Express & Star

'Huge sadness' as Hednesford Town pull out of the league

Hednesford Town have been dealt a devastating blow after their takeover crashed – meaning they cannot play football next season and throwing the club’s future into doubt.

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The Pitmen have been left in huge trouble after Staffordshire businessman Gary Hartland pulled out of the deal to buy the club.

In a statement, the club said they would be exploring all options in a ‘bid to return’ to football for the 2024-25 season.

A post on social media and the club website read: “It is with huge sadness that we write to confirm that the prospective new owner and chairman has withdrawn from the takeover late (Thursday) afternoon.

"Due to recent meetings with the League & the FA, the timing of this means that unfortunately, Hednesford Town FC will be unable to play in the 23/24 season. All options will now be explored to try and ensure Hednesford Town FC can restart for the following season.”

The club were relegated from the Southern Central Premier division last season and were due to play in the Northern Premier League West division next season.

Gary Hartland has pulled out of the takeover

Fans had been hoping for a revival of fortunes under businessman Hartland. He had agreed to buy both the club and the freehold of their Keys Park home in a deal announced in March.

The future of the Pitmen had been thrown into doubt in February when owners Hayden Dando and Graham Jones revealed they were going to walk away from the club at the end of the season due to the impact of Covid and criticism from sections of the fanbase.

Wealthy entrepreneur Hartland made his fortune in care homes and has invested in private schools, including St Dominic’s Grammar School, in Brewood, and Birchfield Preparatory School, in Albrighton.

His Wednesfield-based firm, Graiseley Properties, also famously sued Barclays Bank in 2017 – winning a £40 million payout from the bank over loans made to the firm which ended up costing it millions of pounds more than expected.

The news is a bitter blow to Hednesford fans, one of the region’s oldest and best known non-league clubs. Founded in 1880, the club has been a stalwart of the community reaching its highest level in 1995 when they were promoted to the GM Vauxhall Conference, just one level below league football.

They reached the first round of the FA Cup proper for the first time in 72 years in the 1996-97 season, eventually losing to then Premier League side Middlesbrough in the fourth round.