Will football ever return to Rye?

The demise of Rye United has left The Salts laying fallow during the current football season
The demise of Rye United has left The Salts laying fallow during the current football season

The final whistle looks to have blown on Rye United Football Club, raising the question of whether the sport will ever be played in the town again.

Rother District Council has taken a surrender of the lease on The Salts, which Rye used to hire off the local authority for home games, and 76 years of football appear to have been consigned to history.

“We’ve handed the keys back,” said immediate past Rye chairman Clive Taylor. “Because there’s no more football club, Rother have taken a surrender of the lease. The club is dissolved really.

“There’s no committee, no nothing. I’ve tried to keep it going and a few people have made enquiries about taking the club on, but it’s all come to nothing. The only way forward was to surrender the lease, which there was only five years left on.”

The surrender of the lease means that the district council has taken over the Rye United FC Clubhouse, which was rebuilt with football club money after the previous Sidney Allnutt Pavilion was destroyed by arson four years ago.

“They’ve just taken on the whole thing with all the contents, furniture etc,” continued Taylor. “It’s a working clubhouse still and Rother are going to use it for other purposes.

“Nobody stepped forward to help us from anywhere so we had no alternative. All it was doing was costing me money. I’m gutted that the club’s no longer there, but the saddest part for me is that nobody in Rye seems to care.

“A few clubs have shown an interest in playing on the pitch, but they can’t afford to so it’s a bit of a white elephant.”

Rye United was formed in 1938 and just three-and-a-half years ago the club reached the quarter-finals of the national FA Vase competition.

But the club withdrew from the Sussex County Football League following an EGM in March with Taylor - who has propped up the club financially for the last nine years - citing an impeding relegation for ground grading reasons as the final straw for him personally.

At that time there was still hope the club may continue at a lower level with last season’s under-18 team keen to move into adult football this term and keep the Rye flag flying.

But no club officers were appointed at the AGM in the summer and the bulk of that under-18 team is now playing for Bexhill United reserves.

Ownership of the club’s stands and floodlights has been passed to the clubhouse builders to clear the debt.

A Rother District Council spokesman said: “We were very sorry to hear about the demise of Rye United and hope that a way can be found to ensure that football continues in the town.

“We have agreed with the club that we will take back possession of the clubhouse on Monday (September 29) and we will be looking to see if there is a local organisation or community group interested in taking over the clubhouse.

“The pitch does not form part of the lease as it is part of a public playing field and will continue to be used for that purpose.”