Hucknall Town are ‘not far from salvation’, says former chairman Brian Holmes

Hucknall v Market Drayton
Hucknall v Market Drayton

HUCKNALL Town Football Club are “not far from salvation”, even though they owe far more money than originally thought.

That’s the view of ex-chairman Brian Holmes and former chief executive Liz Morley as the dust began to settle on The Yellows’ latest crisis this week.

Holmes and Morley have volunteered to try and drag Town from the crisis, which resulted in the bailiffs raiding the club over an unpaid VAT debt.

An emergency meeting was called on Monday night for high-profile past and present officials.

And Holmes and Morley say the mood was one of positive determination to find the money to save the club.

New manager Darren Kelk is also keen to carry on with the patchwork side he has pieced together, even though The Yellows remain rooted to the foot of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Premier Division after another defeat last weekend.

“We sent out 32 invitations to the meeting, and 17 people came along, with five apologies,” said Morley.

“A straw poll was taken to ask if the club should shut down -- and only two said it should.

“I am very hopeful that our problems can be sorted, although the club will have to stay amateur, probably into next season as well, unless things change in the summer.”

Holmes added: “There was some negativity at the meeting but, in general, the majority were all for trying to get the club back on its feet.

“We are starting to move back into position. I am sure we are not far away from salvation.”

However, both Holmes and Morley have been surprised to discover that the amount still owed by the club is significantly higher than the £12,000 originally estimated.

“Our total debts are about £27,000, of which £23,367 is outstanding VAT,” Morley disclosed.

“By January 1, that VAT debt should have been no higher than £12,000 had the club stuck to the agreement that was originally put in place with HMRC.

“What has happened since is a double whammy, The deal with HMRC has collapsed, while commercial activities to bring in revenue have gone off the boil.

“Now we have to try and pull together to get support. We need people to come and support the club to give us a chance of surviving.”

Town’s income is sure to be boosted by the re-opening last weekend of the Talk Of The Town social club, which closed after the bailiffs’ raid, and by gate receipts from home matches.

But Morley says other events and initiatives are in the pipeline, including an ingenious ‘virtual ticket’ scheme.

This would allow fans to log on to the Town website and ‘buy’ tickets for home matches, even though they did not intend to attend. Instead the money would act as a secure donation to the lifeline fund.

“This could apply to supporters across the country, or to people sympathetic with our plight,” explained Morley.

If the club does fold, officials of recent years, and trustees, could become liable to cough up the money that is owed.

So, at Monday night’s meeting, they were persuaded to donate a total of £5,000 out of their own pockets to help the cause.

“It was a question of: come on lads, let’s chip in,” said Holmes.

“We discussed the legal advice we had been given. The main aim is still to turn the club into a limited company by the end of the summer.”

Holmes plans talks with the previous chairman, Derek Blow, who quit in December after only six months at the helm. But Steve Peat, who was installed by Blow as general manager, has now left the club.

Holmes also wants to arrange a meeting with Welbeck Estates, who own Town’s Watnall Road ground and loaned the club £25,000 to help pay off some of the original VAT debt, which amounted to £87,500.

“It is a difficult dilemma for Welbeck,” admitted Holmes. “I expect they will give us time to sort it out.”

Behind the scenes, rows continue to rage about how and why Town saddled themselves with such a debt in the first place.

But Holmes revealed that when he resigned as chairman in 2009, tax debts of £28,000 had already accumulated.

“There was an ongoing agreement with HMRC to pay this off at £750 a month,” he said. “But during the following season, I had to put in a further £30,000 to keep the club on track.”