Lee Harding wants Conference clubs’ finances to be kept under control

BRAINTREE TOWN chairman Lee Harding backed a proposal that would have stopped Football Conference clubs from taking out risky financial loans, only for the idea to be scrapped due to a lack of support from its members.

The plan was designed to restrict clubs spending money they did not have and face ending up in the perilous positions that the likes of Darlington and Kettering have.

Darlington, relegated from Blue Square Bet Premier last season, were demoted four divisions this summer after being bought out of administration without entering into a Creditors Voluntary Agreement (CVA).

Kettering, meanwhile, also relegated from the Conference’s top-tier in May, have been demoted to the Southern Premier, albeit with a ten-point deduction.

Harding is a vocal advocate of financial fair play and reiterated his stance that he would not overspend at the Amlin Stadium.

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However, the Iron chief insisted some clubs remain committed to chasing the Football League dream, and are still spending beyond their means in their pursuit of two promotion places.

“I backed a proposal by the Football Conference to outlaw loans but the league needed 75 per cent of Premier, North and South clubs backing them. Obviously the clubs that rely on loans voted against it,” said Harding.

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“I have not got a problem with a team like Luton, for instance, taking out a loan because they have better income streams than us.

“What I do have a problem with is when a team is buying better players because their chairman pumps in millions of pounds, before getting fed up and wanting his money back.

“I would have loved to have gone to Darlington in March, when they were in financial trouble, and have beaten them 10-0 but we had to go on the first day of the season before their money ran out, and lost 1-0.

“I spoke to one club’s chairman recently and they agreed a �1m playing budget and then had to come up with a way of finding the money.

“There seems to be a stigma attached to playing in the Conference and clubs are overspending chasing the holy grail. Some clubs’ shortfalls are running into millions.

“I would rather be relegated than bankrupt even though when I say that, I know it grates on Alan (Devonshire).”

Meanwhile, Harding has assessed his club’s progress in the the pre-season transfer market so far, having seen Iron sign Dan Sparkes and Callum McNish but lose influential trio, Jai Reason, Aswad Thomas and Ben Wright to Eastleigh, Grimsby and Forest Green respectively.

“We have signed a couple of new players who have looked lively in pre-season, we are likely to sign a couple more,” said Harding.

“We are guaranteed compensation for Ben and Jai while we received a nice fee from Grimsby for Aswad.

“Ben was given a two-year contract, 52 weeks a year and the financial package was more than double what we could offer him.

“Obviously there was also the chance for him to go back full-time, so he could not turn that down.

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