Barry Town Staying Alive

Ken Gaunt, a former football reporter for the Press Association, reports on the plight of Barry Town.

Barry Town Supporters Committee is their name, and staying alive is their game. And these loyal fans have promised to fight on after yet another kick in the teeth from absentee owner Stuart Lovering. After failing in his continued attempts to find a buyer, incredibly he withdrew Barry Town, a club with a rich history of European nights, from the Welsh League with only two games remaining, meaning their record was expunged.

That decision outraged not just the club’s devoted followers, who have given considerable time and money to keep the club going, but other teams in the first division whose results have been affected.

There is a little bit of light at the tunnel, however, after the committee were bombarded by messages of support from across the football community through the Stand Up For Barry Twitter page.

It is understood the Football Association of Wales are setting up a rescue package. The team would still play at Jenner Park, but in the third division. Whether that will be acceptable remains to be seen, but you wonder whether it is fair to relegate a team two divisions and punish supporters, who only have good intentions.

I got an indication of the enthusiasm there is for all-amateur Barry back in March when on a whim I made the hour-long trip from my home in Manchester to Flint, where they were playing the Huws Grays Alliance team in a Welsh Cup quarter-final match. Flint get on average about 130 fans at their Cal-y-Castell home on the banks of the Dee Estuary. That day 453 people rolled up, including Ian Rush, with more than 100 making the eight hour round trip from south Wales.

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing big games in big stadiums, packed to the rafters, but there was also much to admire that day at Flint after I paid my £4 (concessionary discount) and I am sure the same can be said at similar modest venues around Britain. It was all about football being played at a decent level, pure raw emotion and a love of the game, not money. It left you with a feeling of well-being.

Loud and proud were the Barry fans, and the team responded by winning 2-0, sparking a pitch invasion at the end as they surrounded manager Gavin Chesterfield, a University lecturer who doesn’t get paid a penny for his efforts, and his players.

Certainly long-serving committee man David Cole has made it clear they want to turn things around and establish a supporter-owned club so that no one man will own it again. He hopes that message will be taken on board by clubs big and small, who are seduced by large sums of money. He knows for every generous benefactor like Wigan Athletic’s Dave Whelan there are hundreds more, who promise the earth and deliver nothing.

Barry may have been knocked out in the semi-final by eventual winners Prestatyn Town, but their supporters continue to show an extraordinary ability to ride the punches.

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