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Can Accrington save their Stanley without help?

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Paul Fletcher | 18:30 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Accrington have a motto that reads 'The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Save our Stanley.'

It is entirely appropriate given the predicament the homely Lancashire clubs finds itself in and yet also hints at a determination to look beyond their current crisis and towards happier times.

Stanley, in case you haven't heard, owe the taxman £308,000 and HMRC wants its money. Quite right too, given that their money is in reality our money.

The club's chief executive, Rob Heys, maintains that apart from general day-to-day running costs it is the only real debt the club has. There are no other significant individual creditors.

If that is the case then how did the League Two side get themselves into such a mess in the first place?

Accrington supporters are determined to save their club

"It is a combination of events that has conspired against us," Heys told me.

Heys points to dwindling attendances at the Crown Ground and the collapse of the club's main sponsor, Fraser Eagle, in March.

Stanley averaged 2,260 in 2006-07, their first season back in the Football League after an absence of 44 years. That figure halved over the course of the next two seasons. When Fraser Eagle entered administration it left a huge hole in the budget, but Stanley aren't feeling sorry for themselves.

Manager John Coleman is working with a threadbare squad and cannot bring in any loan signings because of a transfer embargo.

The effervescent Liverpudlian has been in charge at the club for 10 years and describes the club's fight for survival as very close to his heart.

"The fact is there are a lot of people who would like to be involved in professional football but they are outside the game so I am just pleased to be doing a job that I love," he said.

Heys, who struck me as perhaps the most earnest and contrite chief executive I have ever interviewed, added: "We are in this situation and we have got to get ourselves out of it.

"We accept the debt is ours and has to be paid. We are not seeking to avoid paying part of it by entering administration or seeking any sort of financial arrangement. We want to pay it off in full."

Heys even mounted a valiant defence of HMRC, arguing that the people there are only doing their job and must not be seen as the bad guys in all of this.

I am not sure he felt that way on 2 September as he stood in the High Court in London and heard that Stanley had until 28 October to raise £308,000 or face a winding-up order.

Heys has worked at the club for seven years, joining when they were still making their ascent through the non-league pyramid. He describes his trip to face the music in London as one of the darkest days of his life; he told me that he had never felt so alone as when the realisation dawned on him that the clock had started ticking.

To be fair, Heys had an idea what was coming as the club had been in regular dialogue with HMRC. Accrington initially sought to pay off their debt over three years, a timeframe that eventually whittled down to 12 months, with Stanley paying £18,000 a month plus three larger sums through the course of the year.

Accrington slashed their wage bill and found what Heys describes as five or six really good revenue streams to ensure they could meet the payments. But it gradually became evident the taxman wanted his money sooner - a suspicion that was reinforced at the club's day in court.

The club's Save our Stanley campaign was kicked off shortly afterwards and Accrington have so far raised £80,000. That means they have roughly five weeks left to find more than £200,000.

Heys sounds genuinely humbled when he discusses the generosity shown by people within the town and beyond.

Burnley manager Owen Coyle must surely have enough on his plate trying to keep the Clarets in the Premier League but he organised a friendly against Stanley. More than 5,000 turned up despite atrocious weather conditions and paid £10 a head to see Burnley win 4-0.

Football shirts from all over the country were on display as Accrington defeated Darlington 2-1 on Friday 11 September. A bumper crowd of 3,228 passed through the turnstiles. They weren't exactly treated to a classic but that is to miss the point.

"So many people from other clubs gave up their time and money - I thought it was a great gesture," added Coleman.

"You could feel the atmosphere before the game and you knew it was going to be special. The players responded really well."Accrington hope the Crown Ground is hosts League football for years to come

Accrington have rescheduled this weekend's home game against Crewe so that it takes place on Friday night. They hope more neutrals will turn up, while the club's bucket collectors will be able to take the opportunity to visit other clubs on Saturday.

Heys almost seems overcome when he describes the different pubs, businesses and individuals who are raising money or making donations.

"It is really humbling and it is a difficult position because we are not a charity and almost feel uncomfortable asking for donations," he said.

I think the fundraising efforts shows just how much a local club matters to the people of its local area - but it also taps into something much bigger than that. The fact that so many fans of others clubs have come along to support Stanley speaks volumes about the wider football community. Friendly banter and rivalry is one thing, wanting another club to go out of business another entirely.

There are plenty of clubs that have endured hard times in recent years and I was not surprised at all to see a television feature on the match showing fans wearing shirts of, for example, Bury at the Crown Ground for the match against the Quakers. Perhaps if you have seen your club close to extinction then you understand how desperate it must be for Accrington right now.

Heys is keen to look on the bright side. If Accrington do survive - and he is optimistic that they will - he says the club will instigate an annual event to raise money for charities in the local area. It will be a way of saying thanks for all the help they have received.

Plus, if Accrington succeed in their current plight it means they will have paid off their debts quicker than initially anticipated. Both Heys and Coleman see a secure and successful future for the club if they can clear the current hurdle.

