Britain’s oldest groundsman is offering his life savings to try and save the club he has dedicated 40 years to – after a council rent increase left them on the brink of folding.
Devoted Terry Henderson, 76, spends 12 hours a week looking after the pitch at lowly Hallen FC, despite walking with the aid of sticks.
He regularly drives the tractor to cut the grass and lives in a mobile home next to the rural ground outside Bristol.
But the 66-year-old club fears they will have to fold after the local parish council suddenly increased their annual rent from £12,000 to #20,000.
Terry, whose wife Eileen died last year, said the club was his other love and he could not bear to lose that too.
He has offered his life savings to fund the £20,000 needed to keep the club running for at least more season until a longer-term solution is found.
He said: “My wife was the love of my life, and now I could be losing yet another love of my life.
“I have many fond memories here at the club and would be devastated if it were to fold. It really means the world to me.”
Terry and Eileen were the original key holders at the club when the side moved to their Moorhouse Lane ground almost 40 years ago and his grandson now plays for the team.
The club says they cannot afford the rent hike demanded by Almondsbury Parish Council and have declined Terry’s offer, saying they need to think about the future.
The club claimed the parish council had £1.8 million in the bank and was refusing to consider options such as them leasing the ground.
Francis Fairman, vice-chairman of the Hallen FC committee, said: “This is an extremely generous offer and we are very grateful.
“However, we cannot accept this donation as we need to be sustainable and think about the future of the club, not just in a year’s time.
“Terry has been a fantastic support and we’re very grateful. We know how much this club means to him.”
Accountant Della Hudson, who runs Hudson Accountants, came into contact with the club through charities they mutually support – It’s in the Bag and Kick it Out for Kids.
She said: “This is a lot of money to ask from a club run entirely by volunteers.
“They could pull out all the stops to raise £20,000, but this would only support them for the first year.
“It also would not include any other costs associated with an old building, such as repairing leaking roofs.
“It may seem like an odd thing for an accountant to say, but money isn’t everything. You can’t put a price on the value this club and centre has provided for the community.”
Hallen FC say they will have no playing facilities from May 31 and will have no choice but to fold.
Almondsbury Parish Council insisted they were trying to find a solution to the financial problems.
A spokesman said: “The club are not being evicted.
“Financial support has been provided for many years by the council and our responsibility to the residents of the rest of the parish must be considered.
“Unfortunately a solution has not proved possible and Hallen Football Club are unable to sign any agreement or to pay an economic rent on the premises.”
To support the club’s bid to stay afloat sign their petition at: http://www.gopetition.com/