Fans suffer as punishment fails to match the crime

Paddy Davitt April 1. Fools' Day. Only the joke appears to be on King's Lynn. Norfolk's premier non league football club failed to commence work by that date on an ambitious �250,000 upgrade to their council-owned Walks Stadium.

Paddy Davitt


April 1. Fools' Day.

Only the joke appears to be on King's Lynn.

Norfolk's premier non league football club failed to commence work by that date on an ambitious �250,000 upgrade to their council-owned Walks Stadium.

Work demanded by Conference top brass following a ground grading inspection back in October 2008 after the club's elevation to the pinnacle of the non league game.

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A quarter of a million pounds on a ground that underwent a �400,000 revamp over the previous two years.

Did Lynn refuse? No.

Did Lynn tell the Conference they could not fund such an ambitious project in the midst of the worst economic downturn since World War Two? No.

Did Lynn and the borough council give assurances to the bureaucrats the project would be completed in time for the 2009/10 kick off? Yes.

Not good enough. No spade in the ground. No shiny new sign above the gents before April 1. No league place for next season.

Demotion does not only affect six men sat around a boardroom table. It impacts on the lives of the 1,000 or so who turn up every other week. The occasional supporters who follow the club's progress from a distance. The whole town of King's Lynn and anyone with a passion for sport in this county will feel the ripple effect.

Lynn's board get flak for their failure to communicate with one of the best and biggest fan bases in the non league game. Guilty as charged on occasion.

But Lynn's board do not deserve this slap in the face any more than the die hards who bleed blue and gold. Without them the club would still be toiling away trying to scramble out of the Southern League.

Communication is a two way street.

The faceless Conference hierarchy now chose to hide behind dry press releases issued by a public relations company on their behalf. Lynn miss the deadline. Lynn pay the ultimate price. No shades of grey. Just black and white. Conference chairman Brian Lee claimed recently the league will show compassion to clubs in the midst of ground grading issues. That compassion now appears in short supply at the furthest reaches of the Conference family.

Maybe Lynn's geographical remoteness equates to out of sight, out of mind. Would the Linnets have more supporters in the corridors of power if they resided in the Midlands, or the north west? Who knows, because the Conference have adopted a vow of silence.

Meanwhile, the second best supported club in Blue Square North head back into the wilderness. Pop the keys through the letter box. Just hand in that invite to our exclusive club on the way out. Along with the Conference branding Lynn officials were so proud to erect around The Walks last summer.

Just what did they expect Lynn to do this season? Let players and officials change in the Tennyson Road car park while they got the builders in? Kick off at midday while the floodlights were upgraded? Or perhaps look to consolidate their hard won Conference status on the pitch. Ride out the financial crisis from major backer Michael Chinn's sudden New Year exit. Start again on and off the park in the summer with no distractions. Attract fresh investment, new blood, new ideas and kick off next August in their new improved stadium. Renewed optimism, renewed hope.

Should Lynn's impending appeal go the way of Cambridge City's who found themselves in an identical situation last summer then the Conference send out a resounding message to any aspiring lower league club.

Why bother? Stay where you are. Big fish in small pond. No ambition. No drive to improve. Lynn's board have made mistakes along the way. Run before they could walk at times as they chase the Football League dream. Perhaps realised much, much too late you have to play the politicking game with the movers and shakers. But let the punishment fit the crime.

Ultimately, is the Conference a better place without King's Lynn FC? Clearly it depends on who you ask.

Whether you get an answer is another thing entirely.