‘When we came in Boston United was a disaster zone’

David Newton and Neil Kempster
David Newton and Neil Kempster

DAVID Newton has lifted the lid on the financial meltdown facing Boston United when he took over the club.

And the Pilgrims’ chairman has also spoken out against other football bosses who have put paid to Conference League plans to introduce financial fair play in a revealing fans’ forum at the Sports Bar last Wednesday.

Last week, Newton and vice-chairman Neil Kempster celebrated the fifth anniversary of their takeover of the Pilgrims.

Before their intervention, United looked set for liquidation.

Former owner Jon Sotnick had jumped ship, leaving Jim Rodwell to take over as chairman of the cash-strapped club.

The Pilgrims entered into a Company Voluntary Agreement as they were relegated from the Football League.

With the fans turning against him, manager Steve Evans left for Crawley Town and took assistant Paul Rayner with him.

The players and staff were owed months-worth of wages and it seemed the only way to go was bust.

In a bid to save United, general manager John Blackwell and former Leicester City chief executive Barrie Pierpoint held a public meeting on Father’s Day, 2007.

It was there that Newton, attending as his property development company Chestnut Homes were the club’s main shirt sponsor, felt he had to step in.

But little did he know what mess he and Kempster were inheriting.

“When we came here it was a disaster zone,” Newton said.

“It was totally fragmented, there was no cohesion and the club just blew loads of money trying to be successful.

“They’d blown it and had lost all respect in the football world. It was awful.

“It was rubbish what we inherited.

“There were debts of £3 million at the club.”

Dutifully, Newton and Kempster began attempting to turn things around.

They attended league meetings and visited other clubs on away days, slowly beginning to instil faith in other non-league clubs that Boston United was moving away from its dark recent past.

This wasn’t a charm offensive, this was just helped by the duo’s motto of ‘doing things properly’.

But the hard work wasn’t on the road, it was at home.

With different sections of the club posted at different offices around town, Newton and Kempster – who has been tasked with making the community side of the club a success – began building the Pilgrims as a successful brand.

“The best thing (about those five years) is seeing people work hard to help pull this club back together,” continued Newton, acknowledging the club’s phoenix-like rise has been a team effort.

Things are a lot better these days, but they are still far from perfect.

At present, the club continues to operate at a loss.

The 2010-11 financial year, the latest figures available, showed a loss of £190,000.

That number is shrinking each year, but Newton acknowledges his business interests cannot continue propping the club up for years to come.

“We’ve cut the playing budget for this season,” he added.

“We have to get closer to the break-even point, we can’t keep putting money in.

“Jason (Lee, manager) has also taken a pay cut as well – but we’ve still got a budget to be competitive.”

A strong fanbase, advertising and sponsorship and additional community schemes means money still comes into the club, although overheads remain high.

With this in mind, Newton predicts the Pilgrims’ playing budget is one of the Blue Square Bet North’s top five.

This, perhaps, justifies his 
demands that the Pilgrims 
finish within the play-off places this season.

But as Newton and Kempster attempt to bring United back into the black, they feel the playing field remains uneven.

At the Blue Square Bet annual meeting at Celtic Manor last month, the Conference League attempted to bring in a rule forbidding directors putting loans into football clubs.

This attempt at financial fair play would mean all investment made into clubs would not be recouped.

However, a number of clubs – led by ex-Grimsby Town chairman John Fenty – spoke out against the proposals and vetoed the motion.

An unimpressed Newton added: “Mr Fenty supported the vote. He wants to continue sticking money into a football club that is not sustainable.

“Football people need to live in the real world.

“These are tough times and we have to be sensible with our approach to clubs.

“This is just not effective for everybody.”

And there was also a mention for league rivals Gainsborough Trinity, who have spent big in recent years.

Despite luring Jamie Yates and Shane Clarke away from York Street, Trinity failed to win the first promotion in the club’s history last season, losing to Nuneaton in the play-off final.

And it seems their approach has changed this term.

Newton added: “Gainsborough have appeared to have stopped chucking money at it by bringing in players from a lower level.

“They’ve probably learnt a bit of a lesson already.

“We haven’t got the money to do that and even if we did we wouldn’t.

“It can’t guarantee you are successful.

“A club is still a business and you’ve got to run it like one to be successful.”