It was a sad day for non-league East Thurrock United, based in Corringham, Essex, as they have officially liquidated the first team. As a supporter of the club, it feels odd to be saying this... but the question you may be asking is, how did we even get here?
First, a bit of backstory. East Thurrock are team in Corringham, Essex, and have enjoyed some successful periods since their official formation in 1969. During the 2010s, East Thurrock were even able to reach the Vanarama Conference League South and the first round of the FA Cup on two occasions, where they played Macclesfield United at home in 2011 and Hartlepool United away in 2014 - massive moments for the club and the local area.
The club's owner at the time went by the name of Ben Bennett, who was popular with the fans and local community. Ben stepped in to save the club from a likely extinction some 20 years ago and East Thurrock enjoyed their most successful period under his ownership. Sadly, Ben Bennett passed away in late 2019, and with COVID-19 unknowingly approaching, new ownership was needed otherwise the club may have folded.
That's when Alfie Best stepped in. A seven figure deal to buy The Rocks was agreed and Alfie Best took full ownership of the club. 50-year old Best owns Wyldecrest Parks, a caravan park company, and claimed to be a big supporter of the local area.
With a net worth of a staggering £341m (as of 2020), the new owner looked to have saved the club and perhaps even take them to new heights with a proposed new stadium, at the Pegasus Club located near the current Rookery Hill stadium. Best announced the purchase of the Pegasus Club in Herd Lane, Corringham, on 23rd June 2022 - little over a year later, he would liquidate the first team.
Now, it was known within the fans that club finances were not great. However, the club were still afloat, and that's what mattered at the time. Going into the current 2023/24 season, there were rumours that the club would have to drop down to the Essex Senior League in order to survive, but the club continued with its' head held high in the Isthmian League North.
I would also like to point out that East Thurrock lost another very important member of the community and club - in fact, one of the founding members. Terry Keating, a very-well loved man and incredibly important to the club. Starting with a few friends in the late 60s and running the club until the late 90s. He would return to running the club approx 15 years later and even wrote a 450 page book on the entire club history, which can be read here.
Terry "Keato" Keating passed away peacefully on the morning of 8th June 2023, and is missed sorely by everyone who knew him.
A string of promises made by owner Alfie Best - all lies. In the initial statement confirming the liquidation, historical debts were mentioned. Now-former Chairman Steve Wiseman put out a statement, which has since been deleted, stating: "This is a personal statement from me (Steve Wiseman), we, I include some very close friends, volunteers who have come forward, all of our supporters, friends, families, just about everyone in the area. All of us have tried to keep this great local club playing football for our community, unfortunately we now find ourselves in a situation where we are unable to continue of function. I would like to point out that at this moment in time we do not owe anyone, indivdually or companies any monies. This liquidation has been upon us (verbally)."
All we can say as fans is that we cannot let Alfie Best get away with this. Whether or not this is true is unconfirmed, but rumours have it that Alfie intends to knock the stadium down in favour of putting a Wyldecrest caravan park upon it.
The future is unclear with us as East Thurrock fans, but we will not stand by as a billionaire, who can very easily pay off these "historical debts" liquidate our football club.