But there is another side to this story.

Several other parties have expressed an interest in investing in the club. Accrington Stanley Supporters' Fund have offered to pay the debt in return for equity in the club, while local businessman Ilyas Khan has stated he is prepared to put in £250,000.

Khan already owns a 12% stake in Stanley and has concerns that the club's financial problems extend beyond the tax bill. He wants to open dialogue with Accrington's directors and it has been reported that he is adamant a share issue is the only long-term solution to solving Stanley's problems.

Stanley were taken over by local businessman David O'Neill in the summer and a cursory search around the internet suggests that some supporters clearly think he should accept some of the offers of financial assistance. Heys' attitude - and I presume that of the club in general - is very much one of we created this mess, we'll fix it. Khan has called for transparency over the true state of the club's finances. Of course, if Khan does invest or there is a share issue it would dilute O'Neill's control.

Given that Accrington still need to raise a substantial portion of the amount they owe perhaps the club might eventually have to seek the assistance on offer.

Accrington, of course, is famous for an advert involving milk and Ian Rush as well as the fact the town's previous club went bust and out of business in 1962, resigning from the Football League.

The people of Accrington are determined to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The last thing they want is for young football fans to have to ask: "Accrington Stanley - who are they?"

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  • Comment number 1.

    Great article, it seems like Accrington are working tirelessly to raise the funds.
    My Dad's mate is on the board at Accrington, and last season my dad and a few others were invited to sponsor a game for a small fee. As a fan of Arsenal, he found this an eye-opening experience, especially as the manager came in beforehand to eplain the tactics for the days game and the fact he personally knew so many of the fans.
    best of luck accrington!

  • Comment number 2.

    It is terrifying that a club with the history of Accrington Stanley can be allowed to go under because, having irresponsibly allowed the club to run up a major debt, HMRC is now seeking payment in a ludicrously short time frame.

    Or, are they that cynical that they have only threatened winding up (which, if it goes ahead, means they will not get all the money - something I rail against as a taxpayer) in order to force the football family to raise the money?

    Either way, HMRC have acted irresponsibly (especially in allowing the debt to mount up in the first place) and deserve censure.

    Rant over. As a Pompey fan I am exceedingly grateful to the support we received from fans of all manner of clubs in 1999 when we were in administration. Because of that and because I believe the loss of any club hurts football as a whole, I have made a donation and wish Stanley well in their struggle. Sadly, I can't make the game on Friday or I'd add a Pompey top to the rainbow of different colours that will be there.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great Article, and nice to see others helping out when clubs are struggling.

    May I point out a couple of small errors? You refer to Hey as Hay at one point in the article. You also state that the club need to "find more than £200,000" yet at the end you specify they "need to raise another £300,000" - which is it?

  • Comment number 4.

    Many clubs have gone into administration to get their tax debts written off, so it is commendable they haven;t done the same.

    However with IR pushing so hard, clubs are often left with no option once the damage has been done.

  • Comment number 5.

    Why do some people always blame HMRC when clubs get into a mess? If clubs can't afford to pay their bills, they should cut their costs to a sustainable level. That might mean they have to drop a division or two - so be it. At least the fans still have a club and the taxpayer doesn't get shafted.

    John Coleman is right to be realistic and say the taxman is just doing his job.

    That said, good luck to Stanley. I hope they get things sorted out soon. What a contrast to the goings on at Notts County.

  • Comment number 6.

    highguyuk - thanks for pointing those out. They Hey/Hay error is very much all my own - as is the discrepancy over figures.

    Accrington need to raise £308,000. They have reached £80,000 so far - thus I reckon they need another £228,000. They have until 28 October to at least make a very significant dent into that figure. As Hey explained, the club is in regular contact with HMRC. It might be that if they get near the required figure HMRC decides that it would not be in its or Accrington's best interest to pursue a winding-up order.

    However, as Hey told me, the club remain in a very, very serious, perilous position at the moment and I imagine that all donations, no matter how great or small, would be most welcome.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's great to see some of the local community as well as other clubs like Burnley pulling together to support struggling clubs like Accrington but when are football clubs going to learn to live within their means? Stanley's boss Hey says it was a "combination of events that conspired against" them but had they put any money aside for such eventualities?

    My local club Wycombe have run up debts of over 7 million - 5 million in the last 5 years alone! Great, they got promotion last season but are struggling this season and could come straight back down. And then what? Administration? Bankruptcy? I'm sure most Wycombe fans would accept being in League Two for a bit longer rather than face the prospect of losing their beloved team.

    So when clubs mean so much to their local community, shouldn't there be more local ownership? Perhaps it's time fans realised that "need for new investment" just means more debts.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am a HUGE Southampton Fan and I know how it feels to be on the brink of extinxion. I really hope you make through all this because if you do it feels fantastic!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    This may be a silly idea, but why don't all PL clubs just give Stanley 15K each?

    Its not like they're big rivals, and no club wants another club to go bust.

  • Comment number 10.

