Why the demise of Macclesfield Town is such a big blow for North West football

Flickr / Ben Sutherland

Macclesfield Town FC, a community club with 146 years of history, is another North West football team on the brink of extinction.

In mid-September it was announced that the Silkmen were being wound up after Judge Sebastian Prentis heard in the High Court that a total of around £500,000 was owned to HMRC and creditors such as John Askey, a former manager of the club. 

Recent times have been tumultuous for Macclesfield when reports surfaced early in 2019 that some players had not been paid in three months.

The team was subsequently relegated to the National League at the end of the 2019/20 season after being deducted points as a result of their financial difficulties and the numerous instances in which players went unpaid. 

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Fans have been frustrated with the continued influence and control of the majority shareholder, Amar Alkadhi, and believe the club would have been in a better position if the club had been sold at an earlier date.

A petition calling for the removal of Alkadhi was set up by fans almost a year ago.

After the winding-up order was issued last week, the Silkmen Supporters Trust (SST), who provided a loan of £10,000 to the club in April to ensure staff and players were paid, made it clear that they believed Alkadhi was to blame.

“The SST are devastated by the decision of the court to wind up Macclesfield Town Football Club,” they said.

“The responsibility for this lies at the feet of one person – Amar Alkadhi.

“The only way forward now, and it may be a positive, would be to form a new club, just like Bury have done, debt free and without Mr Alkadhi.”

It is yet another blow to footballing communities in the North West following the recent expulsion of Bury FC from the footballing league, and their subsequent threat of liquidation, as well as the precarious position of Wigan Athletic who fell into administration in July of this year.

Founded back in 1874, Macclesfield Town is one of the oldest football clubs in the country and have played their games at Moss Rose since 1891.

In the post-World War II era, where the club became known as Macclesfield Town rather than Macclesfield FC, the greatest period of success for the team came in the 1990s with former Manchester United midfielder Sammy McIlroy at the helm. 

Taking charge of the team at the beginning of the 1993/94 season, Mcllory managed to steer the team to the top of the Conference and the promise of the English Football League in just his second season.

The Silkmen dominated the Conference, sitting top of the pack from November of 1994 until the end of the season, but promotion was unfortunately denied as their stadium did not meet the EFL requirements.

The team were eventually promoted to the EFL following the 1996/97 season, winning the Conference by five points; a remarkable feat given the fact that the club trailed the top spot by fifteen points earlier in the season.

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Mcllory’s reign also saw the FA Trophy return to the Moss Rose for the second time in the club’s history (with a win against Northwich Victoria at Wembley) and promotion in two successive years in the 1997/98 season and a second-place finish in Division Three. 

The Silkmen’s fortunes faded in the following season, returning to the third division after being relegated. The season also saw the departure of Mcllory. 

The years since have seen several big names take the reigns, including Paul Ince and Sol Campbell. 

Perhaps most fondly remembered, though, is Keith Alexander, who took charge of the club between 2008 and 2010 before he unfortunately passed away while occupying the role. 

Alexander saved the club from being relegated to the Conference in 2008, extending the club’s run in the football league. 

He is also widely regarded as a pioneer for racial equality in the game, previously becoming the first professional black manager in the EFL and the first professionally qualified black referee in England. 

In recent years, Macclesfield dropped out of the footballing league twice, although there have been a few bright spots since the team were initially relegated to the Conference in 2012.

These included the first appearance in the FA Cup fourth round and a promotion back into the Football League in 2019, but the financial issues have slowly mounted over the years.

Now, the future looks bleak.

Fans and employees alike are devastated that a club with such close ties to the community and a long footballing history is on the brink of collapse.

The club is yet to be officially liquidated, giving fans some small hope that a solution can be found.

But it is clear that the financial problems brought on by the modern game have resulted in yet another casualty, continuing a process of erosion in the game which leaves no room for the ‘little’ guys.

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