In the best traditions, we left you with a bit of a cliff hanger, but if you thought the first third of the year was bad, then you ain't seen nothing yet. For in the most eventful close season for years the $#¡* really hit the fan. Yes folks, this is when the fun really starts...

1999 - BARROW's YEAR of TRAUMA

#2 • May - August

Saturday
1 May

While Welling can only muster a 0-0 draw at Cheltenham, Barrow beat Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 to finish one place above the three relegation positions in the Nationwide Conference and prompting jubilant scenes among the 500 travelling fans.

Tuesday
4 May

While highly premature, an Evening Mail report headed 'CONFERENCE SAY NO TO NEW CLUB' nevertheless sheds some light on the two sides of the argument over whether Barrow should be allowed to remain in the Conference.

When Conference secretary John Moules says: 'Our rules do not allow a new club to take over from the old club... There's no possibility of accepting Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd unless they negotiate with the liquidator to take over the old club', AFC president Alan Dunn reacts with 'It's not possible for us to take it over. [Barrow AFC is] in compulsory liquidation which means it must be wound up.' He goes on to say 'There's a difference between knowing what a rule says and finding a legitimate way to reinterpret that rule.'

Wednesday
5 May

UniBond League secretary, Duncan Bayley tells the Evening Mail that should the Conference expel Barrow, it would be 'extremely unlikely' that a vacancy could be arranged for the club in the UniBond.

Monday
10 May

The board of Barrow AFC (1999) submits a business plan to the FA, confident that this fulfils the criteria laid down in the FA letter of April 21.

Thursday
13 May

The Conference's management committee meet and discuss whether they will allow the newly formed Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd to replace the old club.

Friday
14 May

The Evening Mail reports that the Conference have still not reached a decision on whether they will allow Barrow AFC to remain in their League next season. They quote Conference secretary John Moules as saying 'We will be corresponding with the liquidator in the next couple of days... I can't give any information, other than certain recommendations have been made to Mr Duckworth.'

Tuesday
18 May

Liquidator Jim Duckworth confirms that the Conference have written to him saying 'It was unanimously decided that under Football Conference rule 2(F) the board will recommend to member clubs at the AGM on June 5, that [Barrow] should be excluded further participation in the competition.'

Tuesday
1 June

An FA Membership Committee terminates the membership of Barrow AFC and refuses transfer of that membership to the new Barrow AFC (1999) Ltd.

Wednesday
2 June

The FA sends a letter to Barrow explaining their decision of 1 June: 'In arriving at this decision the committee took into account the fact that the new company were not in a position to assume the liabilities of the old company which is a precondition of the transfer of membership.'

At a crisis meeting, the board decide to fight on and present their case to the Conference AGM, despite secretary John Moules reaction to the news. He says 'In my opinion Barrow AFC (1999) will not be allowed in the Conference next season, but a final decision won't be made until Saturday at the Conference AGM.'

Thursday
3 June

Brian Keen tells the Evening Mail that the FA have 'stabbed us in the back' and asks why the FA failed to make payment of the debt one of their criteria for the continuance of Barrow AFC?

Friday
4 June

Barrow MP John Hutton throws his weight behind the campaign to save Barrow AFC by writing to sports minister Tony Banks and speaking to both Conference chairman Bill King and the FA.

Saturday
5 June

The recommendation that Barrow be removed from the Conference is put to a vote of club chairmen at their AGM and passed by fifteen votes to two, the clubs voting against being Kettering Town and Morecambe.

Sunday
6 June

The board report on the implications of the Conference decision to another public meeting at Forum 28. The massed crowd also hears that Barrow RL have offered the use of Craven Park, should this become necessary, and that Stephen Vaughan claims he is owed £300,000, with £60,000 for Owen Brown.

Tuesday
8 June

The Conference denies Barrow's right to appeal against their expulsion. Clearly contradicting his statement of 2 June, John Moules says that 'A decision was made on May 13, and that decision was ratified at the AGM. The liquidator had from May 13 to appeal and he didn't do that. There is no appeal now. The recommendation is a decision.' Barrow AFC and the liquidator vow to challenge the ruling, protesting that a two-week appeal period starting on May 13 would have expired several days before the recommendation even went to a vote.

Meanwhile, Jim Duckworth says he is prepared to let the old club continue playing in liquidation next season, if he receives guarantees that it can do so without losing money.

Support for Barrow's cause comes from what some may see as an unlikely source, Morecambe chairman, Rod Taylor. He tells the Evening Mail 'If the liquidator is saying they can carry on, make a profit and pick at the debt surely that should be acceptable.'

Wednesday
9 June

Several Barrow flags including one sporting the legend 'Save Barrow AFC' are spotted at the Bulgaria v England match in Sofia.

Thursday
10 June

Stephen Vaughan threatens to launch a new club - Barrow AFC 2000 - in direct competition to the existing set-up. At least one supporter privately expresses his disgust that the Evening Mail sees fit to dignify this irrelevant sideline by even giving it column space.