    Football has gone crazy when you think Notts County have spent this exact sum (say 5 wks @ 40k + other costs incurred) on Sol Campbell's one match appearance.

  • Comment number 11.

    It's great to see some of the local community as well as other clubs like Burnley pulling together to support struggling clubs like Accrington but when are football clubs going to learn to live within their means? Stanley's boss Hey says it was a "combination of events that conspired against" them but had they put any money aside for such eventualities?


    I can only assume you did not read or understand the article fully- it does state that the club's headline sponsor went into administration. Like any business, Stanley will have had a business plan and budget mapped out which would have taken into account the income from the sponsor. When that revenue is suddenly removed, it obviously throws the budget into turmoil. Unlike yourself, (who will undoubtedly have all his mortgage/credit card/other payments insured, judging by the tone of your comment) it is difficult at best and not financially viable at worst to obtain cover for loss of revenue for a business (I run my own, so I know).

    I hope for your sake that in the current financial climate that you remain in employment (assuming you are), although if you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of the credit crunch, maybe you'll have a touch more sympayhy...

  • Comment number 12.

    I certainly hope Accrington Stanley stays alive!!
    why cant a charity match be arranged between Championship side & Accrington Stanley to earn some more bucks to stay up.after all no one wants a club to fade away

  • Comment number 13.

    We used to enjoy the Accy fans coming to the Lamb they are a great bunch.It saddens me to hear of their plight I hope they sort themselves out.I have read about the demise of Stanley in 1962-just hope for the sake of the fans history does not repeat itself.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't understand how Stanley owe the inland revenue £300,000 in the 1st place when they can't possibly have made a profit. Is it unpaid VAT from the club shop? How much do premiership clubs pay the revenue in an average year?

  • Comment number 15.

    It's never good to see a club going out of business, particularly one who's worked so hard to get back where they belong. As a Brighton fan living in Preston, I'll be making the trip to the Crown Ground soon in order to show my support to the club.

  • Comment number 16.

    That's two weeks salary for someone like Lampard... puts it all into context doesn't it

  • Comment number 17.

    Cry me a river. The writing was on the wall with this one three years ago. It's about time clubs took paying their bills and taxes seriously. When businesses refuse to pay the correct amount of tax we all suffer as taxpayers and when those businesses refuse to pay bills (and in this case continue to run up more debts) other businesses (often local) suffer and jobs are often lost.
    The sponsor went under a few months ago, the club were warned 36 months ago. Mr Hey's reference to the sponsor issue is a deviation from the fact he has ran the club poorly over the last few years.
    The talk about Frank Lampard's wages or Premier League clubs bailing out The Stanley is an irrelevant side issue. Why should those that play by the rules (legally if not morally) prop up businesses that don't play by the rules?
    If the club were suffering because of a dodgy owner who wants to sell the club's stadium I'd help, I won't help this club that has spent 3 years on the edge (at best) of illegality.

  • Comment number 18.

    Without the support of the town by filling the stadium on a weekly basis, there is no point. It is all well talking sentimentally, but if they're saved this time, the whole thing is going to be repeated again, only because Accrington folk want to watch Blackburn and Burnley, while a lot of them would even rather watch Man Utd on TV.

  • Comment number 19.

    14. At 9:53pm on 23 Sep 2009, tone9876 wrote:

    I don't understand how Stanley owe the inland revenue £300,000 in the 1st place when they can't possibly have made a profit. Is it unpaid VAT from the club shop? How much do premiership clubs pay the revenue in an average year?


    I would imagine it's unpaid PAYE on the players & staff wages. If so, it's ridiculous that clubs run up these debts - since PAYE is a deduction from the player, not the club, surely all they need to do is remember to pay the taxman at the same time as the staff & players. I know that's what I do. It's also crazy that HMRC allow these debts to build for so long without any action, but then don't seem to accept repayment plans when they finally decide to chase the money

  • Comment number 20.

    I am appauled that the FA dont help out more with the lower league teams....I am a fulham fan have been for 26 years and im 30 i grew up watching lower league footy.

    It dont matter weather your premierleague or non league all our teams are part of the footballing empire and we are all family through football..Why cant the prem teams put in 30k each month as a back up for the lower league teams and what our the PFA doing not much as always.

    I think this country has forgot where football started it used to be a game for people who had not much money now it's 59 pounds for some tickets its amazing how some teams buy 80million players and clubs like accrington suffer because of it it dont matter who's fault the debt is or how it's going to be paid if i was rich like the premiership footballers then i would donate 1k out of my wages a week untill the future of this club is solid and not in any doubt.

    Im going to write a nice letter to the premierleague about this and the FA and to Fifa and ufea these things cant happen because the lost of one club can lead to so much more everyone i know talks about why dont the chairman spend 25 million on this player that player most of these people aint been to doncaster on a tuesday night in league 3 or a 500 mile round trip to watch there team.... frustration is there sorry...

