Hun­dreds turn out to show their sup­port for club in fi­nan­cial cri­sis

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - KATIE GUPWELL Re­porter [email protected]­

H UNDREDS of foot­ball fans turned out at a fundraising match to help a Welsh team in fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Ear­lier this month own­ers and fans of Merthyr Town FC held an emer­gency meet­ing after the club saw the ma­jor­ity of its play­ers leave, mul­ti­ple board res­ig­na­tions and a con­fir­ma­tion of fi­nan­cial issues.

It came hours after chair­man Meurig Price and John Strand both re­signed from the board with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

The fan-owned plunged into cri­sis.

But yes­ter­day foot­ball fans from across the Val­leys came to­gether to try to help keep the heart of the com­mu­nity beat­ing.

The team took on Dorch­ester Town at Peny­dar­ren Park, where home crowds nor­mally av­er­age around 500 for a league match.

It was hoped that num­ber would dou­ble yes­ter­day as the club urged peo­ple to “Pack the Park”.

And the plan seemed to work, as more than 900 peo­ple filled the stands with pride. The of­fi­cial gate, ac­cord­ing to the club, was 923.

And ev­ery one of them was there be­cause they cared.

Ja­son Scan­lon, 32, has sup­ported Merthyr since he was a lit­tle boy.

He said: “I was prob­a­bly about six or seven when I started com­ing here. club seemed

“Then in 2010 I started to come back more reg­u­larly.

“It’s be­com­ing more im­por­tant then ever to sup­port them.

“It’s im­por­tant for peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, and it’s great to see that peo­ple have turned up to­day. They’ve got a great crowd here.”

Fol­low­ing the emer­gency meet­ing it was de­cided that the club would in­stall a new in­terim board, which has al­ready stepped in to over­see the run­ning of the club, in­clud­ing the ef­forts to pay off an over­due tax bill be­lieved to be in the re­gion of £25,000.

Since then peo­ple from across Wales have joined forces to sup­port the club via a Just­Giv­ing page.

There have even been dona­tions from some fa­mous faces.

For­mer Cardiff City de­fender Danny Gab­bidon do­nated £1,000.

Hol­ly­wood star Michael Sheen of­fered a fur­ther £250 to the cause.

The page has al­ready raised £18,000 for the team.

For some peo­ple go­ing to watch teams like Merthyr play is about a lot more than sup­port­ing a bunch of lo­cal lads – it’s about keep­ing the spirit of foot­ball alive in the Welsh Val­leys. Ger­ald James, 67, from Llantrisant to watch.

He goes be­tween Cardiff City and Merthyr Town and at­tends the games he fan­cies most each week.

“I started com­ing here when I was in my late 20s,” he said.

“I like it here. It’s a good at­mo­sphere.

“It’s ab­so­lutely im­por­tant that peo­ple get be­hind this club. It’s not my com­mu­nity, but it’s still a com­mu­nity.

“Grass-roots foot­ball is im­por­tant and it’s just ex­cit­ing as in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.” trav­els

At the game, sup­port­ers filled fundraising buck­ets with coins, and Merthyr FC jer­seys flew off shop shelves.

From the stands it was clear that the park was not just packed with footie lovers, but with Merthyr lovers who don’t want the club to lose hope.

Sup­port­ers filled the seats, the bar and the snack bars, and were also ea­ger to do­nate money to the club.

A sup­porter of 40 years ex­plained just how im­por­tant it is to see so many peo­ple at­tend games like this.

Rob Evans, 49, said the club forms a huge part of the com­mu­nity and it would be aw­ful to see the town lose it.

He now brings his son to watch the games just like his fa­ther used to bring him.

For some peo­ple the club holds a great sense of fam­ily his­tory,

“Merthyr is a foot­ball town. We have a rugby club, but we’ve al­ways been a foot­ball town,” Rob said.

“We’ve had three or four knocks be­fore but the way the com­mu­nity has come to­gether this time has been stronger than ever.

“It’s im­por­tant to keep the club go­ing.”

The game saw Merthyr draw 1-1 with Dorch­ester Town but that didn’t get peo­ple down.

Peo­ple were happy to see the park full and the fundraising to­tal climb.

Sup­port­ers left with big smiles on their faces, just know­ing that so many peo­ple are be­hind the club at a time when it des­per­ately needs a help­ing hand.

Merthyr Town FC play­ers thank their fans after yes­ter­day’s game

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