Press praised for its role in saving club

LONG Melford owner Lee Harding has praised the impact the Free Press’ stories have played in helping steer the club out of troubled waters.

The current Braintree Town chairman, who is the 100 per cent shareholder of Melford’s financial controlling company he set-up before leaving in 2002, feared they could go out of business after it was highlighted the company had been dissolved.

The Free Press broke the story on March 1 with vice-chairman and finance director Simon Garden claiming there had been an ‘admin mix-up’.

Things were finally resolved when the company, which had been dissolved for a period of 13 months, was officially reinstated by Companies House last week.

It came after former youth team goalkeeper Andrew Stopps, now a chartered accountant, was brought in to complete the paperwork by honorary president Richard Kemp, after he read of the worrying situation.

Companies House had said it took the action against Long Melford Football Club 2002 Ltd after not receiving accounts and tax returns since August 2009, termed ‘consistent non-compliance’ with their requests.

Harding, who had to get special dispensation from the Football Association — meaning he cannot be actively involved — to keep his shares in Long Melford due to his involvement at Braintree Town, said: “I appreciate what the paper has done putting this in the public domain and focusing minds to ensure it was resolved quickly.

“We appreciate what Andy has done for us and Richard Kemp as well as yourselves for highlighting it and keeping it in focus, as it were, and it has turned into a good news story.”

He added: “I think lessons have been learned and we need to make sure in the future we keep our house in order.

“We had a get together last week where we went through the accounts and books and there will be another one at the end of the season, but like all clubs at this level, we could do with more help.”

Harding said his board of directors, chairman Alf Woodhouse and vice-chair Garden, had done a good job from 2002 but had become ‘swamped’ over the past 18 months and they would look to get more help over the summer.

Meanwhile, at the time of going to press Long Melford were still no nearer knowing when they will play their Suffolk Senior Cup final against Whitton United after the original scheduled game at Ipswich Town was postponed due to a water-logged pitch on Wednesday.

Suffolk Football Association’s chief executive Phil Knight told the Free Press they were still waiting for Ipswich Town to confirm a new date.

*In the Ridgeons First Division on Saturday, Halstead Town play at Team Bury and Long Melford are seeking their fifth consecutive win at home to Cambridge University Press (3pm). On Tuesday basement boys Cornard United play away at Team Bury (7.45pm) while in the Premier Division Hadleigh United travel to FC Clacton on Tuesday (7.45pm).