Lurching from one crisis to the next seems the common theme for Scunthorpe United, almost keeping pace with Southend United, and it appears it’s not just the same initials that both clubs share.
So often is the call for ‘one normal non-league day’ that fans of both these clubs must wake every morning and wonder if that day will ever come round again. The Iron appeared to have distanced themselves from trouble following the arrival of David Hilton last January.
They had tumbled down through the divisions and at the point of sale were deeply intrenched in the bottom four of the National League and staring down the abyss of a second successive relegation.
Hilton’s arrival along with that of former Peterborough Sports manager Jimmy Dean was heralded as the bright new dawn. 11 players were signed but the task was too big and the club landed in the National League North for the first time in their history.
Amidst the off field battle for control of the club stadium which has now taken its role in the courts, serious amounts of money were splashed out on players in a bid to return at the first attempt, which so far is keeping it’s course whilst in the infancy of the season. It doesn’t take much thought process to understand it’s not sustainable without some very deep pockets, especially playing outside non-league’s top division.
The pace has quickened over the last couple of months, the tit for tat battle between ex-chairman Peter Swann and Hilton leaves you with no idea who to believe is telling the truth on the matter of Glandford Park.
Rumours however began to surface recently about Hilton of a prior conviction for fraud, which was indeed confirmed eventually by the owner. Hilton has also gone by the surname of Anderson previously raising a few alarm bells from those looking in from outside the club of who he really is and was.
Having been the subject of an article by The Athletic including the information given above, Hilton felt he had to clarify certain points. The statement provided by the owner ahead of their FA Cup defeat to Brackley Town seemed ask more questions than it gave answers to and by the end it almost becomes a one way heated exchange against The Athletic.
More revelations arrived on social media since of directors resigning, 5 CCJ’s, a winding up order, ex-players owed money and an outstanding tax bill with HMRC, the mess deepening by the minute, some of which were confirmed within Hilton’s account.
It has since been confirmed that the club is up for sale, but like their counterparts from Roots Hall, both clubs would need a substantial amount of cash invested just to clear the immediate debts let alone completing the season. Who in their right mind will look at a National League Club like this in a good light?
Since then, a joint statement from the Board of Directors offered very little in terms of information other than to reveal changes are imminent. What that means is anyone’s guess. Speculation will no doubt grow into cuts to ensure the club continues to trade and ultimately survives to see the future.
There has to be a tightening of rules regarding club ownership and more regulation in place. It seems the game just doesn’t learn from each club that faces such problems, the likes of Bury and Macclesfield only too recent and no lessons learnt.
Whilst the non-league game suffers like this, we can find the EFL are no different in respect of some of their member clubs and the game itself appears to be crying out for the independent regulator to control where failure seems to happen more often than it should.
Scunthorpe are just another club in a long line where historic debt and current overspending are to blame for the mess they now find themselves in. Their only way out is to either find an owner who has the financial clout to take on a National League North outfit with no hope of a return for their money for a good few years or to strip the club back as far as they can just for the club to survive and even then it’s guaranteed.
Calls for fan-owned clubs will start to become louder the more these cases arise. After all, owners are mere custodians passing through, supporters remain long after they depart and the club needs to be there to outlive both.