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IF OSWESTRY Town don't merge with Total Network Solutions, the club will probably cease to exist within 12 months.
Club secretary James Bond told an open meeting tonight it became apparent towards the end of last season they would be unable to continue in their present condition.
"We have appealed many times for sponsorship and support, but nobody will put their hands in their pockets.
"The Park Hall stadium is in a poor state, attendances are dwindling and the club could be closed down by one of its creditors at any moment - our debts can only be cleared by the merger.
"Nor are we attracting young people to Park Hall and eventually we will have no support," Bond told the meeting.
He said the Club's board had taken a blank sheet of paper and considered various options, including dropping into the Cymru Alliance or returning to the English pyramid, probably in a 'village' league.
"The TNS merger option was head and shoulders above the rest," he said.
"They have financial backing and a firm basis to continue playing at a higher level.
"It is an exciting prospect and there is no way I would sell Oswestry Town down the river," said Bond.
Some of the 80 or so supporters at the meeting were vocal in their condemnation of the merger, including shareholder Mike Clarke, who said he first heard of the plan through the media.
Others called for the word 'Oswestry' to be incorporated into the new club's name.
However, TNS owner Mike Harris was adamant that the merged club would be called Total Network Solutions.
"We will be investing around 120,000 a year in the merged club," Harris said, "and there is no way my company's board would agree to this with a different name. It is part of the company's strategic marketing policy."
Harris said that UEFA ground criteria, which would apply from 2004/5, would require investment by individual clubs in excess of 150,000 and it would not be viable to invest this amount in Llansantffraid, with a population of less than 1,000.
"If the Oswestry merger does not go through, there are other options," he said. "A stadium could be built elsewhere within mid-Wales, for example in Welshpool."
Alternatively, Harris said TNS would consider appealing to European authorities, that preventing a football club in Llansantffraid from being based outside a border just three miles away was restraint of trade and against EU law.
Whether or not the Oswestry/TNS merger goes ahead, Harris predicted that the Football Association of Wales would use the UEFA ground criteria to 'cull' the Welsh Premier to as few as eight clubs.
By the end of the meeting, many Town fans appeared ready to accept the inevitable.
Reg Mason, who is also president of the Shropshire Football Association, said "The merger plan is pennies from heaven; we should be grateful and wholeheartedly behind Mike Harris."
Another supporter seemed to sum up the mood of many when he said: "History is important, but so is the future and I would rather have a football club in Oswestry called Total Network Solutions than no club at all."
The merger plan will now go to the FAW for approval, before being voted on by Oswestry Town shareholders.
15 June 2021
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