Friday
11 June

Barrow fan Phil Boyde telephones Conference chairman Bill King for a friendly chat and to ask for a copy of the Conference rule book. According to King, in a transcript that is posted on the Internet, the new book is 'at the printers' while the old ones 'have all disappeared.'

Tuesday
15 June

The Evening Mail reports that former FA Chief Executive Graham Kelly, who has already expressed sympathy with Barrow's cause, is willing to meet Brian Keen and offer his assistance.

Tony Banks interrupts an official visit to Qatar to speak with John Hutton on the telephone about the matter.

Friday
18 June

A QC informs the liquidator that Barrow have sufficient grounds to appeal against the Conference decision. But meanwhile, the whiff of compromise is in the air. After lengthy negotiations between the Conference, the FA and Barrow AFC, the parties agree that the club will be placed in the UniBond Premier Division for the coming season. Now the fun really starts.

Monday
21 June

John Hutton summons Conference officials to the House of Commons explain their decision to expel Barrow. Following the 45-minute talks Hutton reports 'It was a very successful meeting... which identified a number of options... I'm very hopeful of a positive outcome later this week.'

Friday
25 June

The FA confirm that they have instructed the UniBond League to accept Barrow into their Premier Division for the 1999-2000 season. It is also reported on the same day that UniBond secretary Duncan Bayley is saying their League will not accept them. Meanwhile, the protests over Barrow's expulsion from the Conference continue apace.

Tuesday
29 June

Barrow MP John Hutton meets FA executive director David Davies at Lancaster Gate. As a result the FA will set up an appeal panel to settle the dispute of which league Barrow AFC will play in next season.

Wednesday
30 June

The Barrow board agree to place an appeal through the avenue opened up to them at the previous day's meeting.

Saturday
3 July

Barrow AFC (1999) are accepted into Division Two of the NorthWest Trains League at their AGM.

Monday
5 July

The FA confirm receipt of Barrow's notification of appeal against the UniBond's non-acceptance of the club into their Premier Division.

Wednesday
7 July

The FA set July 15 as the date for Barrow's appeals hearing.

Barrow AFC are accepted into the FA Cup and FA Trophy for the coming season, to start in both at a round appropriate with the status of a club from the UniBond Premier Division.

The UniBond League publishes fixtures for the 1999-2000 season for both their Premier and First Divisions. There is no mention of Barrow in either.

Friday
9 July

Graham Murphy, editor of Give 'Em Beans! rings Duncan Bayley for a friendly chat. Bayley denies rumours of ill feeling between the UniBond League and the previous administration at Barrow AFC, and drops the first hints that they would consider legal action should the FA try and force them into accepting Barrow.

Saturday
10 July

Eddie Johnston leaves Barrow AFC to join Stalybridge Celtic.

Monday
12 July

Only eight players turn up for Barrow's first pre-season training session.

Thursday
15 July

The FA's appeals committee repeats the instruction to the UniBond League to accept Barrow into its Premier Division for the forthcoming season. The UniBond fail to send a representative to the meeting at Lancaster Gate, and ask for a fourteen day adjournment, which is refused.

Friday
16 July

The Evening Mail reports that the UniBond are furious and considering legal action in light of the FA decision.

Monday
19 July

The Holker Street Newsletter reports that officials from the UniBond League have refused to let Barrow have the forms necessary to enable them to sign players for the coming season.

Tuesday
20 July

Shane Westley is relieved of his position as Barrow manager. Brian Keen says the practicality and expense of Westley's travelling to Barrow from his new Essex home more or less ruled him out for the coming season. Greg Challender is appointed caretaker manager.

Thursday
22 July

Having sought the advice of legal counsel, the UniBond League management committee decides to press on with their case against the FA to block Barrow AFC's entry into their Premier Division.

Former Barrow favourite Kenny Lowe is linked with the vacant managerial position at Holker St. He is believed to be one of three shortlisted for the position.

Friday
23 July

MP John Hutton writes to the FA demanding they enforce their decision to place Barrow in the UniBond League.

Saturday
24 July

While Duncan Bayley is steadfastly refusing to speak to Barrow's Evening Mail on the grounds that the matter is 'sub judice', an un-named UniBond official tells the Manchester Evening News that Barrow will be accepted 'over our dead bodies.'

Around 600 fans watch Barrow play their first pre-season friendly against Scottish Second Division outfit, Stenhousemuir, winning 3-2.

Tuesday
27 July

As the UniBond's objections to accepting Barrow are widely reported in the media, the FA say they have received no formal notification of these objections from the League.

Wednesday
28 July

Upon hearing of the UniBond's decision to fight the Barrow judgement, FA spokesman Steve Double says 'It is deeply regrettable. We expect the decision of the board of appeal to be respected.'

Thursday
29 July

The Barrow AFC board are re-appointed at another subscribers' meeting at Forum 28.

Neil Doherty and Lee O'Keeffe return to Barrow AFC.

Friday
30 July

Acting on the wishes of a majority at the previous night's meeting, Barrow AFC withdraw from the NorthWest Trains League.