    But one thing we cant ignore which man utd chelsea arsenal and liverpool will ignore is the fact how does anyone of these teams know that a young player at accrington could score the winning goal for england in a world cup final but if the club dont secure it's future we might never know !!!!

    Good Luck Accrington

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't think there is any solid defence for the club falling so far behind with their payments to HMRC - especially when Stanley claim it is the only big debt they have.

    However, I think there are a couple of points worth making. I mentioned to Hey that Stanley's debt would make little impact at a Premier League club. He was having none of that. Very much a case of, we have got into this mess, we must get out of it.

    He also talked about lessons to learn. For exmaple, Hey said that if Accrington do survive they will look at restructuring payments from their major sponsors so they can avoid any repeat of what happened when Fraser Eagle went bust.

    The Accrington chief executive was also at pains to suggest that the club are not looking for sympathy because they have got themselves into their current mess. But I guess they would like your cash!

  • Comment number 22.

    I was so glad when this club came back into the football league, it would be a crime for them to go into administration!

    It is to the clubs credit to try and settle the debt in this way, and I do feel that it will be a positive outcome for them!

    Now as a thought for the future, how about the FOOTBALL LEAGUE creating a fund whereby they could save small clubs like this from a winding up order or going into administration! because of an unfair time scale for repayment of debt! ANY club who is helped could repay the fund over a longer time period!

    It's not JUST for the club, but for the whole local community which will benefit form the clubs survival!

  • Comment number 23.

    Is there no-one out there who remembers why Accrington Stanley was in the non-league wilderness for so long? My Dad (a native of Accrington) describes a financial crisis at Stanley in the 1960s. Their ground was then at the top of a hill by (I think) Stanley Parade and they were a very respectable team. There was no Internet in those days; the "totaliser" was a thermometer painted by the main gate with the target of cash to be raised in order to save the club. Well, after a promising start the fund-raising dried up, the club went broke and dropped right out of the League. Despite the well-wishers, I suspect history will repeat itself in 2009. Lancashire has many football clubs and in a recession some will suffer.

  • Comment number 24.

    Quote: I think the fundraising efforts shows just how much a local club matters to the people of its local area.

    Oooh yes, crowds halved in a couple of years, great, superb support from the local community! they should go back to the Northern Premier League and allow a better run, more prudent and ultimately more sustainable club replace them in the football league.

  • Comment number 25.

    It's not Hay, it's not Hey, it's HEYS.

    Robert Heys, a very decent man who is much admired by all who know him.

    Rob's determination to do the right thing will be one of the principal factors in getting Stanley out of this mess.

  • Comment number 26.

    This may be a silly idea, but why don't all PL clubs just give Stanley 15K each?
    Yes let's bail out the poorly run clubs very time shall we. Did you feel the same when it was Leeds? Thought not.

    I hope they raise the money to stay in business.

    But then I hope they get realistic and cut their cloth accordingly. As much as their fans and the owners want them to be a league club they are just not able to sustain it financially and if relegation is what results from only signing players that you can afford to pay (falling behind on tax is pretty much not being able to pay wages) then that is what the club will have to accept.

  • Comment number 27.

    "Now as a thought for the future, how about the FOOTBALL LEAGUE creating a fund whereby they could save small clubs like this from a winding up order or going into administration!"

    NO. NO. and again NO. This club is deserving of the situation they're in, and by rights should by in the BSP, their natural home. There are many teams in that division that could cut it in League 2, even some part time teams. Those clubs aren't in League 2 however because their owners/ chairmen choose to pay bills and taxes correctly and run the clubs properly.

  • Comment number 28.

    They clearly didn't think of the Crewe fans who COULD have attended on the Saturday but, for reasons such as travel and working on Friday, cannot attend the late kick-off on the Friday.

    Given its close-ish proximity to Crewe we could have brought quite a few supporters down - now though it seems like it will be about half what we would have done had it being played 20 or so hours later.

    They'd rather push it back and hope that fans of other clubs will come along and watch the game whilst those who would be there, and cannot get there, miss out.

    A dreadful mistake by those in charge at the club in my opinion.

  • Comment number 29.

    Let them go bust. They got themselves into that mess, if they can't get out of it that's their fault. Things are tight enough as it is without worrying about funding some lower-league football team with 'history' that is all but irrelevant.

  • Comment number 30.

    Incidentally, that last "let them go bust" post was by someone with an interest in Formula One, the epitomy of financial prudence.

    I'm not suggesting that any club be allowed to get away with their side competing by spending money they don't have. But surely more needs to be done to stop clubs getting themselves into this sort of mess in the first place. If the likes of Leeds United and Southampton can reach the brink of extinction, and the likes of Wrexham and Accrington can run themselves up six or seven figure debts, football really needs to take a long, hard look at the way it regulates itself.

    Accrington's insistence that they are responsible for the mess is admirable. But the Football Association, Football League and HMRC are partially to blame for allowing this club, and dozens like it, to fall so far into the red, and then allowing the rug to be pulled from under it so quickly.

