Glentoran supremo sees bright new dawn
There is light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel for Glentoran.
Ahead of Saturday's eagerly awaited Irish Cup final against Cliftonville at Windsor Park, Glentoran chairman Terence Brannigan says that the Oval club, once up to £1.5m in debt, finally have reasons to be optimistic about their future.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Brannigan said that the Glens will soon announce to their fans that debts at the east-Belfast club have been significantly reduced, next year the target will be to break even and by the time they move into a new stadium in 2016 they will be DEBT FREE.
That's quite a statement given that the Glens were going to be wound up in 2011 until a mystery benefactor donated £450,000 to the club.
Brannigan, though, clearly has belief in himself and the board to come up trumps for the famous Irish League outfit.
He said: "When I took on the role of chairman and a new board was constituted just a little over two years ago I was unaware like the rest of the board of the size of the issues in terms of debt and running costs of the club.
"The figure of debt was north of £1m and the running costs we inherited from previous regimes were significantly in excess of our income, therefore it has genuinely taken two years for me and my colleagues to get to the bottom of things and manage that process to ensure the survival of the club.
"Some of it has been very painful and well documented but this is the first time that I can say we are moving forward with confidence.
"It's been a difficult road. Thankfully we have had tremendous support and patience from our shareholders and fans."
Those shareholders and fans have been through the mill with their club almost going out of business.
Brannigan said: "Be in no doubt the club was going to go out of existence if it had not been for a very generous donor. No one can predict what would have happened thereafter, whether we would have entered the realms of amateur football, but in its present form Glentoran would, not could, have gone out of existence.
"I don't know who the benefactor is and have never wished to know. Whoever they are they were very generous to this club and we will forever be in their debt.
"We will publish our accounts at the AGM at the end of the month and I can say we are in a much better position from the day the new board was constituted in terms of our debt and running costs. We have made very significant inroads and that will be reported at the AGM.
"We are now in a much better position and can look forward with confidence. The intent is that we go into a new stadium debt free with an income stream from other areas and not just football that sustains us and allows us to compete with everyone in the league on a fair and equitable basis.
"It's been a struggle to get there but our forecasts are that at worst we'll break even next year."
Brannigan met with manager Eddie Patterson and Director of Football Roy Coyle last week to discuss the future which has been helped by the sales from Cup final tickets and the promise of European football next season. There's also the new stadium in the pipeline.
"That has been inching forward because we have been concentrating on creating a long term future for the club financially," added the chairman.
"Now that we are seeing light at the end of that tunnel, we have turned our attentions to our new stadium and are about to engage at no cost to the club with a specialist in that area who is a lifelong Glentoran fan.
"The Titanic Quarter has always been our favoured option, but it is not the only option. You always try and have a Plan B. We have another strong plan which could almost be described as Plan A Two and that would be the Blanchflower stadium.
"There comes a point when you have to narrow your options down but I want to ensure I don't slam a door and suddenly walk into a brick wall.
"I'm informed that the build itself of the stadium and not the other things we want around it, which are community and commercial facilities, would physically take around 18 months.
"There is also the planning stage and we are in negotiations in relation to the land. From here I would say realistically it would be another three years unless we hit some bumps in the road. So, 2016 is when I would wish us to be playing football in our new stadium."