Monday
2 August

A planned meeting of the FA, Barrow AFC, the UniBond League and the Conference is postponed until an unspecified later date.

Tuesday
3 August

Further talks take place between the FA and UniBond League.

Wednesday
4 August

Alan Dunn receives a fax from the UniBond's solicitors outlining the League's drastic intention of going to law. It states: '[The management committee] regard the decision of the appeal panel of the Football Association to be unlawful and unenforceable and want the matter pursued to arbitration or in default by way of an application for declaratory relief in the High Court.'

The FA and UniBond have another meeting, which ends with the UniBond confirming its intention to take court action if necessary.

Thursday
5 August

In the light of the continuing uncertainty Barrow postpone the announcement of their new managerial appointment.

Friday
6 August

Somewhat prematurely, it turns out, the Independent reports that FA's sanctions committee has told the UniBond League that it cannot start its season on August 14, unless it includes Barrow in its Premier Division. However, an FA spokesman tells Radio Cumbria 'Our league sanctions committee have instructed the UniBond League that [it] will only be sanctioned this season with Barrow AFC taking part.'

The liquidator writes to all the UniBond clubs to outline the facts of the case, and to ask for a resolution to the situation.

The UniBond arranges an extraordinary general meeting of all its member clubs for 22 August, under their constitution which demands that fourteen days notice is required for such a meeting.

Saturday
7 August

A small group of Barrow supporters stage a peaceful protest at the continuing intransigence of the UniBond League at the Altrincham v Stalybridge UniBond Challenge Shield match.

Dave Higgins, Barrow's joint Player of the Year has now left and is playing for Stalybridge in the game, which they lose 2-0.

Monday
9 August

A three man FA appeal hearing dismisses Barrow's appeal against their Conference expulsion.

Tuesday
10 August

The first signs of a compromise. Speaking to Cumbrian freelance journalist Gordon Brown, UniBond secretary Duncan Bayley says that Barrow will be in the League by August 22.

Wednesday
11 August

The second signs of a compromise. In response to the news of the UniBond's EGM, the FA indicates it will allow the league to kick off on Saturday. However, they confirm they will still exercise their options not to sanction play in both UniBond divisions or to allow its teams to take part in the FA Trophy and FA Cup, should they fail to accept Barrow into their Premier Division at the EGM.

Thursday
12 August

A meeting between Barrow AFC and the UniBond collapses without agreement. The UniBond want to place the club in its First Division, while Barrow are holding out for a place in the Premier Division, as instructed by the FA.

Saturday
14 August

The first Saturday of the non-League season. The Nationwide Conference, UniBond League Premier and First Divisions, and the First North West Trains League all kick off. Barrow are playing in none of them.

Monday
16 August

Paul Jones and Ian Foster, the last of the four players who both started and finished last season with Barrow, leave the club.

Tuesday
17 August

The worst kept secret in non-League football is out - Kenny Lowe is announced as the new manager of Barrow AFC.

Wednesday
18 August

Barrow's directors meet to discuss new UniBond League proposals that should, it is believed, finally prove acceptable to the club.

Thursday
19 August

Barrow bookmaker Chas Kendall are the new main club sponsors, with a five-figure, two-year package.

Sunday
22 August

Amid angry scenes as club officials voice their opposition to admitting a club in liquidation, Barrow, needing a two-thirds majority from the 44 member clubs, are finally - and grudgingly - voted into the Premier Division by 38 votes to six at an extraordinary (in both senses of the word) general meeting of the UniBond League. A UniBond spokesman says 'With the gun at [their] heads, the chairmen reluctantly agreed to admit Barrow to the League.'

Monday
23 August

Both main television text services report that the 'UniBond League has finally granted Barrow membership... after protracted wrangling'. The UniBond Premier Division table on each of these services shows Barrow in 22nd position with a playing record of P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0 Pts0, one position above Gateshead, who have lost both their matches so far, on goal difference.

Thursday
26 August

Kenny Lowe's first game in charge of Barrow is a 2-2 draw in a friendly against Darlington.

Saturday
28 August

Barrow kick off their UniBond Premier League season with a 1-1 draw at home to Guiseley. The gate of 1,709, albeit in somewhat special circumstances, is over four times greater than the crowd in all but one of today's other games in the Division.

Sunday
29 August

A somewhat confused article headed 'GOVERNMENT FORCES FA TO SAVE BARROW' appears in the Sunday Express. The article has clearly taken some conjecture on the Internet as its starting point, as evinced in this quote, a heady brew of misinformation and speculation: 'The Conference argued Barrow should have dropped to the bottom of the football pyramid, but the FA bowed to the Government because it wanted Westminster's support in the 2006 [World Cup] race.'

Monday
30 August

Barrow travel to Emley anticipating a hostile reception for their first away match of the season. Emley president Peter Maude has been one of the more outspoken of the UniBond club representatives, resigning his position on the League's management committee with these words: 'For me the fight is not over. I will be telling anyone and everyone my full and frank opinion of the FA's role in this episode, which I regard as a carbuncle on the face of football.'