A brief look at the Club's History and names by Honory Club President, David Hando.
Following the sad demise of Newport County in February 1989, a new club, Newport AFC, was created by a group of County supporters three months later. The intention was to play at the highest level possible in the Football League Pyramid, with the ultimate aim of returning League football to Newport. The new club was founded, financed and run by supporters. Its motto was “Football with a Future”.
After ten years, when we were advised that no one could chase us for Newport County's debts, the fans were asked if they wanted to change the club's name. Should we remain Newport AFC, revert to Newport County, or combine the old and the new as Newport County AFC? Following the vote Newport County AFC was adopted.
The old club, founded in 1912, had a roller coaster existence, often experiencing financial problems and flirting with re-election and relegation. And there were highlights. 1937/38 saw promotion to what we now call the “Championship” but the Second World War put an end to that. We blame Hitler! In 1948/49 the club reached the 5th round of the FA Cup but lost at Portsmouth 3-2 in injury time. In the 1960s the County beat 1st Division Sheffield Wednesday in the Cup. Promotion was narrowly missed in 1972/3 and again in 1982/3.
The old County's top season was 1979/80 with promotion, and a Welsh Cup victory over “Championship” Shrewsbury led to the Quarter Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup. This was won at a packed Somerton Park by Carl Zeiss Jena, but modern goal line technology might well have seen the County play Benfica in the Semi Finals.
How are the mighty fallen. Ten years later the “Ironsides” were wound up and the “Exiles” founded. Why the “Exiles”? Because Newport Council denied us use of Somerton Park, claiming that we were Newport County in disguise trying to sneak back into the ground from which the old club had been evicted for non payment of rent & rates, while the Football Association of Wales claimed we had no connection with the old club and denied us sanction to play in Wales in the Football League pyramid. They couldn't both be right; in fact neither of them were!
The infant club, Newport AFC had a manager, a team and an offer of a place in the Hellenic League in the FL pyramid. We therefore became a Gloucestershire club and ground-shared with Moreton Town. The Cotswold Town of Moreton in Marsh is 85 miles from Newport, so our home games were further away that many of our away games. We took over 400 fans on our “magical mystery tour of the Cotswolds” and they cheered us to a League and Cup double.
So for the 1990/91 season we returned in triumph to our home town. Promoted to the Beazer Homes League the FAW could no longer deny us sanction while the Council was too embarrassed to deny us use of the unused Somerton Park. It cost us £21,000 and untold hours of voluntary labour to prepare the neglected and vandalised ground for the BHL but we enjoyed two seasons of consolidation until we were forced into exile again.
The FAW launched the League of Wales and invited the eight Welsh clubs playing in the FL pyramid to join it. When we all politely declined, as we were all aiming for the FL, we were once again denied sanction. We therefore de-camped to Gloucester, a mere 50 miles away, to be followed into exile by Colwyn Bay, Caernarfon Town and, briefly, Barry Town. After two years of fruitless attempts at negotiation, which involved UEFA, FIFA, the Welsh Assembly, and the two Houses of Parliament, we and the two North Wales Clubs successfully took the FAW to the High Court on Restraint of Trade.
Once again Newport AFC returned home in triumph, this time to Spytty Park as Somerton Park was now a housing estate. Further promotions followed and the club, now Newport County AFC, fulfilled its mission of restoring League football to its home town. We never said how long this would take, but two periods of enforced exile and three visits to the High Court meant that it was 25 years. As Spytty Park was not up to League standard we now share Rodney Parade with Newport Rugby Club and the Dragons, playing on a newly installed Desso hybrid pitch. Who knows what the next 25 years will bring, but our next mission is to secure our own ground for a club that is 28 years old but has a 105 year history.
It is important to distinguish between Newport County (the Ironsides) a club of the past and Newport County AFC (the Exiles) the club of the present and the future).