Well, no-one ever said it was going to be easy, but the last time we reported upon the goings-on at Wrexham Football Club there was cautious cause for optimism that the issues relating to the survival of the club might be finally starting to reach a happy conclusion. With the pantomime-like array of alternative bidders having drifted away – Stephanie Booth, of whom regular readers of this site will already be fully aware, had several of her hotels placed into administration, leading to seventy redundancies – the way seemed clear for the Wrexham Supporters Trust to affect a take-over of the club. Wrexham Football Club, however, wouldn’t be Wrexham Football Club if there wasn’t a hidden trap somewhere along the line, and the cryptic events of the last few days would appear to have thrown yet another spanner into these particular works.
The take-over of the club could not be completed until vigorous due diligence had been carried out upon the club’s finances, of course. The club’s precarious financial position had been thrown into a very harsh light by the events surrounding their involvement in the end of season play-offs, when they were threatened with exclusion if an outstanding bill to the taxman wasn’t paid on time, and it made perfect sense that the WST’s checking of the club’s current financial situation would need to be carried out with a very fine tooth-comb indeed. Last week, however, the WST released a statement which seemed to suggest that they were on the brink of reaching an agreement, “The Wrexham Supporters’ Trust is pleased to announce that it is in a position to present an offer to Wrexham Village to purchase the Racecourse and Colliers Park, and rescue Wrexham Football Club with the aid of third parties”. Finally, perhaps, the take-over of the club could perhaps start to move significantly forward.
If only things were that easy. Late last (Sunday) night, a statement from the WST confirmed that, “Having conducted a risk assessment of the Club’s fore-casted cash flow requirements over the weekend, the team will tomorrow request the outstanding legal and financial information it needs to complete financial and legal due diligence”, all of which meant that the take-over of the club was still being stifled by a lack of all of the paperwork required to complete the take-over of the club. This, however, was nothing compared with the news to emerge today that there is rival bidder for The Racecourse Ground (if not the club itself – ownership of the club and ground were separated by owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts last year) in the form of Glyndwr University.
A spokesman for the University stated that, “Glyndwr University is part of continuing discussions about the future of the Racecourse ground and the Gresford training facility”, but added that, “As a charity, Glyndwr University is bound by regulations pertaining to charitable bodies and as such is unable to take any responsibility for Wrexham AFC or the Crusaders Rugby League Team.”, and the closing statement – that “The university is keen to ensure that the stadium and training ground are used for the purpose of sport, educational users and as a community asset to cater for the existing users of the stadium and the people of Wrexham and North Wales” – was one that could be interpreted in several different ways, not all of them positive. What, for example, might the “existing users of the stadium” expect the terms of their continuing usage of the ground be? It seems inconceivable that tenants, whether existing or not, wouldn’t be expected to pay a commercial rate to continue to use the facility and Wrexham’s financial position may well preclude the club under the ownership of the trust from being able to afford such a price.
The appeal to Moss and Roberts is obvious. The University, it would seem fair to assume, would have the money to be able to pay up front for the ground whereas, as things stand, the WST has just under £400,000 in the bank. This isn’t the only financial aspect of the offer that could be a major issue for the Trust’s bid. Central to this bid was charging Crusaders rent to raise revenue in the future. Not owning the ground would leave a major source of revenue going to the University rather than to the football club, as well as the likelihood of being charged rent in the future, an amount that could run to as much as £200,000-£300,000 per year. With there being little – if any – evidence that the haemorraghing of money that seems to have been a constant feature of the recent history of the club has been or can in any way be arrested, it is critical that the WST purchase of the club involves ownership of The Racecourse Ground.
There may yet be a happy ending for this particularly tortuous story and a statement on the subject of recent events from the WST is imminent. What is required at this stage, however, is clarification from Glyndwr University of exactly what they intend for their current tenants. Wrexham supporters are a suspicious bunch, and rightly so considering the roll-call that has been tyre-kicking their club over the last six months or so. They are also – as demonstrated by the visit of some to an equestrian event being hosted by the disqualified solicitor Colin Poole – a group that is quick to direct action if they believe that the future of their club is under threat. Glyndwr University would perhaps be well-advised to bear in mind that if the perception is allowed to take hold that their actions will threaten the existence of the club, they can expect significant protests to be directed at them. For now, they are being watched very closely indeed, and the future of Wrexham Football Club will continue to hang in the balance until this matter is resolved.
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