Bangor City: After The Lights Go Out

At the end of October, I wrote:

It’s funny, how these things come in cycles. In 1999, Barrow AFC were liquidated and demoted from the Football Conference to the Northern Premier League. In 2009, Chester City were relegated from the Football League and placed into administration, a series of events which ended in the club being wound up and a new club, Chester FC, being formed. It’s now October 2018 and the Vaughan family, who oversaw both of the above shambles, are now in charge of Bangor City. Longtime readers will probably be able to guess where this is headed next.

We’re now thirty-one days into 2019.

This week has seen things take a turn for the considerably worse, for Bangor City. The Vaughans stepped aside at the start of December, claiming that a takeover of the club was imminent. That, as you will have noticed, was almost two months ago. This week, the full extent of the club’s financial issues has been stripped completely bare. The club has debts of at least £105,000, of which £16,000 is demand for electricity and a water bill for £9,000. Both have been cut off this week.

The club has also disputed liability for the debt. Of course, the summons was presumably received by the club, so why didn’t they even wonder why they kept getting letters from utility companies over very large amounts of unpaid money? Why, if nothing had gone wrong in process, was nothing about this done before? These letters don’t just spring up out of the blue. In a statement issued at the start of this week, the club claimed that:

“We understand Nantporth CIC [the stadium management company] are in the process of changing over to a different supplier for the 3G pitch floodlights which makes up a majority portion of the overall bill.”

Nantpoerth CIC replied thus:

“Nantporth CIC have made appropriate payments to Bangor City Football Club either directly or by way of credit for non-payment of invoices due by the club either from use of the pitch or non-payment of rent.”

In addition, the delays referred to in the statement were as a result of the club preventing the supply from being switched over in November resulting in this task being re-scheduled for week beginning 4th February.

Nantporth CIC have received no communication from the club regarding electrical costs since additional contributions were made in November and have continued to make regular monthly contributions as above.”

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that Nantporth CIC will have an audit trail to back this up.

The other £80,000 will have to wait. This £25,000 has to be paid by someone, or expulsion from their league will be inevitable unless they can ground-share somewhere, and who will host a club that plainly cannot pay their way? Enough people have walked away from Bangor City over the last couple of years… who would be left? What, exactly would be worth saving?

The club has appealed for money from shareholders, but who would put anything like that amount of money into this club at this moment? It seems fundamentally absurd to do so, no matter how hurtful it may feel. To let go isn’t easy. I’ve had to do it, plenty of others have as well, but sometimes it’s necessary. The stadium will remain. Get the supporters on one side and build a community club from the bottom up. With a little goodwill, it’s certainly possible, but would it be cost effective to try to rescue this club?

The alternative is for somebody with a very large cheque book (football club owners are almost the only group of people left who still pay by cheque) to step in, wipe the debt away and put some money in to try to improve a club. The problem is that people with a lot of money usually don’t want to pour their money onto a bonfire. There are plenty of clubs playing at that level of Welsh football for whom £100,000 would make a significant positive financial difference. In terms of attractiveness to potential investors they’re likely at a disadvantage, if anything. They can only hope for a sentimental attachment to kick in, somewhere.

Bangor City has already been demoted from the Welsh Premier League, a league of which it had been a founder member. A club that has played both Napoli and Atletico Madrid in competitive European football is now little more than a husk, and it may be necessary to make difficult decisions, even in the event that the utilities are reconnected. Something has to change, and it should added that Bangor City remain, in the right hands, a club of huge potential. They could be challenging back near the top of the Welsh Premier League and pushing for European football in five years time, in the right hands. It’s certainly achievable.

Maybe there will be a benefactor with half a million pounds burning a hole in their pocket. If there is, you’d have thought they’d have showed their hand by now. Alternatively, perhaps the club’s debts can be restructured under community ownership, with a plan in place to get it fully back on its feet. It’s time for those potentially difficult decisions to be made, though. Bangor City deserves better than to have to warm itself over a brazier, at this time of year, though. It feels, as though this story is rapidly reaching its denouement. Push is rapidly turning to shove.