  • Comment number 31.

    When they collapsed in '62 it was Oxford United who benefited by taking their place.
    When AS re-gained their Leagues Status is was at Oxford United's expense.

    A touch of deja vu this season?


  • Comment number 32.

    Good article and I wish Accrington the best of luck in their fight to avoid being wound up. One point I would like to make is that HMRC do not appear to treat all clubs the same, Leeds weren't treated like this when they "welched" on their debt to the country. It may be the change in the economic climate but it may also be because "it's only Accrington".

  • Comment number 33.

    The best of luck to Stanley, who have chosen the honourable if more difficult path to clearing debt.

    I don't think the establishment of a League "emergency fund" would work, because it would provide something that clubs would factor into their spending; "We can go over budget and the League will always bail us out..." Better for the League to set up the mechanism to collect tax from clubs as they deduct if from players, so that it is not sloshing around in clubs' bank accounts, waiting to be spent on something else.

  • Comment number 34.

    This is something that annoys me!!
    the small clubs run up a debt that a big club would just laugh at and yet the small club gets lynched!!
    there are big teams in england and europe that are millions in debt and are allowed to continue spending extortionate amounts on players and wages!!
    if i remember rightly the Inland revenue wrote of millions in debt owed by premier league clubs recently!
    so how is this any different?!

    All the best to Stanley as no-one wants to see a club go bankrupt.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'd like to know how a tiny club like Accrington manages to run up a tax bill of over £300k?

    What these "supporters" of premier league clubs forget is that it is the structure of the football league and below that the non-league pyramid that helps to prop up the premier league big boys. It's the greedy, money sucking, self-indulgent way of the premier league that means clubs are struggling to survive in the lower leagues. When wages and fees are over inflated at the top level it filters its way down the leagues and clubs with a small turnover like Accrington struggle to make ends meet. You can't fault them for having a bit of ambition.

    The way I understand it, it was the collapse of Accrington's major sponsor and revenue stream that caused these problems. They can't be blamed for including that income in their spending plans otherwise what would be the point of having a sponsor in the first place?

    Best of luck to Accrington, though it sounds like the chairman may have to swallow his pride and accept some financial help.

  • Comment number 36.

    14. At 9:53pm on 23 Sep 2009, tone9876 wrote:
    I don't understand how Stanley owe the inland revenue £300,000 in the 1st place when they can't possibly have made a profit. Is it unpaid VAT from the club shop?


    The Tax bill more than likely relates to VAT which the HMRC calculate based on the previous year's revenue and charge in advance at the start of the financial year and although attendances are on average 1500 per game the revenuew bill is based on crowds of 2500 per game. In essence if more people turned up for games the tax debt would be lower

    As for the people who say they got themselves into this mess - their sponsor went bust and that cut about £250K out of the clubs revenue stream for the year.

    Hopefull Acrrington can recover and the revenue should recover tax only on income earned not potential or assumed income.

  • Comment number 37.

    The problem for lower and non-league teams is that they have to plan their spending for a season on predicted income. Last season Accrington would have predicted higher attendances plus the continued revenue from their major sponsor. In both cases they have had a financial shortfall. In terms of the latter a major one.

    What gets me is that despite the club putting in a proposal to HMRC to repay the amount over a long period, HMRC would rather force the business into liquidation. While this may be "taxpayer's money" it cannot be right/moral for HMRC to act in this manner especially during this time.

    Also remember the teams in the conference this season. Each had budgeted on receiving a minimum £80k from the Setanta Sports TV deal. With their demise and no new deal in place each club has tried to cope with the shortfall. Even the smaller conf teams have yearly budgets of around £250k and are really struggling with such a big loss of income - one team has already gone into administration and others more follow.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ capnpugwah:
    "It is terrifying that a club with the history of Accrington Stanley can be allowed to go under"

    Accrington Stanley's history stretches back to 1967. Hardly illustrious. They are no relation to the team of the same name that went bankrupt in 1962. Having said that, I don't want any side to go under (even though it might be OUFC who benefits by their demise), but one has to wonder whether Accrington can support a professional football club given that this isn't the first time they find themselves in this position.

  • Comment number 39.

    Great article.

    Personally, I find it heart warming that so many people who support other clubs have helped and supported the cause. So many headlines about football supporters are negative, showing the bad side of things with hooliganism or racism dominating the stories. I think this article shows the true nature of most football fans.

    Yes, we have our rivalries and love it when our opponents struggle. As a Man U fan I love it when Rafa Benitez has another crazy rant or Arsene Wenger's weird vision fails to see the obvious! But I am also fully aware that without those opponents my team's success (or otherwise) means nothing. So, while I love to see my opponents lose, I don't want to see them disappear. Those rivalries are about in every league, and one day the little minows might be the big fish...

  • Comment number 40.

    I have had the pleasure to visit Stanley on a few occasions in the last few years when we were down there. And I say pleasure as its a great tatty ground that is falling down, some great pubs with real ale and the fans and supporters of Stanley are great to chat to and friendly. All in all its a great day out and we've always got the result.

