Eastbourne Borough shock resignations: Why did directors resign? What may happen now?

The Sussex football scene was in shock on Saturday evening when eight members of the Eastbourne Borough Football Club CIC board resigned – leaving the club effectively leaderless.

Their actions - reported on the Herald website - brought into the open tensions which have simmered for some months. Disquiet among some supporters – not all, by any means – over the respective roles of officers and club volunteers came to a head last week. But after a fraught weekend, there were signs that a way forward will be found.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND?

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Eastbourne Borough were formed as Langney Sports FC in the 1960s, growing from grass-roots to semi-professional status.

Troubled times at Priory Lane

In the summer of 2019, the collapse of a large sponsorship deal left the club in financial distress. David Blackmore joined the board shortly afterwards, and took the club chairman role in late 2020, and with his fellow board members they hauled the club back from the edge of a precipice. The appointment of Danny Bloor as manager, with a lower-budget, more locally based team, saw an upturn on the pitch.

Borough have always held their own in National South, Bloor and his staff steering the team through the debris of a locked-down 20-21 season to finish in third place in the curtailed league table. An FA Cup run, with a live televised tie against Blackpool FC, helped to secure financial stability.

Bloor has made no public comment on the current events, preferring to let his team do the talking. On Saturday the Sports – ironically, with the cloudburst of off-field news about to break – defeated Hungerford Town 5-2 in one of Priory Lane’s most thrilling games of recent years.

WHY THE CURRENT DRAMA?

It may still turn out less dramatic. The structure of the club is complicated: Eastbourne Borough Football Club CIC and Langney Sports Club – the social arm – are separate bodies, each with its own officers and committee. Both belong under the umbrella of the Acorns Charitable Trust, set up several years ago: with 51% ownership, the Trust safeguards the club’s future.

The usually cordial working relationship has recently been more fragile, especially over a number of volunteer roles. Matters came to a head last week over elections at a Langney Sports Club EGM. Football club directors were unhappy with the proceedings and outcome – and, failing any move to enlist the wisdom of a Jackie Weaver, the current impasse was reached.

WHERE NEXT?

The resignations of eight board members leave the football club with just secretary Jan Field and treasurer Steve Carter at the helm.

While social media has been alive with comment and argument, there are some good prospects for a resolution. On Monday evening (17th) the eight members of Acorns Trust, the umbrella body, will hold a board meeting. Sources close to the trustees are optimistic that a way forward can be found, and that “no doors will be closed in seeking to resolve the issues”.

Issues and challenges, then, but not an impasse? An Acorns Trust spokesperson had calming words: “Due to the announcements made by the board of directors of Eastbourne Borough Football Club CIC, at 6pm on Saturday 15th January 2022; Acorns Charitable Trust, who are the major shareholder of the CIC, are convening a meeting on Monday evening to discuss the current situation, which the club unfortunately finds itself in.

“Members and supporters can be assured that in the meantime football and the club will continue as normal, and the board membership will be resolved at the Shareholders’ AGM next month, on 21st February.”

The Acorns meeting is not open to the public. A further statement by the Trust is expected on Tuesday, although Andy Miller, Trust chairman, does not anticipate instant resolution. "In the coming days we may well need enough time and space for all parties to find and agree a way forward. I am sure that this is what everyone wants, and we will work carefully towards that end. If everyone has the best interests of the club at heart, then it's a realistic goal."