Braintree Town face a race against time to avoid relegation

THEY may have almost secured their Blue Square Bet Premier status on the pitch but Braintree Town chairman Lee Harding revealed the club faces “a race against time” off it to avoid automatic relegation back to the Blue Square Bet South.

The club’s 4-3 win at Newport on Tuesday saw them reach the magic 50-point mark that manager Alan Devonshire has targeted for survival, but it may still not be enough.

The club has until March 31 to meet Football League regulations and make sufficient ground improvements and, with the help of a loan from Braintree District Council, are working around the clock.

Harding also revealed he would begin talks with manager Devonshire tonight about next season but confessed the club’s stance to stick with the same budget may prompt the former West Ham legend to seek pastures new.

“As we stand now we have less than four weeks to go and there is still work to be done,” said Harding.

“Terraces are still being built at the ground and there is still some work to do in the main stand. We are hopeful but we face a race against time. We lost two weeks because of the bad weather recently.

“But we were in a similar situation five years ago with our ground grading when we moved up from the Ryman League and we finished the work under floodlights.

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“We have won one battle on the pitch to stay in this league and now we need to do the same off it. But credit where it is due, we have got a chance because of the great help we have received from Braintree District Council. They have lent the club the money and it is a good deal for both parties. We have got a ten-year term which is affordable and we have a business plan in place.

“Myself, the vice-chairman and the board of directors have put a lot of money and time into this club but to suddenly come up with hundreds of thousands of pounds for ground improvements would have been a big ask. We will never forget the help the council have given us.”

The club’s short-term destiny may not be decided but Harding remains confident the Iron will continue to grow, provided they live within their means.

He does not want to follow in the footsteps of several other Football League and non-league clubs, who have faced financial difficulties this season, but is realistic enough to know that the club’s ambitions may not match the manager’s, whose contract runs out at the end of the season.

“We are in the top-half of the table and we have proved that you don’t have to bankrupt yourself to do so,” said the Town chairman, who has seen Robbie Garvey and Rod Stringer resign in recent seasons because of disagreements over the club’s budget

“It’s not sexy to the fans but we will keep our feet on the ground and remain competing at a sustainable level.

“There are so many clubs that will have to spend less next season than they are this but we will have the same budget.

“That might not be enough for Alan (Devonshire) and he may choose to look elsewhere but we will remain part-time and we can’t justify offering any more money.

“The last thing we want to do is promise something that we can’t deliver and gamble on the future.”

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