Yes, 1999 certainly was Barrow's tear of trauma, but we start this chronology early in December 1998 in order to fill in the background to this little souvenir of a terrible year...

1999 - BARROW's YEAR of TRAUMA

#1 • January - April

Wednesday
2 December
1998

Major shareholder and financial backer Stephen Vaughan resigns as chairman of Barrow AFC, following news that Cumbria Constabulary's Commercial Fraud Squad are to investigate a complaint about an issue of club shares offered by Vaughan in October. Vaughan also announces he is looking for a buyer for both the club and the Holker Street ground, for which he claims to have obtained the deeds in April 1997 in return for his £400,000 investment into the club.

Thursday
3 December

Phil Cowing becomes acting chairman and immediately announces a campaign to raise money to buy the ground back from Vaughan for the people of Barrow. The board now comprises Cowing, chief executive Dave Murgatroyd, manager Owen Brown, secretary Pat Brewer, and Margaret Cooksey, Sid Blain and Rick Lucas. Meanwhile, Vaughan gives assurances that he won't sell Holker Street to property developers, or for use as anything but a football stadium.

Friday
11 December

Sterling Fabrications are granted a petition under the 1986 Insolvency Act to wind up Barrow AFC following the persistent non-payment of an invoice for £44,000 for improvements carried out to the ground in the summer of 1998.

Thursday
17 December

Vaughan sells Northern Improvements, the company that owns Barrow's Holker Street stadium, to James Olivier, a Merseyside businessman. Vaughan is less than forthcoming about the sum involved in the transaction, telling an Evening Mail reporter 'That's my business.'

Thursday
31 December

The Royal Bank of Scotland freezes Barrow AFC's account. The immediate effect is to block payment of some of the players' wages and an instalment of £3,000 to Sterling Fabrications.

Friday
1 January
1999

Barrow AFC see in the new year sixth from bottom of the Conference. Some reports say the club is losing £3,000 a week, while estimates of the total debt range anywhere between £200,000 and £500,000.

Tuesday
5 January

Andy Mutch and Mark Seagraves refuse to play in the 2-0 ATS Trophy defeat at Southport due to non-receipt of wages caused by the freezing of Barrow's bank account.

Thursday
7 January

Owen Brown resigns as a director of Barrow AFC.

Thursday
14 January

The Evening Mail reports that three young Furness girls have faxed a poem outlining the club's plight to Emlyn Hughes, the town's most famous son, in an effort to enlist his support in fund raising events, etc. The faces of long standing Barrow supporters everywhere, not just embittered old cynics of whom this writer considers himself one, register a faint smile at the folly and naivete of youth.

Saturday
16 January

Following a 2-1 home victory over fellow relegation strugglers Welling United, Owen Brown is relieved of his position as manager of Barrow AFC.

Sunday
17 January

A new managerial team are interviewed and appointed. John Beck and Shane Westley, formerly of Lincoln City and Cambridge United, are the new Director of Football and Team Manager at Barrow AFC.

Secretary Pat Brewer is suspended pending an investigation into alleged irregularities concerning players' contracts.

Monday
18 January

Rick Lucas and Pat Brewer resign from the board of Barrow AFC.

Friday
22 January

At the end of the week, three players - Mike Marsh, Andy Mutch and Mark Seagraves - have quit the club.

Saturday
23 January

Westley's first game in charge is a battling 1-0 defeat at Yeovil.

Monday
25 January

The winding up order is heard in the Furness County Court. Uncontested by the club, Barrow-in-Furness Association Football Club Ltd. is formally wound up at 11am. The Receiver appoints licensed insolvency practitioner Jim Duckworth, a partner in Lytham St Annes firm Freeman Rich, as liquidator for the club.

Tuesday
26 January

Mr Duckworth says he will be investigating whether the sale of Holker Street to Northern Improvements was legitimate. If not, the ground could be recovered on behalf of Barrow AFC's creditors, offered for sale, with proceeds from the sale being used to pay money owed those creditors.

Brian Keen, managing director of Barrow engineering firm Scurrah Nassau, confirms he is part of an eight-man consortium planning a rescue package for Barrow AFC. They meet tonight to discuss plans to relaunch the club with a 'squeaky clean' image and draw a line under its troubled past.

New Holker Street owner James Olivier says he is prepared to let Barrow continue using the stadium, should a rescue package get off the ground.

Wednesday
27 January

The liquidator gives the go-ahead for Saturday's home match against Kingstonian, following a deposit by the Consortium to cover any potential losses from the game.

The Times quotes Conference secretary John Moules as saying: 'As far as we're concerned, [Barrow] haven't contravened any Conference rules and will carry on as usual.'

Friday
29 January

At the end of this week four more players - Marc Coates, Mike Smith, Karl Marginson and Carl McCauley - have left the club.

Saturday
30 January

1,730 turn up to see Barrow lose 1-0 at home to Kingstonian.

Thursday
4 February

The Conference Management Committee meet, and a decision on the future of Conference soccer at Barrow is put back until February 18.

The liquidator says he will allow the home game against Hayes on February 13 to go ahead.

Neil Morton becomes the eighth player to leave the club in recent weeks.

Saturday
6 February

The consortium meet at Holker St. to plan the way forward and reach a decision to set up a new company, Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd., as a non-profit making venture.

Dave Murgatroyd is sacked as Chief Executive.

Thursday
11 February

Brian Keen tells a packed meeting at Barrow's Forum 28 (approx. 600 in the building with the proceedings relayed by loudspeaker to another 100 outside) that the new Barrow AFC will be run as a non-profit making company owned by the fans. Upon payment of the yearly £10 subscription, members of the club would be able to attend general meetings and be eligible to vote on issues affecting the club.

