Not all name changes are equal. Our club is now playing as Walthamstow, having previously been *deep breath* Leyton, Matlock Swifts, Leyton (again), Leyton Wingate, Leyton (once again), Leyton Pennant, Waltham Forest and eventually Walthamstow. That’s without including Pennant and Walthamstow Pennant, from the other side of our merger in 1995.
There was little opposition to changing our name to Waltham Forest and the change to Walthamstow ‘Stow has been widely embraced. But the supporters of North Ferriby United in the Northern Premier League are up against a very real threat that their club’s owners look to change its name move ten miles down the road.
This is not a straightforward story. And to us uneducated southerners, it takes quite a bit of reading and head-scratching to even begin to understand how a team from a village of just under 4,000 people, could end up playing in the National League Premier Division in 2016.
In 2015 when they, won promotion to the Northern Division of the National League (Conference South in old talk), there were rumours they’d ask for voluntary demotion, unable to deal with the increased costs. In the end, the owners continued to fund the club, and they ended up finishing second in the table, promoted to the National League Premier Division.
From playing in the Northern Premier League in 2013, to lifting the FA Trophy in 2015 and promotion to the National League a year later, this story was proper ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff. Well, until it becomes clear that their ascent was bankrolled by Hull City owner Assem Allam’s daughter, and left to any attempts challenge in a sustainable way, they were stuffed.
Once United’s owners cut the cord, they were in freefall, suffering two straight relegations back to the Northern Premier League. In their 2017-18 season in the National League North, they won just three games all season.
The writing was on the wall, but this did not stop Jamie Waltham, a local businessman from taking ownership of the club in November 2017.
Waltham was well known locally owing to his time as owner of Hull United, where amongst other ideas, he:
- Paid people £2 to come and watch
- Held a raffle to win a car
- Offered lifetime passes for free.
It worked for a while, with over 800 people attending some games, before he fell out with the club’s Hull United’s board after trying to sign a new and more expensive lease on their Dene Park ground.
Waltham had only been in charge at North Ferriby for three months when he announced his masterplan: to relocate the club to Dene Park in Dunswell, where Hull United once played, and was now home to East Yorkshire Carnegie, a club with Waltham himself had founded. His decision to try and rent out the ground to travellers during the week left supporters and the local community equally unimpressed.
After just seven months in charge, it appeared North Ferriby had seen the end of Jamie Waltham when he ‘departed for India’ in May 2018, handing the club over to Carl and Terry Chadwick.
Hopes that the club’s recent troubles were over never materialised, and rumours of the club’s relocation to Dunswell again reared their ugly head. These were confirmed with a killer blow last week with the news that an application had been made to the Football Association to rename the club ‘East Hull FC’, starting with the 2019/20 season.
Lines were quickly drawn between previous owner Waltham and the Chadwick family, with Carl going so far as to say “Jamie is my mate, but I would never do business with him”, at a meeting with the club’s supporters.
The fact that Chadwick is a builder, and North Ferriby’s ground is prime for development, is surely just a coincidence at this stage.
Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail, Chadwick said he would wait until the end of the season to make a decision about the club’s relocation. “Last season Jamie [Waltham] started the process of moving the club closer to Hull and renaming it East Hull. This was down to the fact that North Ferriby, despite attaining an excellent level of football, have never been well supported by the people of Hull,” Chadwick told Hull Live.
“Jamie believed this was due to the fact Hull is a very working class area and North Ferriby is viewed by a lot of the working classes as elitist and where the rich people live. This coupled with the fact 90 per cent of the village don’t attend and actually oppose the club has resulted in historically low attendances.
This suggests to many that Waltham never really cut his ties with North Ferriby, and is still pulling the strings from a distance.
Manager Chris Bolder, a club legend in the supporters’ eyes was sacked just after Non-League Day, with the club lying at the foot of the table. He was replaced by the club’s all-time top scorer Gary Bradshaw and another club legend Paul Foot, but the new duo have one hell of a job on their hands to stave off a third straight relegation.
For North Ferriby’s supporters, it looks like the beginning of the end, and it’s just another tale of a football club’s owners being able to do as they please.
The club’s supporters have started a petition to block the move, which at the time of writing has just under 7,500 signatures. You can sign it here.