    It certainly brings to the forefront again this argument about clubs spending beyond their means and running up debts they cannot control. The F.A must reform the way clubs are run otherwise I fear the recent increase in clubs going into admin will spiral out of control and we will begin to see some clubs unable to exit it and ceasing to exist. And as it has been said above we lower league teams prop up the football league, without us football in England isn't sustainable and the whole thing will pop and then you can forget your million pound superstars, your prawn sandwiches, corporate boxes, replica shirts and watching 'your team' on the box.

    It would be an utter tradgedy to see Stanley go the way of recent clubs that have had similar trouble with HMRC ect... Scarbourgh and Halifax. Having recently entered Admin and still finding ourselves in it I'm sure I'm speaking on behalf of most county fans in saying good luck in getting out of your position and keep going.

  • Comment number 41.

    HMRC seems very keen to chase these clubs for relatively small amounts. And closing them down means getting nothing or just a fraction of what is owed. That seems poor business on behalf of HMRC.

    Strangely it also regularly allows rich businessmen to STEAL millions from the UK taxpayer - via tax-havens, fiddles and dodgy dealing - without ever bringing those people to book.

    One recent case (which, to be fair, they did prosecute) of a rich businessman was equal to the debt of Fifteen Accrington Stanleys.

    Clearly, HMRC should focus elsewhere!

  • Comment number 42.

    Re: bluetrimtrabb

    Nice bit of support there!!!?

    I used to go to watch Stanley every week when they were in the Unibond League, Northern Premier and Conference and I always noticed that when Burnley played away, there would be a good number of Burnley fans at the ground. Same goes for Blackburn. Unfortunatley, there aren't enough people in Accrington who are interested in solely supporting Stanley.

    I can see that once this problem is sorted another debt will be run up as attendances can't be greater due to lack of interest.

    On a lighter note, we used to have a winger called Ashley Hoskin who looked like Phil Collins. I seem to remember us approaching his millionaire doppelganger and asking him for 2 grand as we had a player who looked like him! Cheeky, but it worked!! I think he became a life vice-president after that as well!!

    No chance of tapping him up again!?


    Worth a go anyway.

  • Comment number 43.

    As a supporter of Aldershot i know all to well the feeling of being on the brink of extinction, and then the sickening feeling of knowing that your club no longer exists... I also know the feeling of fighting back and regaining what you have lost... And for the older fans at Accrington to be going through this twice must be close to unbearable... I hope they can over come this obstacle!

    Oh and to 38, to suggest that the old club and the reformed club have nothing to do with each other displays a level of ignorance that makes me sick to my stomach... It is the FANS who rebuild these teams and support these teams, and it is thier history... And to 27, they would not go to the BSP ("thier natural home") they would start from nothing, and your criticism of conference football is misplaced, it is a tremendous league with amazing fans, and as competitive as any league above it.

  • Comment number 44.

    15. At 9:57pm on 23 Sep 2009, Lucky_C wrote:
    It's never good to see a club going out of business, particularly one who's worked so hard to get back where they belong. As a Brighton fan living in Preston, I'll be making the trip to the Crown Ground soon in order to show my support to the club.

    Sorry I was pleased to see Scarborough go out of business and now Scarborough Athletic are in a lower league than Whitby Town - Hilarious for all WTFC and football fans in general

    Saying that I do like the McCains Stadium and its a shame to see it rotting like it is

    Great Article by the way

  • Comment number 45.

    Oufc Boris wrote "Accrington Stanley's history stretches back to 1967. Hardly illustrious. They are no relation to the team of the same name that went bankrupt in 1962. Having said that, I don't want any side to go under (even though it might be OUFC who benefits by their demise), but one has to wonder whether Accrington can support a professional football club given that this isn't the first time they find themselves in this position."

    Couldnt agree more they are not a league founder as they try to claim, and the simple facts is there are too many clubs in the north west for yet another to have a decent fanbase, HMRC have bent over backwards and given them chance after chance I predicted this several years ago its sad but where was all the support for other clubs who have vanished like Scarboro and far older North West clubs like Northwich Vic's and Chester are heading in the same direction but they never get any press.....

  • Comment number 46.

    Accrington Stanley are an odious little club who have brought this on themselves. They bought their way up from the Unibond to the Conference and into the league with money they did not have, paltry attendances and a crap ground. It's all very well for people who support higher league sides to pity clubs like Accy, but if you actually took any notice, you would see there are dozens of clubs in the lower/non-leagues in similar positions - throw thousands of pounds in the hope that it will reap rewards. It doesn't work.

    All this 'club that wouldn't die' thing is utter nonsense. They folded once before and they're on their way to doing it again. They should have realised you can't be a league club on 1500 crowds. What do they do? Throw money after money on players they couldn't afford and avoid paying tax, and now they want handouts!!!

    A few years ago during a match between Accy and Altrincham, they had the temerity to laugh at our bucket collections as they bought their way (tax free) up the league. Now it's come back to bite them.

