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Torquay United's collapse 'no surprise' to council

Friday, 23 February 2024 10:37

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

Not much to clap about (image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

It vows that football will continue at Plainmoor

The demise of Torquay United came as no surprise to Torbay Council, which has now pledged to stand by the club and its supporters as it goes into administration.

“This was something that had haunted our dreams for many months,” said Cllr Steve Darling (Lib Dem, Barton with Watcombe). “Sadly it was no surprise.”

It was announced on Thursday that the club is to go into administration after owner Clarke Osborne said he could no longer fund it.

Mr Osborne bought the club from a consortium of local business people in 2016, but a five-year plan by his company Gaming International to take them back into the Football League has failed. United came within a penalty shoot-out of achieving their goal, only to lose out to Hartlepool in a play-off final in 2021.

Now United languish in 11th place in National League South, and will be docked 10 points for going into administration. This will drop them to 18th place in the league, the lowest point in their long history.

In addition to the news of the club going into administration, manager Gary Johnson left ‘by mutual consent’. Fans had been protesting against his management for several weeks as form slipped.

The club’s problems were at the top of the agenda for a full meeting of Torbay Council on the same day as the announcement.

Leader David Thomas (Con, Preston) said: “Local football at all levels is an important part of our community. I want to reassure the club and its supporters that we will engage with any interested parties to understand how we might support the ongoing operation of the club.”

And he reassured people concerned that the club’s Plainmoor ground might be lost.

“The freehold of Plainmoor is held by the council, and we have long held a position that it remains with the council,” he said. “Nothing has changed. Our position is still exactly as it was.”

Mr Osborne said in his parting statement that his inability to realise his well-publicised desire to move Torquay United away from Plainmoor to a new ground elsewhere had been a key factor in his decision.

Cllr Darling went on: “To many of us who have been followers of the club, this is sadly something that has haunted our dreams for many months.

“We had raised this previously, that if the club found itself in a challenge, we must be ready to see how we can stand by and support them.”

He said he was pleased to hear Cllr Thomas’ reassurance on the future of Plainmoor, and added: “I am keen to ensure that football continues to be played there, and it continues to be played by Torquay United.

“We need to stand by the club and its supporters at this difficult time.”

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