Soccer Magazine

Lincoln City FC: The Biggest Drop of All

By Niccoloc @Soccerwrapup

Lincoln City FC: The Biggest Drop of All

Disappointed Lincoln City fans.

This article was written by Adam Barlow.
Anybody who regularly watches the Premier League will be well aware of the pressure to stay there, the money, revenues and the prestige that go with being a Premiership club. Chairmen of clubs that are threatened with relegation are often quoted as saying how much it will cost their respective clubs should they drop down to the Championship. For the fans the thought of not being in on football’s biggest gravy train and dining at the top table fills them with dread. As bad as all this is, it cannot compare with the biggest and most devastating relegation of them all; being relegated from the Football League itself.
When a club leaves the Premiership they get parachute payments, still get plenty of coverage on TV and in the newspapers, and keep their FA cup seeding. In short life goes on pretty much as it did before the relegation.
Last season with 11 games to go League Two club Lincoln City were as good as safe from the drop into non league football, but a disastrous run of only two points from those eleven games saw them relegated to the fifth tier of English football for the first time since the 1987-88 season. A 0-3 home defeat by Aldershot Town coupled with Barnet’s 1-0 win over Port Vale sealing the Red Imps’ fate. On the face of it, it may look like any other relegation in any other League but in truth it is by far the most painful relegation any club could go through for several reasons.

Lincoln City FC: The Biggest Drop of All

Lincoln City's final score in League Two

Until the late 90’s over half the clubs in the Blue Square prem (The 5th tier of English football) operated on a part time basis. Nowadays only a handful of clubs are part time. When automatic promotion/relegation between the Football League and the Non League pyramid first started in the late 80’s the relegated clubs found it easy to bounce back even though only one club went up. Lincoln, Darlington, and Colchester all came back up within a year or two. The fact that they stayed full time being a large factor in their success. Over time as more and more clubs switched from part time to full time the relegated clubs struggled to come back up. Even the addition of an extra promotion place in the 2002/03 season didn’t help. The fact that the last team to win the League the season after being relegated the previous season was Darlington in the 1990/91 season shows how hard it is to adjust to this League.
A quick look at the line up for this season’s BSP (Blue Square Premier League) is a stark reminder to Lincoln and Stockport fans (the other relegated club) that they could well be down here for a while. Former League clubs Mansfield Town, York City, Cambridge United, Darlington, and Wrexham have decades of League football behind them and solid fan bases, while Grimsby Town and Luton Town (who had several crowds of over 7,000 last season) have played in the Championship in the last decade. Yet they still can’t escape.
As you are no longer a League club you don’t take part in the Carling Cup at all and have to qualify for the FA Cup. You don’t receive any parachute payments and aren’t included on the TV highlights on the BBC or Sky. Your match reports are no longer carried in the national press. It really feels as if the media fails to acknowledge your club still exists.
Although the fans of the club are undoubtedly hurt, the cost to the club’s employers is even worse. Relegation from the Football League has cost Lincoln roughly £500,000. Peanuts in terms of Premiership money but a huge amount to a club like Lincoln. This means sweeping cuts across the board at the club. The reserve side has been scrapped, several of the staff in the club office have been made redundant and the club shop now only operates on a part time basis. On the field the goalkeeping coach has been released alongside the first team coach. The Centre of Excellence which is the life blood of the club in bringing through young talent was perilously close to folding until a local business man stepped in to make up the funding that has been lost from losing Football League status.
While all this cost cutting was being done. The Board were called to account by a group of shareholders who called for a vote of confidence in each and every director of the Board. Although the Board survived it remains apparent that deep divisions remain amongst the fans; both on the Board and their management of the club. What the club, fans, Board and manager all needed was a good start to the BSP season to get everybody on board and relight the fans passion. They didn’t get it.
An away draw at Southport has been followed by two home defeats by Kidderminster Harriers and Wrexham respectively. This now means that added on the run at the end of last season The Imps have now set a club record 6 consecutive home defeats and haven’t won at all in 14 games. It’s going to be a long way back for Lincoln City.

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