    The sooner clubs like Accrington go out of business the better.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think a lot of these comments are unrealistic and unfair.

    To put it frankly these clubs are businesses first and foremost to Chairmen. They put their hard earned money in and a lot of businessmen are not investing in football for a profit. I think a lot of comments here are looking to romantically at this. My club Halifax Town were in the same situation a few years ago. It was our fault we got into the situation, so I do understand this.

    Accrington have been unlucky with the sponsor issues but really something should have been sorted by now even if it was someone new coming in. I admire what the club are trying to do. I just get frustrated by the people saying other clubs should help. Why should they? It would just encourage bad business and chairmen. The premier league do help the lower leagues ( this was money given to help the pull out of Setanta. They cannot be expected however to support those clubs who have followed bad financial planning. And would it not be unfair on the other teams if Accrington received this money? Football is now a business game as well as being football unfortunately. I wish it wasn't but when I pay my 15 pounds to go to a Unibond North game I understand that. The sooner we see that the better?

    Would you agree Paul??

  • Comment number 48.

    As a Port Vale fan, I am no stranger to financial problems. I am also no stranger to Robert Heys, Stanleys' chief executive, who I have been fortunate to meet and interview in the past. This man is Stanley through and through and will doubtlessly work tirelessly to save his club from financial meltdown. Equally, manager John Coleman enthuses his pride and utter loyalty towards the club's future, and what an excellent job he has done. With these two at the helm, I am sure Stanley will survive.

  • Comment number 49.

    "Equally, manager John Coleman enthuses his pride and utter loyalty towards the club's future, and what an excellent job he has done. With these two at the helm, I am sure Stanley will survive."

    It's because of them they're in this trouble! They've bought/paid players they could not afford, screwed over other clubs in their scrabble to get into the league, ignored their tax bills (this has obviously been going on for years).

    It's their fault and their fault alone. Let them deal with it alone.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think this country has forgot where football started it used to be a game for people who had not much money now it's 59 pounds for some tickets...


    Sorry but I have no sympathy here. Football has got to the point where it costs so much because of clubs living beyond their means in order to meet the desires of idiotic fans for whom the current situation is never enough.

    If all clubs lived to their means then being a lower league football supporter would be far more affordable for the common man, instead due to pressure from those same fans they pay over the odds for poor players in order to try and climb the ladder, this permeates all the way up to the top. It is not a one way street of the best being paid more and the rest wantign to catch up, it goes both ways. If Stanley pay a player £2k a week, then someone in League One demands £5k per week, then someone in the championship demands £15k per week, then Lucas Neill demands $60k per week, then Ronaldo asks for £150k per week. Remember that these lower league players, the guys turning out for the likes of Stanley are on massive wages compared to the fans as it is, £2k per week is £100k per year, how much do you and I earn compared to that?

    Lower league clubs need to understand that paying players this amoutn is just not viable and so do the fans who keep encouraging the club to get their chequebook out to "show some ambition".

    At Swansea (my club) we have supposedly earned £4m from the sale of Jason Scotland and Roberto Martinez's compensation. A handful of games in and some fans are asking "where did the money go?" Despite us spending £500k on Craig Beattie, £400k on Nathan Dyer (they ignore this because he was with us last year on loan), improving the contracts of a dozen players (most of them were still on League One or youth team wages before now), bringing in half a dozen free agents, at least one of those on clost to £10k per week. But aparently according to mot you ask we've only actually paid any money for Beattie. Fans are not and never have been sensible about club finances and dont seem to understand that a one off payment of £4m does not go that far, eslecially for a club that gets promoted and sees a corresponding 50% or more rise in it's wage bill as a result. Those fans want us to go out and spend money that we need, yes we have it there in the bank but until we can build better commercial links (and they are improving year on year) and finish upgrading the training and youth facilities to championship standard to match our stadium, we will be running at a loss and need that money to survive. Yet all most fans can talk abotu is who we should buy to push into the playoffs.

    Clubs and fans both need a check in realism and it is going to take a reasonable sized club really going out of business to do it. We have had 30 or 4 of these situations in the last 10 years and each time somethign saves the club, whether it be a new owner, administration, a con-trick like Leeds pulled or some other thing. To be hoenst Accrinton are not big enoguh for it to matter unfortunately, just like Aldershot and Gretna, it will take a Leicester, Leeds, Charlton, Portsmouth or Cardiff going under to actually make people take notice and it is coming in the next few years believe me.

  • Comment number 51.

    What could really help a club like Accrington at the moment is if they were able to sell a player or two for a fee and get in money that way. Unfortunately FIFA decided that they would introduce transfer windows, which means they can't do this until January.

    Surprised Liverpool haven't helped in anyway the same as Burnley or similar considering Gerrard is a long time friend of the accrington keeper Ian Dubhavin

  • Comment number 52.

    So many big clubs like Leeds whose earnings compared to Stanley are ridiculous ended up paying less than 10% of what they owed in tax.

