A week and a half before Christmas could scarcely be a worse time of the year to be put in this position, but Blue Square Premier club Kidderminster Harriers have taken a double body-blow over the last few days which don’t only threaten to completely derail the club’s encouraging first half of the season on the pitch, but may even place the future of the club in some degree of jeopardy. On the pitch, Kidderminster have had little to be concerned about. They currently sit in fifth place in the table and are unbeaten in the league since the start of October. Away from the pitch, however, what could yet become a perfect storm of a crisis of liquidity and tough new financial reporting rules have come together almost simultaneously.
It was last Friday that a message that was put on the website of the Kidderminster Harriers Independent Supporters Trust, following their meeting with the board of directors of the club itself the day before. It spelt out, in stark words, just how perilous their current position is:
Yesterday (Thursday 9th December) representatives of KHIST met with board members of Kidderminster Harriers Football Club to discuss recent developments and what the future holds. The Club released a statement on the 1st November stating the financial situation at the club showed anticipated yearly losses of £350,000 and debts of over £250,000. This obviously came as a huge surprise to most supporters and since then KHIST have been working closely with the Club in many ways.
Despite a tremendous amount of hard work our football club still has major financial hurdles to overcome. To survive the club needs £150,000 before the end of the month and a further £50,000 by the end of January. Although costs are being looked at so that the club is run in a sound financial manner going forward, let’s make no bones about it, without an immediate large cash injection the future of the club is uncertain.
The collection buckets, therefore, will likely to be coming out at Kidderminster over the next couple of weeks or so, but who will have the sort of money at this time of year, in these economic conditions, to be able to make a significant dent in the amount of money referred to above? It seems likely that only money from an investor of some description will be likely to make such a difference and, if the situation is in need of a remedy as immedate as the Supporters Trust believes it is, the only likely alternative to somebody stepping in with the ready money to pay off immediate creditors would be to enter into administration. Obviously, this would siginificantly dent any hopes that Kidderminster might have of getting promoted back into the Football League at the end of this season but, under the circumstances, this may turn out to be amongst the least of their worries.
The club’s problems were compounded when it became apparent that they may have fallen foul of the Football Conference’s Financial Reporting Initiative. Introduced to oversee the financial management of clubs, the FRI requires clubs in the three divisions of the Football Conference to submit quarterly financial reports for inspection, and has stiff penalties for clubs that don’t comply with it or submit misleading, incomplete or late paperwork – Welling United of the Blue Square South, for example, were docked five points and received a suspended fine of £5,000 for submitting false information to the league. Kidderminster may apparently have fallen foul of these rules, although the specifics of what they have been charged with remain unknown, which makes it difficult to gauge what sort of sanction they might face should they be found guilty of any irregularity.
There is limited cause for optimism at Aggborough. KHIST has almost five hundred members, and the club itself is keen to work with the Trust rather than pushing it away and causing division amongst the supporters. There is also still time for the club to be able to put itself into administration if necessary, which will gain them protection from winding up proceedings being brought against them and buy them a little time to try and sort themselves out. However, whether KHIST’s plea for supporters to put money into the club right now, at this time of year, will make any difference to their immediate fortunes very much remains to be seen. KHIST’s treasurer, Steve Millington, has already described interest in this appeal as “limited”, but this doesn’t mean that the jig for Kidderminster Harriers is up. Non-league clubs do tend to get less chances in court than bigger clubs (consider the adjournments over tax debts already awarded to Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle at the High Court this season alone, for example), but their legal avenues remain, for the time being, open.
All too often at clubs that find themselves in this position, the crisis is played out against a backdrop of infighting, either between factions of supporters or between the club and the supporters trust itself. Perhaps Kidderminster’s best chance of survival – whether in the Blue Square Premier or at a slightly lower level with a view to building back up – will come with this unity. Ultimately, as much as we can do from here is wish them the very best of luck over the next few weeks and remind all of the club’s supporters that the true spirit of Kidderminster Harriers Football Club lays, not in the limited company, but in the shared experience that they already have. In one form or another, Kidderminster Harriers will survive. Further information on how you can help with the current difficulties that the club is facing is available here.
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