Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Not Oval and out yet, say Glens

Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson
Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson

Glentoran chairman Terence Brannigan feels that rumours of the club's demise are being greatly exaggerated.

The club is engulfed in a cash crisis which has sparked fears it is heading into administration and a 10 points deduction but Brannigan expects the club to win its fight for survival.

Brannigan met with Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson yesterday to update him on the club's financial worries.

Those worries are well documented – unpaid tax bills, players not receiving wages when due and staff cuts – but the Oval chairman says he is fighting those financial fires.

While the players – and supporters – have shown tremendous loyalty, commitment and patience, Brannigan has been exploring fresh investment possibilities and insists he's remaining "positive".

After the constructive meeting, he told the Belfast Telegraph: "I met with the IFA for a routine update. This meeting was postponed from last week as I was in the States on business.

"As usual, the meeting was positive and I updated the attendees on our plans for the next two years which was positively received."

The Irish FA issued a statement confirming that negotiations with the Glens were ongoing.

"We meet with all our clubs on a regular basis but we will not be making any comment on these meetings," it said.

There is no question that these talks are urgent. The two big questions now facing the east Belfast giants are will they go into administration and, if so, when?

If the club goes into administration today they could still be competing in the top six come the league split because they are 11 points clear of seventh placed Portadown.

If it happens after March 1 the points would be taken off at the end of the campaign.

If in administration on April 25, they will not be granted a licence to compete in the Premiership next season.

Perhaps the time is right for Glentoran to allow itself to hit rock bottom and rise again.

The Irish FA dug deep last summer to hand the Glens a £60,000 loan to help pay the wages of players and staff.

But IFA chiefs and the club's fans have looked on in despair as the "cash-flow problems" continue.

Manager Eddie Patterson (pictured), his back-room staff and players have not been paid on several occasions – despite a cash injection from sponsors McLean Bookmakers.

The club were unable to pay their tax bill to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for three months.

But the Glens have been floundering in this financial quicksand for years.

In 2010, Glentoran's overall debts were believed to be in excess of £1m and they needed a £450,000 cash injection from a mystery benefactor to pay a tax bill and stay in business.

"I hope that Glentoran can resolve their problems and become one of the top clubs," admits Irish FA president Jim Shaw.

"The Irish League would be less healthy without Glentoran in it."

Financial mismanagement is to blame, but nightmare must come to an end now

Glentoran's financial woes have been big news for longer than the club's fans want to think about.

The problem is that they still exist and there remains the real threat that the club could go under given that the east Belfast outfit are still facing a mountain of debt and find it difficult to pay tax bills and wages for players, many of whom are set to leave in the summer. Last week in the Belfast Telegraph manager Eddie Patterson, one year on from taking over at the Oval, spoke at length for the first time about the desperate situation. Today Karen Turkington talks to Glentoran supporters about what is going on at their beloved club.

ALAN STITT (supporter and shareholder)

What's your view on the current financial situation?

"It's a mess quite frankly. I'm a shareholder and I really don't know what's going on."

Has the club kept you up to date on the current situation?

"Not at all. Barring a statement in the media and a press announcement I have not seen or heard of any statement from the club regarding the recent tax bill news or the latest non payment of wages. Chairman Terence Brannigan (pictured) has invited supporters to meet with him, which obviously is something that needs to happen."

What do you think are the main problems at Glentoran?

"Too much money going out, not enough coming in. Crowds are dropping at an alarming rate as people don't attend games."

What should the club do now?

"The club must cut down its costs and wages will be a major factor in this. We all want to see quality players at the Oval but I would rather have a club for the next number of years than chase the dream so to speak.

"There are players that will want to play for Glentoran at low wages, though that's not to attack those who had so called "high wages". I trust that the manager and his backroom team can find them. Investing in the youth will also be something that Glentoran must do."

Did you blame players for refusing to train when they didn't get paid or for wanting to leave in the summer?

"Not at all. Whilst I would be massively disappointed if anyone left I would understand if you don't get paid, 99% of people won't hang around. I was pleased the players played the games whilst they didn't attend training."

CHRIS GORMAN (Legion 1882 Supporters Club)

What's your view on the current financial situation?

"Personally I don't think Glentoran will ever go bust. We may have to sell players/assets but there will always be a Glentoran. A few supporters are hanging onto the dream that the stadium project will come to fruition and that it will be the solution to our financial problems but most remain sceptical. Maybe it's out of blind loyalty but yes, I can see light at the end of the tunnel."

Has the club kept you up to date on the current situation?

"I don't think the supporters have been kept fully up to date and sadly that's been a problem since I started attending regularly in the late 90s ,however, I think some information is commercially sensitive and therefore some things have to be kept in the boardroom. The club could be more open when answering questions at supporters' meetings though."

What's the solution to the current problems?

"I honestly don't know. We have business heads in charge of running Glentoran and we have to trust them to make the right decisions. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of trust between the board and the fans."

Who do you blame for the current situation?

"Those in charge and those who were in charge. Years of financial mismanagement and dreaming of a new stadium has caused a decline in player quality and attendances."

If the worst was to happen and Glentoran were forced to fold what do you think would be the implications for the rest of the Irish League?

"The Irish League would still carry on, on a slightly smaller scale, just like the SPL has without Rangers. Some clubs who rely on those big gates once or twice a year may find it hard."

STUART DAVIDSON (Castlereagh GSC member and Shareholder)

What's your view on the current financial situation?

"We won the league in 2005 with I understand a wage budget of 240k. I believe the board at that stage was trying to reduce that figure, but there was a change at boardroom level and I understand that the wages figure became higher. I believe that figure peaked at 640k which was total madness."

Has the club kept you up to date with what's going on at the Oval?

"There has always been a gulf between the board and the fans but it has never been as bad as it is now. It's annoying that the shareholders hear everything from the press, which is wrong."

How do you think this will play out long term?

"I hope long term we can survive but I don't think I'll ever see us in the new stadium."

STEPHEN McKEAG (Castlereagh GSC member and Shareholder)

Do you blame players for wanting to leave the club?

"No, I think if your contract isn't being honoured, like any job if you aren't being paid, you should have a right to leave."

Did the club go down the wrong road promising big wages to secure 'big name' players?

"Yes. It was a big mistake on the club's part trying to buy their way into Europe. We signed players that at the time were on big money and not playing for the shirt."

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