In the song Hung Up it was Madonna that sung the lyrics “Time goes by so slowly” but she couldn’t have been more wrong as time just flies by and today we reflect back on a day, 35 years ago, where Swansea City ceased to exist.
December 20th 1985 was the day that “SWANS – IT’S THE END” was the headline on the front page of the South Wales Evening Post signalling that a side, which just four years previous had topped the first division, had ceased to exist.
The Post reported that the Swans were the first League club to fold mid-season since Accrington Stanley back in the 1960s and the club’s game the following day against Walsall was immediately called off.
A liquidator was quickly appointed and took over the club’s affairs but the paper reported that the board was preparing an appeal that they hoped could be heard.
The decision to wind the club up came after a 35 minute hearing with both the Inland Revenue and the Vetch Field Residents Association opposing any application by the club for adjournment. Mr Justice Harman in his summing up said that the club’s case had been all “promises, promises, promises” before going on to accuse them of illegally using money destined for the Inland Revenue
“Perhaps I was unwise to allow a further five days after hearing the case on Monday. But money has been deducted from wages and should have been held by the club to be paid to the Inland Revenue, not to be disposed of or misappropriated on who knows what by the company.
“This company has very bad debts, but its promises of future funds are very vague and extreme. I see no groundsto seek any further indulgence of this court. This is a bad case and I also refuse the club leave to appeal.” – Justice Harman summing up
Football League press office Andy Williamson confirmed that the club were “clearly unable to fulfill their fixture tomorrow and by not playing they lose their membership of the League by default.
“The only way Swansea could play Walsall would be if a rescue act was concluded today. There is no way we want to nail down the coffin lid before every avenue has been explored, but it looks hopeless.”
We know though that the Swans weren’t finished and from that dreadful day, Swans Aid was born with the club and the fans working un unison to raise the money needed to keep the club afloat.
A target of £350,000 was set and before the year was out more than £110,000 was already pledged. The aim was clear as former Swans director Harry Hyde laid out “We need the money for the new company and all the cash will go for a new share issue. It won’t be used for any other purpose.
“People will be given receipts for the case which will be returned to them if the new company doesn’t get off the ground. We are also seeking trustees to administer the money.
“They will be eminently respectable people with unimpeachable credentials. We are looking for money now and we will be approaching businessmen and are hoping that we will get substantial amounts from them.
“We think the support is there and all we have to do is encourage it out of people.”
The famous five – as they became known – of Peter Howard, Harry Hyde, Bobby Jones, Mel Nurse and Dave Savage made a plea in the high court and got the Swans a stay of execution and were given until 13 January 1986 to come up with a suitable financial proposal.
The Swans were playing league football and on the day of that hearing a Swans Aid game against Manchester United at the Vetch was arranged and more than 20,000 turned up to support the club on the pitch with the bigger battle being many miles away in a courtroom.
It wasn’t until 24th March that it was confirmed the club could continue and it was July before Justice Harman confirmed that the winding up order against the club had been dropped but the work that went into such a short period of time should never be forgotten.
It is the events of December 1985 and the subsequent weeks that are often forgotten largely as many of the archives of the day have disappeared and many of the people of that time are now very advanced in their years but we should never forget the work that so many put in during such a small period of time.
BBC News Report – December 20 1985 – press play to view
A fund raising game inside four weeks, endless referrals back to the judgement and eventually an overturn of a decision that looked so final many really did believe that the Evening Post headline on 20th December 1985 was one of the most apt ones ever.
However, here we are 35 years on, towards the top end of (what was) the second division and having spent seven years of the last ten in the top flight with of course a major trophy to our name.
For those that put all the work in 35 years ago we salute you for everything you did for our football club and we will never forget your actions, your place as legends of Swansea City will never be forgotten.