Share issue key to South Shields football club future

Community key to Shields - Crutwell

South Shields' future could be secured if a share issue can raise the funds required for a mortgage to purchase the Filtrona Park ground.

The owner of the venue, and former chairman, John Rundle wants to sell the land on which they have played since 1992 and which he developed for the club's use.

In response, the Mariners supporters association and chairman Gary Crutwell require £50,000 to make the deposit of £310,000 needed to implement the deal - and shares are being sold for £100 to help meet that target.

"It's the acid test for the local people beyond football, the general public, business, commerce and industry," secretary of the supporters association Bob Wray told BBC Look North.

"This is the test if they really want a football team in South Shields.

"The share issue is based upon the model designed by Supporters Direct, which is a government-funded organisation, created so that non-league clubs can buy their own grounds," he continued.

Shields have had a mixed history, enjoying league status as members of the Second Division in 1919 before folding in 1930. The reincarnated outfit enjoyed numerous FA Cup outings throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s - attracting crowds in the tens of thousands.

A second folding in 1974 prompted the creation of a third club, an outfit which has existed to the present day, playing their football at various venues across the town and across the leagues.

However it has only been since their arrival at Filtrona that South Shields have laid their nomadic past to rest, a status now threatened by the decision to sell.

The club's plans are to turn the side into a community venture in order to spread the usage of the venue away from just sport.

"If you've got people with a vested interest in the club, i.e. the board shares, hopefully the club will flourish as a social club and people will use the place - birthdays, christenings, [they] could be a big spin-off," Crutwell said.

"If we've got a few hundred people invested, then it's in their interest as well as the football club that the facilities are used.

"The key plan of the football club is to open it out to the community, the only way forward is to be involved in the community."

Wray's involvement at South Shields has been more than just administrative, as his links with the club go back to the heyday of the post-war period.

"It would be a tragedy if we weren't saved, there's no such word as impossible," he added.

"The club goes back to the 1870s, it's been part of the local community, but it's a very important part of the local sporting organisations, along with Westoe Rugby Club or the South Shields Voluntary Life Brigade.

"It's important, and on my part personally, having supported the club since 1947 when I was a little kid right through to the present day, it would be great to see us get our own home and look to get back to where we were."

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