Scunthorpe United are bottom in the National League but they could go down even further

Scunthorpe was relegated from the Premier League last season, and now sits last in the National League after a failed takeover.

How time passes. This week twelve years ago, Scunthorpe United They made the short trip to Bramall Lane for a championship match against Sheffield United, where a 4-0 win – their third of the season – lifted them to 10th in the table. This was as good as the stuff Scunthorpe got that season. They relegated the following May to the bottom position, ending a streak of three out of the previous four seasons in the second division.

This all definitely seems like a very long time ago now. The end of last season saw Scunthorpe relegated from the Premier League to the National League after 72 years after winning just four league games from 46 to collect 26 points, leaving him with 18 points from a safe place. From a simple perspective, the difference between League Two winner Forest Green Rovers and Newport County, who finished the season 11th in the table, was 15 points.

And while Scunthorpe was playing at a much higher level just twelve years ago, there was nothing particularly surprising about his relegation at the end of last season. The previous three saw their relegation from League One at 23rd in the table, then 20th and 22nd in League Two. This was not a flash in the pan. It was a period to come.

But as supporters of many other clubs who have fallen through that trapdoor before attest, relegation from the Premier League is not usually the case. End a story. The last quarter of a century is filled with stories of clubs who withdrew from the league and were unable to sustain themselves. Halifax Town, Darlington, Rashids & Diamonds, Hereford United and Scarborough have all been in bankruptcy since being relegated from the English Football League.

Life in the National League started off well, as they beat Yeovil Town 2-1 in front of a crowd of just over 3,000 people. Given the fans’ boycott of the club in protest of the way it was being run had seen crowds drop to just over 2,000 in the previous season, it all sounded cautiously encouraging, but it didn’t take long for the wheels to be reattached to these A special cart to fall off again.

Scunthorpe followed Yeovil’s six-game losing streak in the league, a streak that ended in a 2-2 draw with Altrincham in their last game. The crowd was smashed again, as 2,163 people took part in their last home game against Boreham Wood. Director Keith Hill was fired at the end of August. His replacement has not been confirmed, but whoever accepts it will be Sunthorpe’s seventh permanent head coach since Graham Alexander was sacked in March 2018 with the team finishing fifth in League One. Meanwhile, Academy Director Tony Dawes took over the task on a temporary basis.

All this underpins the specter of a possible financial meltdown. Scunthorpe’s annual accounts made a grim reading for some time. Scunthorpe lost nearly £1m in the year to July 2020 and £3.6m in each of the previous two years. Their total debt at this point was £11.5 million, but in April 2021 it was revealed that Glanford Park and other assets Moved to Coolslik, a company owned by Peter Swan, with £11 million owed to the company written off in the process due to interest-bearing loans that were funding its excess spending. 2021 accounts Show a profit of £4.8 millionBut that was behind the £5.8m in loans that were written off. Calculations also showed it had just under 100 employees compared to the previous year.

Towards the end of last season, it looked as if things might start to move behind the scenes at the club. A new chief operating officer, Lee Turnbull, has been appointed, and Swan has resigned with news of a possible Card takeover. In July, it was reported that a club sale price had been agreed and the club was awaiting the results of the owners and managers’ test at the FA.

But this week it dealt a new blow to the club with the news that despite having passed that test, the takeover process has collapsed because potential new owners have failed to provide proof of funding. Swann told BBC Radio Humberside: “People want me out but they still want me to fund the football club. At the moment, yes, there will be a limit to that. I don’t know when that decision will be made, but I’m doing my best to give the football club a try. The best possible future.

“But it’s not great, we haven’t had great results over the past few years, but I’m trying to make sure the club has a future. I’ve always said that from day one.” The identity of this proposed buyer has not been announced.

As always, the question of what a buyer might actually get for their money is a valid question. Glanford Park, by far the club’s largest asset, is now owned by Swann, and they placed a mortgage against it in May. The obvious concern here is that raising more money in the form of loans on the ground is likely to cause a club that had already lost money years ago, no longer owning anything of great financial value, and continues to atrophy on the pitch. It’s a worse investment than it could have been.

There have been allegations recently that the club is “at risk of entering management”, but it was not immediately clear where the allegations came from. Having said that, when BBC Humberside Radio was asked directly about the allegations, Swann’s response didn’t inspire much confidence: “I’m not going there, I’m not going that way. I told you where we are and we’ll try to close a deal.”

Management is, of course, a legal process designed to save the club’s corporation that has become insolvent, and the most probable circumstances in which this will happen at Scunthorpe would be if Swan cuts funding to the club altogether.

He has not suggested he would at the time of writing, but such rumors are unlikely to make the club a more attractive proposition to potential buyers. Swan claims to have more interested parties, and with impending cash and lump sum receipts likely to drop in the summer soon, it’s clearly in everyone’s best interest to complete the sale quickly, if it can be done.

When there are reasons for optimism, it seems somewhat situational. Oldham Athletic was in A Equally humiliating case They came to Scunthorpe last season but are now taken over, and although their start in the National League has been fair from inspiration – they are 14th with only two wins from their first 10 games – they seem at least slowly starting to pull off their tails.

And even landing in the regional leagues of the National League isn’t quite as much like a kiss of death as it once was. York City and Stockport alike have fallen so far. Stockport is now back in the Premier League while York is back in the National League and is making good progress there.

But those hopes are slim to hold on when their side lost their cherished spot in the Premier League and are once again in relegation, with no permanent manager, low crowds and with a hope of possession just falling.

The tournament seems like a long time ago. Instead of fleeting thoughts of what life might be like in the Premier League, Scunthorpe United supporters continue to live with the potential extinction of their club while still clinging to the hope that someone will pounce and save the club that is paying the price. Of the highest possible prices to thwart the ambitions of its owner.