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Statements in full: Coleraine cash war brewing

A war of words over financial matters has erupted between Coleraine FC and the Friends of Coleraine, who own the club, and the Harry Gregg Foundation.

Read the full Sunday Life story here: Coleraine cash war brews after disagreement on UEFA payments

Below are the full statements from Andy Alcorn (Chairman of Harry Gregg Foundation), Derek Simpson (Chairman of Friends of Coleraine) and Colin McKendry (Chairman of Coleraine FC):

Statement from Andy Alcorn (Chairman of Harry Gregg Foundation)

The Harry Gregg Foundation is a charity and limited company which evolved from the Coleraine FC Academy registered charity when Harry agreed to figurehead and support the charity’s aims, which are in line with his principles and beliefs.

Coleraine FC Academy remains a constituted section of the Harry Gregg Foundation, administered and governed by the foundation and linked to Coleraine FC via a memorandum of understanding.

Apart from being a legacy to Harry, the foundation’s aim is to create a development pathway in line with the one Harry took himself, promote positive change and provide opportunity to fulfil dreams through participation in football and various other health, lifestyle, educational and social inclusion activities, all of which if managed properly would generate long term, sustainable benefits to any football club it was linked to.

Harry and the Harry Gregg Foundation are now undertaking a review of its alignment to Coleraine FC. Over the last 18 months, the foundation has attempted to negotiate the agreement of a collaborative development structure aligned to governance and policy requirements within the UEFA Licence criteria — the structure to be funded by the reimbursement of development costs which are generated by the foundation via the academy.

There were commitments made over the past number of years to place funding received via UEFA solidarity fund applications and player development reimbursement payments into a development bank account, managed as part of a development partnership between the Harry Gregg Foundation and Coleraine FC.

To date, other than monthly payments to cover the cost of the newly appointed Head of Youth Development Officer’s wages, no money has been placed into the account.

Our frustration is that, while the UEFA reimbursement policies are in principle very good, the failure to audit financial awards through the governing bodies and back to grassroots opens a vulnerability, whereby the financial allocations are absorbed into the running costs of football clubs. Significant sums, in excess of six figures, have been paid to the football club to reimburse costs associated with youth development and of individual players who have progressed through the academy at no cost to the actual club. The amounts reimbursed to the foundation to compensate the actual expenditure have been minimal and, during most seasons, nothing at all.

There are clear guidelines set for solidarity money and player development payments. Let’s see, through UEFA, if Coleraine have followed them.

Statement from Derek Simpson (Chairman of Friends of Coleraine)

At our last two AGMs, I have said that there was no business plan for Coleraine FC going forward. The board has survived and the club has survived for several years firefighting with academy money and youth development money.

I have to admire them for keeping the gates open. At times I thought it was a miracle that the gates stayed open every week.

But we are moving on now to a point where Coleraine have the chance, with European money and success domestically, to become a proper, grown-up club with a proper, grown-up business plan.

Unless the opportunity is managed, there is easily a possibility that the club could go back to the way it was and go under because, as far as I can ascertain, there is no control over costs whatsoever.

Friends of Coleraine’s chief concern is uncontrolled spending.

Coleraine has had two chances from HMRC. They were warned four years before the 2005 blow-up that the accounts were not in order and they didn’t deal with it and they came within a hair’s breadth of being put out of business forever.

If there is another issue, and we have taken advice from specialist people in this area, Coleraine won’t get another chance. Coleraine would not go into the Intermediate League, Coleraine would go out of business.

The team is playing superbly, the best I’ve seen since I’ve been around. The crowds are great and the Coleraine chairman (Colin McKendry) is a man of vision, resilience and enormous optimism. That has been very useful helping the club through bad times, but we need rigorous procedures and protocols in place to move forward. 

In the month of July, the club will be expecting to receive in the region of £100,000 in development compensation for players.

It’s supposed to — and as I understand agreements are now in place — be ringfenced for the development of youth football.

Up until the last couple of months, not a penny from the solidarity money has gone into youth development. It has gone into salvaging the club, contrary to UEFA’s clear intentions for what the money is supposed to be used for. The idea is you run a club and you get this money to bring on the next three generations.

Statement from Colin McKendry (Chairman of Coleraine FC)

Coleraine Football Club has never been as well run in its existence as it is now. The accounts are very healthy and we’ve never had funds in the bank that we currently have and we have a business plan going forward.

The people at the top of this club have brought Coleraine through the hardest time in my memory and have made this club into a very profitable club. Coming from where it was to where it is now is incredible.

No one wants to go through another situation like 2005 and I believe the people in this club should not be subjected to rumours like this.

Every member of the board is a legal director and we are entrusted to run the football club as we see fit under the laws of the land and, for good governance, this is why we have brought an accountant, lawyer and three businessmen to the board in the last two years to ensure that everything is done correctly.

We have also changed our book-keeping system to ensure that everything is done by the book. We run the club as a business.

I am happy to meet all parties to try and sort this out and will openly go through any concerns they have.

In relation to Coleraine Football Club Academy, it was set up through a memorandum of understanding and a management structure was set in place to run the Academy, in line with what Coleraine Football Club policy was.

In the past, the Academy wasn’t as close to the club as it should have been and I brought Andy Alcorn on to the board of Coleraine as the Academy Director to bridge that divide. It worked for a period of time, however he felt that he wasn’t involved in the decision making process with regards to Oran Kearney’s new contract and left the board.

The Harry Gregg Foundation is set up as a company in its own right but we, through a memorandum of understanding, have given them the right to use the Coleraine name.

We have legal agreements set up between ourselves and the Coleraine Football Club Academy to allow the Harry Gregg Foundation to operate within the Coleraine Football Club Academy.

To ensure a working relationship, a sub-committee from our board and a sub-committee from their board set up a separate bank account. Through the funding that has come in to date, we pay the wages of John Gregg who is the Head of Youth Development. There is a memorandum of understanding that clearly sets out how that fund will be contributed to.

It is written in black and white that we will contribute from any development fees that come in as and when the club can afford to do so.

In relation to the fund set up to assist in development, we have no need to give anyone any funding in relation to the Solidarity and other Development fees at this stage because the players who have gone across to England were players under an amateur contract who were signed to Coleraine Football Club, which is a senior club.

The players are registered to Coleraine FC under an amateur contract and belong to the football club — not the Harry Gregg Foundation or Academy.

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