BRAINTREE Town chairman Lee Harding feels Iron are approaching a crossroads in their history where tough decisions will need to be taken about the future path that the Club takes.

Since 2006, Iron have been playing in either the top tier of non-league football or the one below, which is where they find themselves this season, and they have continually gone toe-to-toe with some of the biggest clubs operating outside the Football League.

However, Harding feels the way the Club is financed may now need to be reviewed to allow a long-term sustainability.

Over the last 17 years, he and fellow board members have covered the significant difference between the club's actual income and the cash required to remain competitive at top two steps of non-league football.

But being reliant on benevolent directors is not something that Harding feels can keep going on forever and he has worked over the past 15 years to secure a move to a new stadium - where income streams could be generated within the club to bridge the funding gap and bring in new resources.

A move away from their Cressing Road home would enable things like a full-size 3G pitch and conferencing facilities to be built at a new stadium where income would be received to keep the team competitive on the pitch without the need for board members to plough their own money in.

The problem is, though, that efforts to engineer a move continue to take time and some directors have started to wonder if they're wasting their time.

Increased income from sponsorship has also been tough to generate in the current financial climate on the back of the club's relegation from the National League top flight last year and Harding feels tough decisions may soon need to be made.

He said he had been unable to go through with a plan that he announced towards the end of last year to step down as chairman this season after changes within the club structure at the end of last season and is now reviewing which direction the Iron should take in the future.

The chairman said: "Standing down as chairman was my intention at the end of last year as there were people on the board who I thought could share some of the burden and we had a very hands-on manager, who was putting himself forward to be very involved.

"But, at the same time as he was making plans and proposals for our future, he was looking at jobs elsewhere and left to join Aldershot.

"That and changes on the board left me with no-one else willing to step in as chairman so I've remained in place, but the way I see it now, this season and possibly next are going to be pivotal in our club's history.

"Anybody who knows me well, will know that I love the club, but I do believe we are at a crossroads.

"We have to be generating more internal and external income to support the money that is being introduced each month.

"That extra money is the difference between what we can afford and what we actually spend and without it, we are going to have a bottom of the table budget.

"Together with our season ticket holders and guests, we get two or three hundred through the gate each game, but that is simply not enough to compete at the highest levels of non-league football, where many former Football League clubs are watched by thousands.

"People like me make up the difference so we can compete but, in the next year or two, we will have to decide if that is the way forward."

Harding said he would not permit Braintree to become a club that spent beyond its means, adding: "Football League clubs like Bury show you where that path leads."

So he felt two future pathways were now open to Braintree.

One, that it could put in place the facilities to generate the extra income itself or, two, that the club would have to recognise that operating at the level it had since 2006 was no longer sustainable with what it currently had available.

"It will go one of two ways," added Harding.

"With a little help and encouragement, we can build on the success we've had in recent years and put in place the building blocks to allow us to generate sustainable long-term income to compete in the future but, if not, then I feel the club may have to revert back to a level where it is more affordable to survive.

"I think that would be a real shame because the football club is a Braintree success story and we are ambitious.

"Ultimately, I suppose it's the town and district, who we are proud to represent, that will decide if it wants a successful club.

"The board have worked hard for decades to push the club forward.

"People always talk about it as 'our' club, but when it comes to paying the bills, it is always down to the board.

"I understand that and we've taken on that burden, but we can't keep doing that without a little light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

"We've got to have hope.

"If we all have that then I'll back it 100 per cent but, if not, I have to ask myself if we're all flogging a dead horse.

"The board have been criticised for not putting in place a bigger playing budget, but I believe in building slowly and putting in place solid foundations for a prosperous future.

"That said, we really could do with a little help and encouragement!

"So I won't be gambling with our future and putting in place a playing budget that the club cannot afford.

"I have seen far too many reach for the stars and then end up in the gutter for that to happen."