SOUTH Shields football Club fans have issued a desperate plea for help to ensure their home town team’s survival as it looks to return to the borough.
Mariners fans are worried the club could fold if a new home is not found soon.
This season, the club is playing its home games 20 miles away, in Peterlee, after its lease on Filtrona Park ended last summer.
Club officials have been locked in ongoing talks with South Tyneside Council and football authorities since then about building a new stadium in the borough.
But that still leaves Shields with the prospect of spending a second season out of the town, and fans fear that delay could prove fatal due to the impact the move has so far had on attendances and revenue.
Now the club’s 200-strong supporters’ association is appealing to council chiefs for help.
Association chairman Stephen Ramsey said: “We just want to know whether the powers that be could do more to help.
“It’s imperative that the club returns to the town, otherwise it will almost certainly fold, so the club’s future is quite possibly in the council’s hands.
“I’m not saying it’s the council’s responsibility to find the club a new home, but it is in their power to save the club.
“I know from visiting other clubs in the North East that a lot of them have received a lot of support from their councils.
“Some of those clubs are in tiny areas, whereas South Shields has a population of around 80,000, and its club is not even playing in the town.
“It’s a big area, and I wonder if the powers that be have realised the importance of the football club.”
Attendances for home games have dropped to around 50 as a result of the move to County Durham, a quarter of the gates in excess of 200 it attracted last year.
Mr Ramsey added: “Things have been going on for a long time now, and we are just asking if the council can do a bit more.
“I fear for the club because I don’t know how much longer it can continue away from the area.
“The supporter base has dropped, and I think if the club doesn’t get back into South Shields – ideally next season – it will fold.”
John Prendergast, a supporter of the Mariners for 52 years, added: “Hats off to the football club for being able to maintain a team in the present circumstances.
“I hope the council recognises that there is a growing stress on the club to be able to keep going under that sort of pressure.
“It’s imperative for the football club and its supporters that we get a ground back in South Shields, and in the near future.”
A council spokesman said: “We are sorry if some sections of the supporters’ association feel that we aren’t doing enough, but it’s not the council’s responsibility to find this privately-owned club a new home.
“This aside, we are devoting a significant amount of time working closely with the club to identify an alternative location.”
Mariners chairman Gary Crutwell added: “The club is still in talks with the council regarding the move back into the town.
“We met with the council and the FA this week and are optimistic something will be sorted.”