Hereford United expelled from Football Conference

Hereford United have been expelled from the Football Conference following the club's failure to pay their bills.

The Bulls' fate has been in the balance since the full extent of their financial worries emerged in the weeks since their dramatic final-day escape sent Chester down instead.

Chester have been reinstated as a Conference Premier club and Hayes & Yeading will stay in Conference South.

Analysis

"Hereford United can have no complaints. The Conference bent over backwards to help them.

"I described the news of the board's offer of an extension on Friday evening as not so much 'last chance saloon', but rather 'last orders in last chance saloon' and United have seemingly chosen not to offer the league the assurances they were seeking.

"It is a desperately sad day for all Hereford supporters, but the Bulls have nobody to blame but themselves.

"You have to feel very sorry for those players who gave their all at Aldershot on the last day of the season to keep Hereford in the Conference Premier. Sadly, those efforts now count for nothing."

The Conference had originally offered a payment deadline of Thursday, 5 June.

The club's debt to their football creditors, including former boss Martin Foyle, members of the current squad, other club staff and clubs from whom the Bulls loaned players during the 2013-14 season, added up to £148,000.

That deadline was extended three times, to Friday, 6 June, then again to Saturday, 7 June and for a third time until Thursday, 12 June.

But it became clear on Tuesday that the Bulls, taken over last week by London businessman Tommy Agombar, would not make that deadline - and the Conference has now acted.

The last team to be expelled from the Conference was Chester City in February 2010.

They reformed as Chester FC two months later - and it is now they who have taken the Bulls' place, following a dramatic final day of the season when, almost simultaneously, a late Hereford winning goal at Aldershot and a Salisbury equaliser at Chester kept the Bulls up.

By way of an added twist, Chester announced on Tuesday that Kingsley James, who was in Hereford's team that day, has moved to Bumpers Lane.

The decline and fall of the Bulls

26 April - Hereford stay up on final day of Conference Premier season

29 April - Hereford United Supporters' Trust make offer to buy the club for £1 and clear their £220,000 debts

22 May - Former Bulls boss Martin Foyle serves winding-up petition over unpaid wages, after players reveal they have not been fully paid too

2 June - Case adjourned for 28 days at Royal Court of Justice

3 June - Tommy Agombar takes over as new Hereford owner

5 June - Hereford fail to meet 17:00 BST deadline to pay football creditors, and are threatened with expulsion, subject to Conference board vote

6 June - Hereford meet with Conference board and are given new deadline of 7 June. The deadline is moved to 9 June, then 12 June

10 June - Hereford expelled from Football Conference

And former Hereford boss Foyle, now manager at Southport, chose the same day to sign another player from that same Bulls team, keeper Dan Lloyd-Weston, who opted to leave as he was still owed part of his salary.

When last season ended, despite months of fundraising efforts by fans, as well as generous donations from fans of other clubs, the Bulls faced debts of approximately £225,000.

They still owe over £70,000 to clear the latest PAYE tax demand from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

An offer was made by one of the club's main fan bodies, the Hereford United Supporters' Trust (HUST), on the back of pledges made by their backers, to buy the club for £1 and take over the running at Edgar Street.

But, although chairman David Keyte held talks with them, they were not the preferred option.

Keyte was reported to have been in talks with three different rival bidders before Agombar's takeover.

The downward spiral of Hereford's financial situation since being relegated from the Football League in May 2012 has been exacerbated by falling gates.

The average attendance for the 2013-14 season at Edgar Street was 1,758, little over half the average gate they attracted of 3,270 in League Two just five years ago.