LEIGH Centurions will survive this current crisis!
That was the message loud and clear from at the club’s acting chairman, Keith Freer at last week’s Fans Forum that was attended by more than 200 fans.
“We will survive and play in the Championship next season,” stated Freer. “It will need considerable effort and work from all of us, and we need the co-operation of the staff and the Inland Revenue to get through. But we can and will do it.
“Administration is not an option. It costs money to go into administration and more to get out of it, and that would only create problems for the future. In real terms our debts are not that huge that they should warrant that move. But the alternative, which doesn’t bear thinking about is not administration but liquidation, and nobody wants to go there. If we can’t go forward , we would put the club to bed.”
Freer explained, “We have a current debt of £144,000. Half of that is owed to the players and half to the Inland Revenue.
“We are negotiating with both and the Rugby Football League with a view to taking out a loan that will help us to pay our debts.
“The staff have not been paid for September, but most players will get a significant part of their money. We have a proposal – a plan – to take the club forward whereby the RFL advance us the money for next season, and we strike a deal with the Inland Revenue to pay them next season. The players need to agree to take a small cut in the wages owed them and we can take it forward.
“We will do without an Under 23s which will save £50,000, and get dispensation from the RFL to do this. We would also only run with 25 players, and of course we would have a coach on less than Ian Millward. Our staff wage bill was in excess of £500,000 last season and that will be halved. We can then use that saved money to pay of the debt.
“We would run a new business model for the club to clear the debt by the end of 2012,
“Of course it all depends on a great deal of work from everyone involved, the Board, the players and the fans, and we need support on a number of initiatives such as the launch of the new Touchdown Club for match days, and the continued support for LISA (the Leigh Independent Supporters Association) , the Corporate Club and the Lottery.
“It is a serious situation , but we have a way forward and we need people to back us.”
It was a lively evening with a good number of fans voicing their disappointments, concerns and apprehension, with issue such as the amount of money being put in by the current board members and the match day experience at the Leigh Sports Village creating much heated debate.
Former director John Abbey demanded to know how cash much the current directors would inject into the club, only to be told that there had already been considerable input, and no more was available.
Fan Barry Lamprell felt that the news that Ian Millward to leave the club for Super League had been handled badly and that it had knocked the heart out of the players. But Chairman Freer responded by pointing out it was Castleford who had made the announcement.
However he did concede that the club had banked heavily on reaching the Championship Grand Final to help make the books balance, and the lack of that financial boost had hit them hard and contributed to the current predicament. Another supporter John McDonagh rallied the fans by stating that the players had done magnificently to play the way they had for most of the campaign and in the Northern Rail Cup Final particularly.
Acting chief executive, Trevor Barton MBE did reveal “ with the exception of Steve Nash, the lads want to stay and play for Leigh.” He said. “The spine of the team have been in contact with me and expressed their desire to stay. We are endeavouring to meet their wishes.”
Fan Carol Westwood expressed her concern at the match day experience and the cost of refreshments, as well as a concern for the treatment of the fans, and Keith promised he would take this back to the LSV Management. In the end it was left to Keith Freer to sum up his desire to see the club run as a business that was not dependent on one wealthy benefactor. “We need to be solvent and not dependent on directors putting their hands in their pockets.”
Leigh MP, Andy Burnham also pledged he would do all he could to help the club survive by getting the right people to the negotiating table at the right time. But the best news of the night was a presentation of a cheque for £1,300 from LISA to the club an dthe announcement that £800 had been raised through donation that evening.
This week the Leigh directors are hoping to be in a series of meetings that will help determine and save the future of the club.