The Welsh Wimbledon – Barry Town unites
August 1st 2001 – Welsh champions Barry Town defeat F.C Porto 3 – 1 in a Champions League qualifier. It is one of the greatest results a team in the Welsh league system has ever achieved and despite losing the tie overall, for one day only Barry Town are the kings of Europe. The Linnets go on to secure their sixth successive league title, part of a run which saw them finish as champions of Wales seven times in eight seasons.
May 14th 2013 – With two games left of the season, Barry Town are withdrawn from the Welsh Football League Division One, the second tier of Welsh football. This brings to an end one of the sorriest stories of betrayal in football history, a proud football club destroyed by Stuart Lovering.
I told the story of Barry Town towards the end of last year, including how I was hired to make the club “bigger than Fenerbahce” before Lovering conveniently replaced me (with himself) just before I was due to be paid. At the time of writing it appeared as if Barry Town could be just days away from destruction, but due to the battling spirit of the supporters of Barry Town, the club battled on for several months longer than expected. Barry Town Supporters Club had already gone above and beyond the call of duty, funding the club out of their own pocket for many years. This meant that Barry Town was not costing Stuart Lovering a penny, but this did not stop him from ruining the most successful Welsh League club out of pure spite. What follows is as brief as possible a timeline of the fall and fall of Barry Town.
December 2003 – Lovering takes over the club following financial problems as a result of the club trying to continue to compete on the European stage. He states that the loss of a football club is “one of the most devastating events which can happen to a community” and promises that the club will be “run properly” to ensure that these problems never happen again.
March 2004 – Lovering announces plans for a new 40,000 seater stadium, saying:
I have a vision. I want a new 40,000-capacity stadium which generates money and I want to build Barry into a European club, probably not like AC Milan or Barcelona, but more like Real Sociedad . The club just needs the right marketing and its past success will be a huge benefit.”
May 2004 – Barry Town are relegated from the top flight of Welsh football. Lovering announces that he wants to play in the final match of the season. This eventually did not occur, but he states that he intends to appeal relegation due to the size of the club.
June 2004 – Following relegation, the owner of Barry Town responds by raising prices to the highest in the entire Welsh pyramid. Tickets now cost just £3 less than the cheapest adult ticket at Championship side Cardiff City. In addition to the increased ticket prices,supporters raise £4,000 for the clubs finances. Lovering takes the money, before disbanding the supporters club and announcing that he will create his own group for supporters “with branches all over Wales and Latvia”.
July 2004 – Lovering rebrands Barry Town with an unpopular new badge – “‘I see the start of this new season as the start of a new era with renewed optimism for Barry Town, and I wanted to show this through a brand new badge and club identity.” He also sacks the popular manager, while new merchandise, including Barry Town thongs, is advertised in the programme, but not actually made available to buy.
November 2004 – Barry Town are challenging for promotion back to the Premier Division. Lovering slashes the budget, causing the manager to resign. A new manager is brought in – Lovering reduces the budget again.
December 2004 – News breaks that Lovering has huge debts to the Vale of Glamorgan council. Rather than paying these debts, he relocates the side 45 miles away to play in Port Talbot, a similar distance between Wimbledon and Milton Keynes.
May 2005 – After months of the fans attempting to speak to Lovering about the way he is running the club and being ignored, plans are made for a phoenix club, Barry FC. Lovering threatens to sue the players and supporters of this club for “impersonating Barry Town FC”. He comments “these people are treacherous to the cause. They are turning their backs on the club they nearly killed.”
July 2005- Lovering says the club will return to play at Jenner Park in the near future, with the creation of “at least thirty” youth teams with world class coaching as part of Barry Town academy.
November 2005 – Lovering puts Barry Town up for sale, at a price almost three times more than he paid for it. In this time, Barry Town has been relegated, rebranded and made homeless.
May 2006 – The club has been up for sale for some time. Despite saying he is “desperate” to sell, Lovering rejects bids from a number of serious investors willing to take ownership.
June 2006 – Lovering asks seven local businesses for thousands of pounds to invest in the club, declaring they will become known as “the new magnificent seven”.
January 2007 – Barry Town are headed for another relegation. Lovering appears in several newspapers stating that Wales manager John Toshack should be considering his players for an international callup.
