FC?
So many really. Going to Wembley four times in the Seventies as a kid with my family for the FA Trophy finals, promotion to the Football League, as well as the hundreds of days out with wonderful like-minded people.
Why was Scarborough Town FC set up when Athletic was already in existence?
The official line from the Chairman of STFC, Hugh Bellamy, who was also the headmaster of George Pindar Community Sports College (GPCSC), was because of his keen interest in youth football and the fact that the lads at the Scarborough Academy, which continued the year after Scarborough FC folded, had no senior team to play in.
Many say it was to set their own club up, as those involved were prominent members of the old Supporters Club who remained loyal to the final owners of Scarborough FC, and blamed the setting up of the independent Seadog Trust as a major cause of the old club dying, despite it being saddled with debts of up to £2.5million. My take is that there are some at Town who are true to the chairman’s ideal.
What is the current situation with the plans to unite the two clubs?
The board of Scarborough Athletic are determined to have one united senior club in the town. They have made their opinions very public. Scarborough Town released a statement on 24th August 2010 saying that they are working behind the scenes to make sure they are playing at least Step 7 football next season and will be entering an Under 19’s team into the Northern Alliance League once more.
Town missed out on playing competitive football this season as they applied to the Northern Counties East League before planning permission was granted for improvements at GPCSC. They had already resigned from the Wearside League, so they were left with nowhere to go. The vast majority of Athletic’s support and those involved with the game locally are very much in favour of having just one senior club representing the town.
What is blocking a “merger” between the two clubs and can it be overcome in your opinion?
I personally think there are a few things blocking a merger. Wounds, distrust, fear of losing authority, time since the old club died, many not prepared to swallow pride and a sheer dislike of the personalities involved in some cases.
All can be overcome if people really want to. Perhaps the only sticking point I can see is the STFC insistence that the club’s first team should consist of local talent in preference to players from outside the town.
Are there any immediate plans to bring Athletic home games back to Scarborough and is the old McCain Stadium a part of those plans?
This is another stumbling block with regard to the merger. Town played their matches at GPCSC where they made some ground improvements, but did not get permission for floodlights. Athletic are currently playing in Bridlington, 20 miles down the coast.
There are no sites suitable within Scarborough to match the level at which Athletic play and very little flat land available anyway. Athletic are working with the local council, who intend to build a brand new sports village at Weaponness, a couple of hundred yards away from the Athletic Ground, or the McCain Stadium to give it its sponsors name.
The old ground fell into disrepair while in the hands of the administrator, who the council bought the ground from. The council aim to sell the land that the old ground stands on, as well as the antiquated sports centre, while using the proceeds on the new village which will include a new stadium. The question is, when? Their timescale is three to five years, with the stadium being the first phase.
What has it been like playing home games in Bridlington? Have there been any tension with Bridlington Town fans or have they been supportive?
We have no problems with Brid or those involved with Brid Town. Their chairman Pete Smurthwaite has been an absolute champion in his assistance towards us. There has been increasingly healthy banter between the fans, especially as players have moved between the two clubs.
The ground is good and we have an excellent day out. Co-Op sponsor a supporters bus which takes fans through from Scarborough on matchdays at a very reduced rate. All is fine, but it isn’t in Scarborough. This means we have lost potential fans, particularly OAP’s and juniors.
Is the return of league football to Scarborough an overall aim?
One step at a time! The SAFC three-year business plan outlines aims for two promotions in the next three years. The club certainly has the finances, energy, fan base and general wherewithall to achieve this.
To be honest, Scarborough FC probably punched above its weight in the Football League for many seasons. Crowds always held us back and there is a lack of industry in the town, meaning many townspeople move to retire there so we miss out on the core working class support many other towns have.
Hence why I consider the two-team situation ludicrous, but I never give up hope of a resolution. One thing that being a Seadog has taught me is to keep the faith.
I never complained when I was sat at Wembley, so I’m not going to give up now.
You can join Rob’s Facebook group and help spread the word here:
The two clubs are both online:
This Saturday, on Non-League Day, Scarborough Athletic are away to Seaham Red Star.