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Broadfield Stadium home of Crawley Town
Crawley Town Football Club
Read the history of Crawley Town FC which dates back to 1896
by Gavin Green
The club was formed in 1896 and played their formative years in the West Sussex League. Five seasons later they entered the Mid-Sussex League and won the Senior Division in only their second season.
They remained in Junior Football until they entered the Sussex County League in 1951. The club then switched to the Metropolitan League in 1956 a competition for both professional and amateur sides. Still retaining their amateur status, Crawley won the Metropolitan League Challenge Cup in 1959.
Crawley adopted professional status in 1962 and joined the Southern League the following year. For the next 20 years Crawley played in the First Division in its various guises, apart from a brief taste of Premier Division football in 1969-70. In 1983-84 Crawley finished as runners-up to RS Southampton and returned to the Premier Division, where they remained until 2003-04.
The club enjoyed cup successes, winning the Sussex Professional Cup in 1970, the Gilbert Rice Floodlight Cup in 1980 and 1984, the Southern Counties Combination Floodlight Cup in 1986, the Sussex Senior Cup in 1990 and 1991. The Sussex Floodlight Cup was won in three consecutive years from 1991 to 1993.
May 1997 saw the last match played at Town Mead. After 48 seasons the ground was sold for redevelopment and the club moved to the magnificent Broadfield Stadium. The first match there was a friendly against First Division Port Vale on 24th July 1997 and it was officially opened on 19th October 1997 by the then Minister for Sport, Tony Banks MP.
In 1999 the club went into a two-month period of administration but emerged stronger under new owner John Duly.
The club’s most successful period, under manager Francis Vines, began in January 2003. The Reds ended that season strongly, finishing seventh in the Southern League and winning the League Cup and Sussex Senior Cup.
The home league game against runners-up Weymouth saw a new ground record crowd of 4,522 watch a 2-1 Crawley victory. The title was wrapped up with four matches to spare, as a 3-0 victory at Welling sparked emotional celebrations from a large travelling contingent.
The club drew widespread praise in their first season in the National Division in 2004-05 as they ended up the top part-time team in the country. The newcomers claimed some notable scalps and stayed involved in the race for a Conference play-off place until the spring before ending with another cup success. The Southern League Championship Trophy was retained with a 2-0 success over Cup runners-up Moor Green, while the club’s first Conference fixture brought a victory, 2-1 at Leigh RMI.
The televised victory over Morecambe was arguably the high point of the season, although Crawley reclaimed the Sussex Senior Cup against Ringmer in May.
A final position of 12th in their first season in a national division was something of an anti-climax after the Red Devils hit the giddy heights of second place when beating Morecambe 2-1 in front of the Sky Sports cameras at a snow-covered Broadfield Stadium in February, but the club did themselves proud, keeping up the momentum of their Southern League treble in 2003-04.
The club was sold to new owners the SA Group in July 2005 and the following month it was announced that the club had made the historic decision to turn full-time. The new-look Crawley Town gave notice of their ambition by breaking their transfer record to sign twice Conference Golden Boot winner Daryl Clare from Boston United on transfer deadline day.
Poor results from the back end of the previous season continued into the new one and Vines was relieved of his position with the club third from bottom of the table and a shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Ryman League Braintree Town in the 4th qualifying round. The club appointed former Chelsea and Swansea boss John Hollins and his assistant Alan Lewer in November.
Hollins and Lewer set about pulling the club out of relegation trouble, but with crowds dwindling due to inconsistent results, financial problems set upon the club once again and an announcement came in March 2006 that the playing and management staff were only being paid 50% of their salary.
Key players departed, but despite the off-field set-backs the remaining squad members against the odds recorded an incredible 5 straight wins through the month and into April finishing the season in a comfortable 17th position, ten points clear of relegation. Following the conclusion of the season the club were deducted three points from the 2005/06 total for breaching the annual playing budget (APB) set by the Conference League – the three point deduction leaving the club on 44 points but still in 17th place.
The expected news the club was to enter administration for a second time in seven years came at the start of June. With debts totally 1.4 million, club owners the SA Group put forward a deal whereby football creditors would receive the full amount of monies owed to them and all other creditors receiving a quarter of monies owed. This deal was rejected by the administrators.
This led to the administrators putting the club up for sale at short notice with the new season looming. Despite reported interest from a number of parties in purchasing the club only the SA Group put forward a revised offer which was again rejected, this time by the creditors committee, leaving the club on the verge of being liquidated.
In dramatic fashion with just a little over an hour before the announcement Crawley Town Football Club was no more a third offer from the company to pay back half of monies owed to creditors was accepted by the administrators, eventually accepted by the creditors committee on August 30th.
Starting the season with minus ten points, the custom penalty for entering administration, John Hollins and his newly assembled squad started off the new campaign in dramatic fashion winning the first three games of the new season, all but wiping out the ten point deduction inside a week.
Crawley Town FC logo
Form dipped including four straight defeats through September with Hollins and Lewer paying the price with their jobs for another FA Cup defeat to lower league opposition at the end of October. First team coach John Yems and players Ben Judge and David Woozley were appointed joint caretaker managers until the end of the season.
The trio made a fine start collecting ten points from a possible twelve and even sat in the top half of the table come February. The team finally secured safety on the final day of the season earning the one point needed to stay up at home to Kidderminster Harriers. The team finishing in 18th place with 53 points, if the deduction wasn’t in place the club would have finished in it’s highest ever position of 10th.
Vice president Victor Marley was appointment the club’s new Chairman in May 2007, and former Boston United manager Steve Evans along with his assistant Paul Raynor were appointed the club’s new management team later that month.
The club were hit again by an off field set-back on the eve of the new season with the announcement from the Conference board the club was again to be deducted points. Six points was to be taken from the 2007/08 playing total for what was described as bringing the game into disrepute for financial irregularities, a decision that was upheld by the Football Association on appeal in October 2007.
Better news came with the announcement from the administrators that all monies owed under the CVA had been paid leaving the club with a clean sheet to build a bright future. Evans won the Conference title in his time with Boston and quickly set about assembling an exciting young group of players despite having one of the lowest playing budgets in the league.
In April 2008, a new era dawned for the club, when former owner John Duly and a consortium, Prospect Estate Holdings Limited took control of Crawley after buying it from the SA Group.
With local business people Steve Mansell, Susan Carter and Phil Jarman also onboard, along with Tom Scott and Chairman Vic Marley, there is renewed belief that Crawley will move forward on a cost effective and affordable basis.
Lessons have been learned from the past, that are enabling the club to exist in the present and will hopefully give the fans and the town that bright proud future they want and deserve.
last updated: 30/07/2008 at 16:57
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