Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Cash-strapped Henley Town pull out of Hellenic League

HENLEY Town Football Club have withdrawn from the Hellenic League due to “financial problems”.

The club’s first team pulled out of Division 1 East with immediate effect on Tuesday, with the league later confirming the move. It comes after club officials held a meeting on Monday to discuss the future of the club.

The reserve and Sunday sides are unaffected and will continue to play in the Thames Valley Premier League and Reading and District Sunday League respectively.

The Red Kites had been bottom of the league with just one win from 13 games this season and most recently lost 7-0 at second-bottom Milton United on Saturday.

As Henley have completed just half of their matches this season, their record will be wiped from the league, meaning any points and goal difference accrued by clubs they have played will be deducted from the standings.

The club tweeted: “It’s with deep regret that due to a committee decision the first team will withdraw from the Hellenic League. A big thank you to the manager and assistant manager, players and people behind the scenes who helped out with their free time.” Henley Town chairman John Hopper said the club was forced to withdraw from the league as it couldn’t afford to continue playing.

He said: “For the last two or three seasons we’ve been struggling and this year we had a job at the beginning of the season even to form a team for the league.

“It’s been a disaster from start to finish, especially with the team discipline which was awful. It was costing the club a lot of money in fines and the players weren’t paying them.

“We just can’t do it any more and it was decided that the only way to go was to call it a day and look to build the club up again in the future. We have the Thames Valley and Sunday league teams which are mainly Henley and Shiplake boys and are self sufficient.”

Henley were promoted to the Hellenic League Premier Division in the 2015/16 season in a successful campaign that also saw them win the Reading Senior Cup at Reading’s Madejski Stadium.

But the club, which does not pay its players, lost much of the team in the following season and had a high turnover of managers and coaches.

It also built up a debt of around £20,000, with the cost of hosting Hellenic League games leading the club to make a loss most weeks.

The club has recently focused on using local players in the reserve and Sunday teams with extra income at the clubhouse from family and friends coming to watch helping pay off a considerable amount of debt.

Mr Hopper says his immediate focus is the future of the club but he hopes that it can build more of a rapport with the town in the future.

He said: “The committee we have got now are local people who have played for teams in the town over the years.

“We want players from AFC Henley to progress to us when they are 18 and we have formed a tie with the club now.

“At the moment we are concentrating on saving the club but the long-term plan is to bring in local players who support the club, not who just turn up to play.

“We want to promote the club to the town, we have facilities there to hold functions. We want to be more of a social club and get involved with the people off Henley. When I took over some people I spoke to didn’t know we existed because of where we are.”

Mr Hooper took over from Kim Chapman earlier this year and said he wanted to get residents of the town “interested” in the club again.

He appointed Jock Mowat as manager following Jon Laugharne’s departure.

The former Woodley United manager was assistant to former manager Gerry McGinty when he was appointed the top job in July last year. McGinty left the club in October that year to become youth team manager at League 2 club Barnet. Mowat then took charge of the side for a matter of weeks until a permanent replacement was found.

Rob Creech took over in November with his two assistants, Andy Findlay and Mowat. But Henley finished bottom of the Premier Division with just four wins from 34 games and Creech and Findlay left the club soon after.

Laugharne was then appointed manager, joining the club from Hellenic Division 1 East side Finchampstead, but resigned after just 31 days in the job.

Henley previously pulled out of the league in 1971 when they lost their former ground at Reading Road. They rejoined the lower Wycombe and District League several years later before working their way back up into the Hellenic League.

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