Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

So will Glentoran survive? You bet

Glentoran chairman Terence Brannigan (left) and Paul McLean of McLean's bookmakers at the announcement of a new investment in the club

Terence Brannigan has insisted cash-strapped Glentoran must leave the Oval if they are to survive as a viable club.

The Glens chairman yesterday announced a fresh cash injection, believed to be in the region of £50,000, from club sponsors McLean’s.

The local bookmakers’ bailout is further to their existing sponsorship and ensures the day-to-day running costs are now met after players were paid outstanding wages last week.

Players pulled out of training recently having gone eight weeks without pay, but the new investment should secure the club’s short-term future and Brannigan believes it can also safeguard their long-term wellbeing, with Kevin Milhench, a lifelong supporter, also being added to the club’s Board.

“A significant cash injection was vital, given our recent difficulties. This is a very good and very welcome day for all at Glentoran Football Club,” said Brannigan.

“Paul McLean has been very supportive since his company started sponsoring the club and now we have also added Kevin Milhench to the Board and we will be looking to supplement his skills in property.”

The east Belfast club needed a £450,000 cash injection from a mystery benefactor to pay a tax bill just days before the serious possibility of going out of business almost two years ago.

Since then, they have also been bailed out with another £500,000 to pay off bank debts as well as developers and the Irish FA have dipped their hands in their pockets to give an advance of future prize money and a £60,000 loan.

Even with that and yesterday’s announcement, however, the risk of redundancies remains a serious threat with the club struggling to make ends meet as attendance figures continue to dwindle.

Boss Eddie Patterson faces a fight to keep his star men at the club when the transfer window opens next month.

Brannigan added: “If you look at our recent history, there was significant debt outstanding, particularly with HMRC.

“That was overcome thanks to an anonymous benefactor and when I came to the club I soon saw he day-to-day expenditure compared to our income.

“My job has been to bridge that gap. We have taken more than £250,000 off the annual running costs of the club but we have to continue to manage budgets in the right way.

“Due to the recent difficulties, we needed this additional cash injection and we can now look forward to a sustained future.

“We have paid a significant amount of debts — if we hadn’t paid HMRC when we did, this club would not have existed.

“Since then, other people have wanted money paid down and we have been able to do that, but the critical thing now is making the income and expenditure even up.

“Gate receipts are down and we have not been able to bridge that gap yet. Our forecast would have been to break even this year, but there will be a shortfall due to loss of spectators.

“In the next couple of seasons we will be able to get the club in a strong position and forge ahead with the new stadium.”

With Government money due to be available in 2015, the Glens are understood to have been earmarked for funding of between £8-10m which will provide a huge slice of the finance needed for their move from the Oval to a new stadium at the nearby Titanic Quarter.

“Our business case for the new stadium is at a pretty advanced stage, as are negotiations for the ground.

“I would expect the build to take up to 18 months and hopefully everything will be completed within three years, but a lot depends on planning. I’m saying three years, but it could be shorter but we are well advanced.

“Moving to the new stadium is not just about survival. Our fans would rightly be disappointed and disillusioned if it was only about survival.

“We need to get this club back to where it should be on the pitch. The Oval has great history, but it is not fit for purpose.

“We aim to get bigger crowds and broader fan base in a new stadium and it will be attractive for people to come to — and we will ensure it is a proper community facility.

“We expect to get public funding, as well as private funding for the new stadium. Negotiations with the private sector are at an advanced stage, but I don’t think anyone would expect us to survive off public money alone.

“We are in negotiations with the Harbour Commissioners to get land suitable for the new stadium. They have also been incredibly helpful and supportive and while it is not yet concluded, we are pretty well advanced.

“I don’t think any club in this region can survive on football income alone.”

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