May 2007 – A terrible season ends in relegation, with the final game a 6 – 1 defeat to Afan Lido. This will be the lowest level Barry Town have ever played at. A new manager is appointed, he resigns after less than a week following a meeting with Lovering. Gavin Chesterfield becomes manager, a man who would become hugely significant to the continued survival of the football club.
December 2007 – Lovering offers shares to Barry Town to supporters, priced at £40,000. He says the club has no debt and will make a profit of £50,000 next year.
April 2008 – The Welsh Premier League is reorganised. Lovering tells the Welsh FA they should promote Barry Town two divisions, give them £30,000 a year for playing in the league, and make them exempt from relegation. They decline this request.
May 2008 – Against all the odds, Gavin Chesterfield leads the team to promotion. They return to Division One, causing Lovering to announce that he expects the club to sell over a thousand season tickets.
August 2008 – The first threat is made to pull the club out of the league.
September 2008 – Barry Town are fined and deducted points for failing to fulfill their fixture with Pontardawe Town.
December 2008 – A crisis meeting results in the formation of the Barry Town Supporters Committee, who take over the running and financing of the club. Lovering states: “I will not be involved in the football committee or the football team in any way… I stress I will not interfere.”
August 2009 – Another bid for the club is rejected
November 2009 – Lovering states the club is no longer up for sale, announcing that he will turn the clubhouse into a bar which would double turnover
March 2010 – Lovering is making increasingly little effort to back the team, with finances continuing to be provided from the BTSC. A bid which would have seen John Hartson become Director of Football falls through after the Barry Town owner constantly increases the asking price.
July 2010 – As told in the article in November, Lovering employs me for three days with the role of “making the club bigger than Fenerbahce”.
September 2010 – Lovering attempts to ‘poach’ supporters from Cardiff City, handing out thousands of leaflets at a game promoting £50 season tickets. Season tickets actually cost £72.
December 2010 – The ‘Stand Up For Barry Town’ campaign is launched by supporters.
Mid 2011 – Lovering fails to pay for the registration of the official Barry Town website or the telephone bill. Both are disconnected.
September 2012 – Barry Town are top of the league, Lovering again threatens to pull them out of the division.
December 2012 – Gavin Chesterfield continues his superb work by reaching the fourth round of the Welsh Cup for the first time in many years. Lovering responds by sacking the manager hours after the achievement.
January 2013 – Chesterfield ignores his sacking, continuing to work as manager. Lovering installs himself as club secretary, failing to organise fixtures or attend meetings. This results in numerous fines, all paid by the supporters.
February 2013 – Yet another bid to buy the club is hijacked by Lovering, who draws up a ridiculous contract which would allow him power over the club for several years after the sale.
May 2013 – Lovering makes his final stand. Despite Barry Town having a full squad for the match against Ton Pentre, he calls the opposition to forfeit the game, as well as contacting the referee, the league itself and the Vale of Glamorgan Council to ensure the match does not take place. A week later, he withdraws Barry Town from the league.
Having seen their club plummet from the top of Welsh football to the very bottom, it would have been easy for the Barry Town fans to give up. After all, they have Premier League clubs in Swansea and Cardiff just a short distance away, with Newport County also playing at their highest level for many years following promotion from the Conference. But Barry Town are not the types to roll over and die. The club may be in the worst state in it’s entire history, but the decade long struggle has made the fans more united than ever. United. The perfect way to describe the people behind the scenes at Barry Town. Because when their club came crumbling down, they were on hand to rebuild it.
At the Barry Town end of season dinner, this video was shown.
At this moment, the Barry Town ruined by Lovering died. They were replaced by Barry Town United, a new name for the same club, however this time they answer to nobody. The club is finally free to progress, without having to worry about what the egotistical madman in the background will do next. Barry Town United may never win the league, and they’ll almost certainly never beat Porto, but thanks to the fans who never gave up on their team, the town of Barry will have a team to support for many years to come.
Barry Town United – 2013 – forever
On the 14th July 2013, The Welsh FA ruled that Barry Town United were ineligible to join the Welsh football pyramid, and would be consigned to playing at a level barely above Sunday league pub football. Barry Town United will not roll over and die easily, but the future currently looks bleak. If there is anything you can do to help, stand up for Barry Town and ensure that their voice is heard. Do not let this proud club die on the whims of a madman and the bizarre verdict of an out of date committee. Justice for Barry Town.