The sorry state of Gateshead FC; Staff and players set to strike over club sale

It seems every day that another club, both in the Football League and just below, seems to be embroiled in financial troubles. For Tyneside club, Gateshead FC, it’s started to become a nightmare right as times looked to be on the up.

The National League side, who currently sit ninth in the table and are just outside the playoff positions, have been wrought by financial woes all season.

Despite having only been taken over by Dr Ranjan Varghese in July 2018, financial issues have seen the Tynesiders operate under a transfer embargo for the vast majority of the Hong Kong-based businessman’s tenure.

Problems compounded to a peak this week when they were kicked out of their ground, the International Stadium, by the local council over owed money.

They have been allowed to play this season’s remaining home games at the stadium, but the players cannot train there and staff have had to vacate their offices.

This came as staff also revealed they had not been paid their wages for March, as well as receiving delays on their pay for January and February.

All this came out and soured the mood significantly, just as troubles were looking to be potentially coming to an end. The National League club had been put up for sale last month by Varghese and a deal in principle was agreed with former Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy.

However, that deal now looks to have started stuttering over behind-the-scenes issues and prompted a statement to be released by Gateshead’s players and staff, threatening to strike should the deal not be allowed to go through swiftly and smoothly.

The statement, which was apparently approved by “all players and coaching staff”, stated that “financial mismanagement” by Varghese and his advisor Joseph Cala was affecting the team.

The statement said: “Having agreed to sell the club to Chris, we simply ask you to honour this promise and leave the club with at least some dignity by allowing Chris to take over alongside Bill Goodwin.

“These are men with a proven track record at running a football club and we wholeheartedly endorse their takeover bid.

Gateshead are supposed to be play Ebbsfleet United in the National League on Saturday, but the game is in serious doubt now given the ongoing situation at the International Stadium.

It’s a real mess of a situation, and one that is becoming depressingly prevalent within English football.

The worst part in the case of Gateshead though is that hope is clearly on the horizon, with Dunphy having even agreed a deal in principle to take over the club and try to rescue them from their troubles.

Everyone at Gateshead – the players, staff, fans, even the club itself – is suffering and for reasons that are simply ridiculous. Varghese knows his time is up at the Tynesiders, the smartest and cleanest thing to do is step aside gracefully and smoothly, assisting in whatever way needed to help a quick and dignify transition, rather than his current approach that does little but frustrate everyone and further tarnish his reputation.

You hope the situation can come to a healthy and positive outcome in the very near future for Gateshead’s sake, but it is the kind of messy situation that we so often see dragged out.

It could be a long, difficult end to the season for one of the North-East’s few professional football clubs, and for reasons that are entirely off-the-field.

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