Truro City limp on after last-gasp rescue deal
Truro City were saved from collapse last night after one of the most dramatic and confusing days in the troubled Cornish non-League football club's history.
National and local sporting media were reporting the 123-year-old club's demise yesterday afternoon – until three businessmen stepped in to rescue the Blue Square Bet South outfit.
Truro had been told that they would be expelled from the Football Conference – the Blue Square Bet South is the second tier of the Conference – if they did not supply a bond of £50,000 by noon yesterday.
As the deadline passed, news spread that the money had not been paid and that a previous rescue package had fallen through. But then a nightclub owner and a taxi-firm boss paid the bond – and City can continue to play in Blue Square Bet South for the rest of the season.
Peter and Jason Masters, from Truro's L2 nightclub, and Philip Perryman, owner of A2B Taxis of Truro, decided yesterday to step in and stump up the £50,000.
Perryman told the West Briton newspaper: "We didn't want to see Truro City go down. We have a long way to go to get it right and go forward.
"We thought the club was sold, when the news came through that it had fallen through. We have done all of this in the last couple of hours," he added.
Masters told BBC Radio Cornwall: "The bond has been lodged. They [the Conference] have accepted the bond, and hopefully we're all back on track and we can play football again."
"I've spoken to [Truro City manager] Lee Hodges. There are things to do and sort out, but we're very straightforward people and all we're interested in is keeping the club running," Masters added.
Fans have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions as Truro have repeatedly been on the brink of disaster this term. Administrators Walsh Taylor were brought in to save City after former chairman Kevin Heaney was declared bankrupt in the summer.
The Conference had demanded the £50,000 by way of a bond as insurance against other teams' travelling expenses, in case City did not survive the season and match results were declared void.
The Conference board met yesterday afternoon and it was expected by many observers to expel City – but the last-minute intervention of the Truro businessmen came just in time.
James Moore, Walsh Taylor's solicitor, said: "A bond has been lodged with the Football Conference and they are going to allow the club to trade for the rest of the season.
"Within two hours after the deadline, we received a call from Peter [Masters] saying he wished to help.
"We have now got breathing space to work with the new bidders and complete a sale without time constraints," Moore added.
"Two hours after the [noon] deadline, we received a call from Pete [Masters] saying he wished to help and we discussed it," Moore added.
"We've been having conversations with the Football Conference and Pete this afternoon. The decision has been made to release that £50,000 to the Conference, in accordance with that bond, to allow the club to continue to trade and allow the possibility of a sale to complete."
Truro businessman Tony Murtagh was believed to have been behind the rescue package which fell through yesterday. A company called Truro City Football Club 2012 was registered at Companies House on Wednesday, with Murtagh as a director.
Murtagh is the founder of the Truro-based financial services firm The Money Group. He has been unavailable for comment during the past two days.
Before the belated salvation deal was agreed last night, Walsh Taylor's Kate Breese, the club's administrator, said: "We were under the impression that the funds would be lodged with the Conference by noon today. But our solicitor, James Moore, got a text message from the purchaser saying they couldn't agree the terms and asked us notify the Conference this morning.
"We've tried to get hold of the purchaser since he sent that text this morning and he's not returning our calls and messages. What is very frustrating is that they're not returning our calls, so we can't enter into any discussions."
Before the last-gasp rescue act came to light, the Conference declared that Truro's Blue Square Bet South game at Eastleigh today was postponed. That decision will stand and City will not be going to Hampshire today, but they will play at Staines Town next Tuesday.
Prior to the dramatic developments late in the day, the impression being given by the Conference was that City had reached the end of the road.
Conference general manager Dennis Strudwick told BBC Radio Cornwall: "The decision was made last week that if the club was not compliant it would be expelled.
"Since it joined our competition, it has faced three winding-up petitions and football creditor debt has been building ever since the start of the season. The situation isn't getting any better, it's getting worse by the day.
"I'm very sorry. I believe the Conference is also sorry, but we have to look after our other member clubs. There are now a number of clubs who won't have a home game against Truro, so they too will suffer a loss of income."
Speaking before Truro were pulled back from the brink, Hodges made it clear what the expulsion of the club from the Conference would have meant. City's manager told the Western Morning News: "I have been at the club now for three or four seasons and it means a lot to me and the players.
"It gets into your blood and you can tell that by looking at the [coaching] staff and the players, who have stayed through thick and thin.
"We have held on and held on, hoping for better times ahead. Even at the 11th hour, you hold on to the hope that something is going to happen and it will be all right." Just when it seemed too late, his prayers were answered.