Supporters warned they face prospect of forming ‘phoenix’ club if deal cannot be done to save Northampton Town

Northampton Town supporters file into the Guildhall for a public meeting.
Northampton Town supporters file into the Guildhall for a public meeting.

Cobblers fans will have to consider the possibility of forming an AFC Northampton and starting again as a “phoenix” club, a public meeting heard last night.

About 150 supporters attended the main hall of the Guildhall last night to debate the off-the-pitch crisis surrounding the League Two side.

Fans posed a number of questions to a panel which included Cobblers chief executive James Whiting, members of Northampton Town Football Club Supporters’ Trust and the club’s communications officer Gareth Willsher - asking how it can carry on with debts now spiralling out of control and the threat of liquidation looming.

Panel member Jacqui Forster, of the Supporters Direct organisation, said even though a buyer could be waiting in the wings in former Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas, supporters needed to prepare for the worst as, like Telford and Wimbledon fans found, some club debts can be “insurmountable”.

When asked if a fan-owned football club was realistic at this stage, she said: “That is up to you - it depends whether a deal can be done with the interested party.”

But she went on to say: “At the end of the day, it all depends on whether the club’s debts can be covered.

“Sometimes it can be just too much.

“If the worst does happen, fans can be putting their money into a black hole.

“You need to keep in the back of your minds the possibility of an AFC Northampton.”

Last night it was revealed Kelvin Thomas had agreed terms to buy Northampton Town and continue the East Stand development, but would only take over as chairman of the club if Northampton Borough Council could give the club some leeway on repaying the £10.25 million loan.

Early on in the meeting, interim director of the Cobblers supporters’ trust Stuart Taylor, said fans would have to raise around £900,000 to buy a 25 per cent share of Northampton Town.

“It’s a laudable ambition,” he said. “But I don’t think in the short term we are going to raise the capital we need to get to that amount.”

Speaking after the meeting, he said dropping down the leagues and starting again as an AFC Northampton, would be a “worst case scenario,” adding that the main priority for Northampton Town now is securing a buyer.

“The trust is willing to work with anyone we think is going to be a credible new owner.

“There are other people that have made contact with us and said they are interested.

“My hope is that Kelvin Thomas comes through and secures a deal with the council to put the club on a sound financial footing and complete the East Stand.”

However there are situations where supporters have rescued their clubs from the brink of liquidation without the need for an outside investor.

On the panel last night Trevor Stroud, of the Wycombe Wanderers Trust, which raised enough money to buy the League Two side in 2012, said such fan takeovers are possible “but there isn’t an easy answer” as to how.

Currently the NTFC Supporters’ Trust is trying to raise £100,000 to support its activity in the current crisis at Sixfields.

Advisor to the trust Kevin Simons, who set up the crowdfunding campaign, said: “If we have to become a phoenix club, we will need to pay for it.”