Friday
12 February

At the end of this week two more players - captain Gary Bauress, and full back Kevin Sandwith - have quit the club.

Saturday
13 February

Barrow lose a poor game at home to Hayes, 1-0.

Tuesday
16 February

The Evening Mail publishes a letter it has faxed to the chairman of each Conference club, outlining Barrow's case and requesting their support.

Thursday
18 February

The Conference Management Committee meet to decide Barrow's fate. They tell Brian Keen and Alan Dunn that the new company cannot replace Barrow AFC in the Conference as long as the old club is in liquidation. But they grant that if the liquidator is satisfied that the consortium can run the club under his authority, then Barrow's membership can continue. Furthermore, if Barrow can fulfil its fixtures for the rest of the season then the position of the club will be reviewed. Many observers regard this as a fudge, reasoning that the Conference fully expect Barrow to be relegated anyway, thus unburdening them of a difficult decision at the end of the day.

Saturday
20 February

Barrow show that they aren't going to go down without a fight. In a spirited display at Holker St. they beat Yeovil Town 2-0, thus ending the last unbeaten away record in the first five divisions of English football. It is goalkeeper Tony Parkes' last game for the club, having announced his wish to depart earlier in the week.

Monday
22 February

Neil Doherty cites tactical differences with the present management as his reason for becoming the twelfth player to leave Barrow in recent weeks.

Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd receives its registration papers from Companies House.

Wednesday
24 February

The subscription fee for the new Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd is confirmed as £10 per annum.

Saturday
27 February

Barrow draw 1-1 at Telford.

Wednesday
3 March

The new membership scheme is officially launched at a second public meeting held in a packed Forum 28. At the end of the meeting fans queue for membership forms and to pay their £10 subscription.

Saturday
6 March

Over 1,700 see Barrow pull off a credible 1-1 draw at home to championship aspirants Cheltenham Town.

Tuesday
9 March

Brian Keen is appointed chairman of Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd., with Alan Dunn as president. The other directors are named as Phil Cowing, Steve Leonard, Paul Ackred, Mike Brownlee, Neil McDonald and John Bassett, with advisors Geoff Smith and Rob Cairns.

Thursday
11 March

The Advertiser reports that subscriptions to the new club have raised over £10,000 in the first seven days.

Saturday
13 March

Barrow draw 2-2 at fellow strugglers Farnborough Town, a result that does more for Barrow's cause than it does for the increasingly doomed Hampshire outfit.

Monday
15 March

Three more directors are appointed - Russell Dodd, Neil Chalker and vice-chairman of the Survival Fund, Dave Ayres.

Friday
19 March

Alan Dunn and Brian Keen meet the FA Membership Committee in order to establish what is required to have the membership of the liquidated Barrow AFC transferred to Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd.

Saturday
20 March

Hereford United 3 Barrow 0

Sunday
21 March

Investigations into dealings under the previous administration at Barrow AFC provide the Sunday Times with two paragraphs of its article headlined 'DRUG CASH LAUNDERERS TARGET FOOTBALL CLUBS.'

Saturday
27 March

A 'Quid-a-Kid' scheme is introduced for the game against Kidderminster. 1,738 turn up to see Barrow crash 4-0 in their heaviest home defeat of the season, despite the competing 'attraction' of England v Poland on satellite TV.

Wednesday
31 March

Amid mounting criticism over the team's style of play in the recent heavy defeats, John Beck departs as Director of Football.

Friday
2 April

Lee O'Keeffe announces his departure from Barrow, apparently at a Quiz Night in the Washington, prompting the question 'Who is the latest player to quit Barrow AFC?'

Saturday
3 April

Barrow 1 Farnborough Town 0; the goal an Eddie Johnston penalty after 88 minutes.

Monday
5 April

A solitary goal after 63 seconds is enough to gain Northwich Victoria all the points in their home game against Barrow.

Wednesday
7 April

Stephen Vaughan arrives for a meeting of Barrow AFC creditors as it is breaking up. Insisting to be admitted as he 'owns the ground' (or words to that effect), he is told to 'Put that in writing with your proof!'

Thursday
8 April

The Evening Mail reports that within the next few days the liquidator will instruct solicitors to look into the transfer of the Holker Street ground from the old Barrow AFC to former chairman Stephen Vaughan's Northern Improvements company in April 1997.

Saturday
10 April

Hednesford Town 1 Barrow 0.

Wednesday
14 April

Barrow draw 1-1 at Forest Green.

Saturday
17 April

An incredible result for Barrow - a 2-1 win at Stevenage, a result that means Farnborough will be relegated, despite their 1-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers.

Wednesday
21 April

In a letter to the board of Barrow AFC, the FA lay down three criteria for the transfer of the club's membership to Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd. They tell the club that it must:

  1. Clarify the ownership of the ground
  2. Produce a detailed business plan
  3. Continue its efforts to secure sponsorship of a substantial nature.

The letter goes on to say that the FA are 'unable to comment' on a request by Barrow for clarification of repayment of a £17,000 Football Trust grant.

Saturday
24 April

Nearly 2,200 see Barrow lose 2-1 at home to Woking. The pressure is back on.

Monday
26 April

Welling win 4-2 at Leek Town, a result that condemns Leek to the UniBond and takes Welling above Barrow in the table. The two teams are level on 40 points but Welling have the better goal difference (-21 against -24). This means Barrow must travel to Kidderminster on Saturday occupying the last remaining relegation place, knowing they must get a better result than Welling at Cheltenham to avoid the drop.

Friday
30 April

The Barrow AFC survival fund announces it has raised over £10,000 since January 9.