Dr Ranjan Varghese is the director of a company called Steel Ships Limited that and is based in Hong Kong. He has said in his own words that he has a background in naval architecture and shipbuilding.
This has led to him having an affinity for the River Tyne and the former shipyards that used to be seen up and down the River.For anyone who doesn’t know about the history of Newcastle and Gateshead or the North East, it was a major shipbuilding hub in the UK and the world.
Therefore it’s logical for someone with a huge interest in shipbuilding to want to own a football club in the North East.This week Dr Ranjan Varghese agreed to buy Gateshead from previous owners Richard and Julie Bennet, the club had been up for sale since the end of last season.
Who are Gateshead Football Club, and what level do they play at?
I lived in Gateshead but support Newcastle due to the proximity of the footy grounds to my house when I was a kid. I did, however, find time to watch both. Newcastle was a 10/15-minute walk over the bridge, but Gateshead who plays at the international athletics stadium involved getting a bus, then a metro, then a 15-minute walk to get there.
Gateshead Football Club is one of the smaller teams from the region of the North East but has huge potential to be bigger than they are. They currently play in the National League which used to be the Conference which is the 5th tier of the English football pyramid and is one league below the Football League.
They are affectionately known as the Heed Army, because of the local accent Heed means head and therefore you’ll often hear people saying I’m gaining to watch the Heed (translated to I am going to watch Gateshead).
The National League is by far the most difficult league in all of England to get promoted from, with only one spot available for promotion for many years, there was an agreement to allow the second team a spot. Only the league Champions get an automatic place though, the other one is down to whoever wins the play-off.
The play-off was also Gateshead’s last and only chance in my living memory of them ever getting back into the Football League, defeating Grimsby in a semi-final that I watched live on my laptop in Taipei. They lost in the final to Cambridge United.
I was gutted about that because I knew there and then that Gateshead was unlikely to have another shot at getting back into the Football league for a long time. This is because there are so many big clubs stuck battling it out in the National League.
Why was Gateshead for sale?
Gateshead seemingly seems to have been put up for sale because the Bennet’s couldn’t afford to finance it anymore, with news coming out of the club that Gateshead had to cut costs and even go as far to put the club back to a semi professional outfit definitely points to a lack of resources to push the club forward.
The Bennet's said they had ploughed £3million into the club during their time in charge, and said they’d taken the club as far as they could. They wanted to be the ones to get the team back into the football league but it wasn’t to be; therefore after “serious consideration” they decided a new owner was needed to bring new investment into the club in an effort to get them back into the Football League.
Why would a Hong Kong businessman be interested in a National League side like Gateshead?
There is massive potential in a club like Gateshead, this was seen when 7,000 fans turned up to the play-off semi-final. If the new owners can get them into the Football League the attendance would only increase, if they did well in the League that would only generate more attendance.
The elephant in the room is obviously Newcastle across the bridge, and longtime Gateshead fans dislike Newcastle as they had the final vote to kick them out of the league when promotion and relegation were decided on some weird voting system.
Since being kicked out a lot of Gateshead fans haven’t forgiven Newcastle for this but they obviously were not the only team to vote for them to lose the league status.
The point that irks Gateshead fans is because both Newcastle and Gateshead are North East clubs, but not only are they both North East clubs they are the equivalent to next door neighbours.
The club is unlikely to ever be able to compete with Newcastle over the short term, but if an owner starts to get them hammering it up the leagues, then fans in the area would start to think do I want to support Newcastle or Gateshead?
People will think I am nuts for saying it, but especially given the current situation at Newcastle, get it right at Gateshead and fans would turn up to watch them, especially if Gateshead play closer to their home. Right now people who live close to the Gateshead International Stadium will bus past it to St James' Park to watch Newcastle.
There is massive potential in a club like Gateshead, but to unlock that potential the club has to get back into the Football League. If Dr Ranjan Varghese can do that then he will already start the journey toward making his £1 purchase become an absolute bargain.