Glentoran Football Club is engulfed in a fresh financial storm after it emerged the players did not receive their wages for October.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that the first team squad handed a letter to the club’s board on Saturday expressing their concerns at the worrying development.
It’s not the first time that the players have not received their wages and now they want answers. The letter urges the board to resolve the matter as soon as possible — and it also reminds club chiefs that the players’ contracts are not being honoured.
It should be pointed out that Glentoran players are not threatening strike action — however they are clearly unhappy at the situation and they are entitled to request to be released from their contracts if wages are not paid.
Neither Glentoran chairman Terence Brannigan nor vice-chairman Aubry Ralph responded to interview requests however current club captain Sean Ward confirmed that a letter was handed in on behalf of the players seeking assurances regarding the payment of wages.
Ward is keen to point out that this is “not a crisis” and there is “absolutely no suggestion the players are prepared to go on strike” — however the reality is that should this problem escalate the dreadful prospect of players wanting to leave the club will lurk in the background.
Fans will be concerned by the latest development, as will boss Eddie Patterson who is trying to build morale and confidence in the dressing room.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that the letter was read to the first team squad before being handed to Ralph on Saturday.
Ward explained that players were told a cheque was late coming to the club from a group in connection with the proposed ground move to the Titanic Quarter but the matter would be resolved this week.
Now it appears that Glentoran’s financial woes — which have existed for years — have struck right into the heart of the dressing room and the board must act to reassure the players and fans that the club is determined to sort out its finances.
In February last year a bumper £450,000 donation from a mystery benefactor helped prevent the club from being wound up.
But it’s clear that cash-flow problems still run deep on Mersey Street — even after the club received a £60,000 loan from the Irish FA in May this year.
Irish FA chiefs will also be watching developments closely as Glentoran, despite making changes to their board in January last year, appear to be drifting from one financial difficulty to the next. The Belfast Telegraph was tipped off about the development and asked Ward — who was not our source — to shed light on the matter.
“The first team squad were seeking assurances from the board over the non-payment of wages and it was explained to us that the matter would be resolved this week as the club was waiting on a cheque to come through,” said Ward (pictured).
“There is absolutely no threat from the players with regard to strike action — the players are committed to playing for Glentoran and giving their all.
“For anyone to suggest otherwise, nothing could be further from the truth. Hopefully it’s a case of payments being slightly late and this will be resolved.
“This is a private and personal matter between the club and its players. It’s an employment issue — not a football one.
“For some of our younger players their primary source of income could be through this club. The players are merely seeking assurances from the board with regard to their wages and contracts.
“October’s wages are outstanding and the players have a right to know what is going to happen in the future with regard to their contracts.”
Ward added: “It’s a sign of the times really. I’m sure other clubs have been going through the same problems. Glentoran’s financial problems have been well documented but other clubs are finding life difficult too.”
While it should be stressed that Glentoran players are not contemplating strike action, the club will be aware that should discontent grow among the playing staff, some of them may ask to be released from their contracts.
Glens must come up with answers
By Graham Luney
This newspaper today discloses the latest financial headache hurting Glentoran Football Club.
Let’s make one thing clear — our only agenda is to shine a light on what football clubs, or other sporting organisations, are doing — good or bad.
We take no pleasure from the current financial plight of Glentoran Football Club.
It should be pointed out that all football clubs face a very real fight for survival in this harsh economic climate.
We will continue to ask the questions that we believe supporters want asked.
Now it’s up you — Glentoran supporters who loyally follow your club and give your hard earned cash to the club — to ask a perfectly legitimate question.
Does your club have a future? How many times is it going to weather a financial storm?
Bigger ships than Glentoran have gone under — look how financial mismanagement has rocked Rangers.
Now it’s not just the fans that are asking questions — it’s the players as well.
They are perfectly right to ask the board why October’s wages have not been paid. What is their contract worth if the club is not keeping their side of the deal?
Anyone who genuinely cares about Irish League football wants to see Glentoran weather this storm. Their success can also help keep other struggling clubs afloat but the question remains: is the club getting its house in order?
A new regime and board was supposed to herald a new era of sensible spending.
The reality is that, if you pardon the phrase, the penny is going to have to drop at Glentoran Football Club.
Patience is wearing thin amongst supporters and now players. This institution could disappear from the east-Belfast landscape if fans with the club’s best interests at heart do nothing.