Is it Oval and out for Glentoran?
Glentoran have attempted to downplay reports that they could be plunged into administration over an unpaid tax bill — believed to be in the region of £250,000 — but it is understood that the club may have no choice but to allow it to be taken over.
In the wake of huge cuts by the coalition Government across the board, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, pressure has also been placed on HM Revenue and Customs to call in debts and football here — and in the rest of the UK — will not be spared.
Glentoran aren’t the only club who will suffer, though due to their size and stature in Northern Ireland they are obviously the most high profile victims.
Over the course of the next seven weeks, the taxman will be knocking on the doors of at least six clubs to claim the owed monies.
In a short statement released by the Glentoran board of directors yesterday, they indicated that communication with HM Customs and Excise was ongoing.
It read: “Glentoran Football Club continues to liaise with HM Revenue and Customs in a bid to resolve outstanding financial matters and is hopeful of securing a resolution that will benefit both parties.”
However, hope would appear to be Glentoran’s only salvation as their financial situation is such that they simply aren’t bringing enough money into the club to be able to meet the new hardline demands of the Inland Revenue.
Part of the problem they face is that while in the past they had been dealing with local representatives here in Northern Ireland, and for the most part gaining a sympathetic ear, the office in Glasgow is now working on the case.
For them, history, tradition and the implication to the club’s supporters means a lot less and taking a team, even the relative size of Glentoran into administration, would be no different than moving in on any struggling business across the UK.
It is believed that tax chiefs have given clubs a year to pay off their debts, but with that amounting to around £25,000 a month, there is no chance of Glentoran being able to afford that.
The Glens overall debt is rumoured to be verging on seven figures and this latest revelation will have now panicked their other creditors into thinking about moving in to claim their money back or as much of it as they can.
That will further put the heat on the board who are currently struggling to keep up with a wage bill that has already been slashed over the summer, leaving boss Scott Young with one of the smallest squads a Glentoran manager has had to work with in decades.
Five of the biggest earners were placed on the transfer list in the summer and many didn’t have their contracts renewed.
Of those listed, Gary Hamilton has gone on-loan to Glenavon with the two clubs sharing his expensive wages and Shane McCabe moved to Portadown.
Midfielder Richard Clarke and strikers Daryl Fordyce and Andrew Waterworth took pay cuts to stay at the Oval.
But with attendances in a steep decline and the Oval, in an almost dilapidated state — needing constant repair just to keep it in line with Health and Safety standards for use — there is still more money going out than there is coming in and this could spell the biggest disaster the club has faced since the Blitz when the stadium was destroyed by German bombers.
Should the administrators be called in, then as part of an IFA directive brought in recently Glentoran will be deducted ten points.
That in itself shouldn’t, in theory, be enough to see them face a relegation battle — as the table stands they would drop to sixth place — but it could see them hit with a further financial blow as unless they were to win the Irish
Cup, they would struggle to qualify for Europe next season and therefore miss out on the financial benefits that that brings.
After that, the administrators will set about attempting to open up better revenue streams and sell off the club’s most viable assets.
Players are unlikely to be able to be sold as clubs here don’t have the cash to buy them, but it is reasonable to suggest that the squad could be trimmed further.
The biggest asset they hold though is the Oval itself and a worst case scenario could see the ground sold off to pay off the debt.
The largest group of Glens supporters, the Glentoran Community Trust, will meet over the weekend to ascertain their own course of action in this hugely important period in the club’s 128 year history.