Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Sports village plan not affected by Whitehaven RL cash troubles - council

The financial meltdown at Whitehaven Rugby League Club will not affect a proposed multi-million pound redevelopment of the area around its home ground, the local council said.

pow beck graphic
Pow Beck site

Related: Whitehaven RL club set to go into administration within days

Haven’s board of directors announced on Thursday night that they intend to seek administration in the next 10 days over a £64,000 tax bill.

Copeland council said it supported the move, which would leave the way open to continue with the Pow Beck Valley regeneration scheme.

However, the authority has also revealed it is financially exposed itself, to the tune of £125,000, after standing as guarantor for a loan to the club and for a bank overdraft facility.

It will find out in due course how much of that sum it stands to lose.

Meanwhile, the council said plans to create an £11 million sports village in the area around the Haven’s Recreation Ground, with a new stadium as its centrepiece, were still on the table.

The scheme is a key plank of the so-called Energy Coast masterplan for the regeneration of west Cumbria.

In a statement, Copeland council said: “We support the (Whitehaven RL) directors in making the decision they have in the best interests of the club and the community.

“The council has supported the club in difficult times to help secure the redevelopment of Pow Beck Valley and sustain the club as an asset for the community, being a major part of the sporting heritage of the area.

“By making this decision now, the directors seek to place the club in the best possible position going forward into next season.

“It is a decision we understand is supported by the Rugby Football League.

“It also leaves the way open to continue with the plans for Pow Beck Valley Regeneration as a viable project within the Energy Coast Masterplan.

“The council has helped the company by acting as guarantor for a loan from the West Cumbria Development Fund and a bank overdraft facility.

“These guarantees mean the council may be exposed to a maximum £125,000.

“We will be in a better position to understand what our liabilities are after the administrators have concluded their work.”

Haven directors took the decision to seek administration within the next 10 days to stave off a winding up order over a £64,000 tax bill.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is demanding payment in full and the club, with debts of around £250,000, cannot afford to pay.

But the club’s AGM, on Thursday night, was told of a potential rescue deal with chairman Dick Raaz and directors Ralph Calvin and Michael Wood preparing to form a consortium to bid for the club.

The Haven board filed a notice of intent to go in to administration yesterday, which gives breathing space for a buyer to emerge.

The AGM heard that the Haven board inherited debts of £305,576 when it took over in early 2009, increasing gross income by £115,000 over the year and cutting the debt slightly to under £282,000.

But home attendances plummeted this year, and Haven were relegated from the Championship.

Some of the club’s fans are also said to be discussing a potential bid to take over.

They have been urged to follow the example of sporting neighbours Carlisle United.

The club slumped into administration in 2002 after the disastrous Michael Knighton regime.

And the United Trust fans group subsequently gained a share of the Blues with two trust members later joining the board.

The trust now owns 25.3 per cent of the club, a large enough share to block any would-be owner gaining absolute control.

Norman Steel, chairman of supporters’ group United Trust, said: “It’s an unfortunate situation at Whitehaven but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

“Part of the solution could be for fans to get involved and have a say in how Whitehaven is run in the future.

“The fans’ trust movement is growing across the country and there are now 160 trusts, not just in football, but in sports like rugby league and ice hockey too.

“But I would strongly advise any action they do take in terms of raising money that they get something back for it.

“Don’t just hand over money, get a formal agreement on what the money is going towards and what they expect to get in return; for instance a say in the running of the new company.”


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