What does the future hold for Worthing?

Woodside Road
Woodside Road

THE FUTURE of Worthing Football Club was discussed in detail during a meeting at Woodside Road on Monday evening.

Rebels admitted in a statement that change is needed for the club to thrive again.

After Worthing’s playing budget was cut at the end of last week, a meeting was called where all options for the club’s future were discussed.

A large turn-out of supporters, sponsors, players and the management team attended and a number of ideas were discussed, including the possibilty of the club being liquidated and a new club starting in the County League.

During the meeting, it was revealed that Rebels had debts of almost £200,000 (£115,000 director loans; £48,000 brewery loans and £30,000 unpaid VAT from years ago). The club are currently servicing the VAT and brewery loan but not the director loans.

The meeting began with Rebels company secretary Alistair McKail reading out a club statement, talking about the narrow margins which the club operates in.

It revealed that the club currently has to find £6,000 per month to open the doors before any football-related costs, including paying wages.

The statement also said that the club, with its current structure and financial history, can do nothing more than survive month to month, and fixed costs are as low as possible.

Worthing said they have investigated a number of options that could have a significant benefit for the club but will only work medium-term. The club added they do not have the reserves of cash or personnel to implement them, or have the financial history or assets to raise the capital needed for this investment.

The statement finished by saying: “We feel we are at a crossroads as a club. We believe the town of Worthing benefits from having Worthing Football Club as a successful high-tier non-league club.

“As things stand, despite the hard work of everyone who gives their time for Worthing FC, and the support of its loyal supporters, there is little chance of this club escaping its current position, or achieving significant improvement.

“Given the demands that the club puts on us all, there is a greater chance of it going the other way, and that is not something we wish to see happen.

“This meeting, ostensibly a communication event, is also an appeal. We are not above saying we have come as far as we can.

“For the club to thrive, change is needed. People are needed, the capacity for concerted and co-ordinated effort is needed over and above the enervating effort required to keep the lights on. We want a change for the better and we’re sure you do too.”

After the statement was read out, a number of questions were asked and Rebels chairperson Deborah McKail revealed that the club had tried numerous times to get funding, which had not come to anything. The club had also looked at grant funding, which, again, did not happen.

Rebels had held a similar meeting four years ago. Since then, Worthing have had to put the VAT debt, which they did not previously know about, on the books.

The club also now has to pay £10,000 rates per year to the council which, up until around four years ago, they did not.

Asked if the club is for sale, Worthing head of finance John Whyte replied: “Ultimately, at any given time, it could be. We need some way of manouvering out of where we’re at. Therefore, if someone wanted to come and buy the club, the board would have to look at that.”

The club were then asked if they could survive with the current revenue that is being generated, if they did not have a debt, and Alistair McKail said: “That would make it easier but there would still be a shortfall and it would still be tricky.”

When asked about the plans for a 3G pitch at Woodside Road, Alistair McKail said that the planning permission is still in place for two years. However, the club ran in to issues with the finance proposed and has not been able to carry it forward.

The playing budget has been reduced – almost by half – to just under £500 a week and, on the prospect of the club losing manager Adam Hinshelwood and players, Alistair McKail said: “It’s not something we have taken lightly but it is a step we have had to take.”

“We’ve put our position forward and we don’t want any of them to go. But we’ve got to make sure that we pay the bills that we need to pay.”

It was then asked if the club would go into administration, be liquidated or a company voluntary arrangement. Alistair McKail said: “Those are all possibilities because we are running at such narrow margins. We go from month to month and that is never easy. We’ve kept that going for as long as we can and will continue to do so for as long as we can going forward.

“We’re looking at any option. This is a good football club and has got the potential to be an even better football club. Whatever options there are to keep the football club going, we have to look at.”

It was then asked if the board has considered winding the club up and starting again, debt-free. Alistair McKail said: “It is a possibility but there are implications for doing that.

“Worthing Football Club would no longer exist and someone would have to start a new club. It would need to start in County League Division 2, work their way up and find a place to play.

“The advantages if you were to do that would be you’re starting brand new, afresh and no incumbencies. We have seen that happen to other clubs.

“We have not actively looked at that, Worthing Football Club is not something we want to let go. I’ve invested time and emotion into this club, it’s not something we’d want to contemplate.

“That is not to say it’s not there and not an option if all else fails and it could be forced upon us but it’s not a palatable option.”

Speaking after the meeting, Alistair McKail said: “It was a good turnout and I am pleased that so many people have an interest in the club.

“It was important to put them in the picture, and give some context behind the news from the club this week. I’d like to thank everyone who turned out, Adam Hinshelwood and the players, supporters and sponsors.”

Anyone interested in helping the club can contact 01903 239575 or email contact@worthingfc.com