    One Leeds player probably earns more a year than Stanley do....

  • Comment number 53.

    This ongoing problem about creditors wanting their money would be sorted if the FA forced clubs to prepare up to date accounts and cashflows. Quarterly audited accounts should be required for all clubs in order that they can continue to participate in the leagues.

    Most clubs are run like amateur clubs not professional businesses and the finance side of it only becomes important when it all goes wrong.

    Why wasnt the HMRC paid each month? Instead of the debt being allowed to build up?

  • Comment number 54.

    An interesting divide in the comments here - some really want to see Accrington saved. Others clearly feel that the club do not deserve any sympathy and should be left to try to get of their current mess on their own.

    At the risk of sounding like the ultimate fence sitter - I can see both points of view.

    To linleyshaymenfan (post 47)- You are quite right to say that football is now a business. Clubs need to be professionally run or they will encounter the sort of situation Accrington are currently in. The entire Stanley situation is, clearly, a mess.

  • Comment number 55.

    I've read all the comments on this thread with genuine interest.

    There can be no doubt that Accrington Stanley Football Club is held in great affection, not just in England but worldwide.

    But the point has been made, quite understandably, that Stanley have no immunity from prosecution if they break the law, and they have no divine right to carry on in business.

    I believe that Accrington Stanley have achieved the highest status which they ever shall (and ever should) possess in the lower half of Football League 2, 2009-10 Season, given the limitations of their Crown Ground, their fanbase and (most important of all) the total indifference of the people of Accrington.

    This lovely football club and its lovely fans now deserve what medical experts refer to as 'respite'.

    A gentle, painless gravitation through two or more levels of the football pyramid, finally arriving at a status which will provide dignity for all concerned and a true reflection of Accrington Stanley's place in the scheme of things.

    Stanley will forever benefit from that sort of income with which one might associate the marketing of such an iconic Club, and it's not too fanciful to suggest that League 2's worst attendances will miraculously become Conference North's highest at the very same ground.

    No fan segregation, cheap admission, the return of affordable pie'n'peas, alcohol consumption allowed in the ground . . . and that's just at home.

    Away? Stanley fans will be able to afford to travel to every ground in the division.

    When you think about it, this could be football at its very, very best.

  • Comment number 56.

    BTW, PF, thank you for going back to the beginning and correcting the 'Heys' factor.
    Much appreciated.

  • Comment number 57.

    An interesting set of comments, covering a range of the current issues of football finance. If you really want an insight try Tom Bower's 'Broken Dreams'
    As far as Accrington Stanley are concerned, I'm in the 'let them go' camp for a number of the reasons already expressed, but mainly because of the way they clogged their way out of the Conference. I had the misfortune to see them 4 times that season and they were just a bunch of thugs in footy shirts. They and Coleman lost all my respect then.

  • Comment number 58.

    As an update, Liverpool are the latest club to join Accrington's effort and have agreed to a collection when Hull visit Anfield tomorrow. The full story:

  • Comment number 59.

    Whilst I feel for the Accrington fans they are clearly playing at a level that is unsubstainable on sub-2000 crowds. Mind you they're not the only ones, League 2 seems to be full of struggling clubs at the moment. I reckon it's time to do away with the automatic promotion between the Conference and Football League and bring back re-election. It was a better method as it ensured that only teams with the financial means to survive would come into the league.

  • Comment number 60.

    No.49 - You don't know what you're talking about. Accrington certainly do not have a squad full of players they can't afford. They are small club operating on a tiny budget compared to many of the clubs even in league 2. Their squad reflects this I can assure you.

    No.50 - I very much doubt that Accrington have any players on anything near £2k per week. I'd be surprised if they have any on as much as £1k.

    Accrington's plight is down to their sponsor going bust. Every business tries to balance the books by matching income and expenditure. Spending is planned based on expected income, it has to be this way. When a source of income is unexpectedly taken away through no fault of the club's, the expenditure commitment is still there and is a lot more difficult to rearrange due to contracts, etc. In business this often leads to a snowball effect with the failure of one business meaning another doesn't get paid which means they then go under and so on.

    There are endless reasons why football clubs should be seen differently to out and out businesses, more so in the lower half of the football league and possibly the non-league. Things like the the focal point of their local communities, etc of which the importance can't be measured but you can be sure they'd leave a huge hole when they are gone.

    If everyone that attends a game in the premier league and football league this weekend puts 20p in a collection. That's the coppers most of us will have in our pockets, that'll save Accrington.

  • Comment number 61.

    Accrington have a real cheek to come begging for money. They knowingly broke the Conference's wage cap rules to gain promotion. They cheated, they over spent and they live outside of their means. They should be punished as an example to show that you have to live within your means these days. Buying glory only leads to ruin, as I hope it will in the Prem too.

    Lets not forget, this is NOT the same Accrington Stanley that went bust all those years ago. This is a seperate Team, History, Company living off of that teams name.

  • Comment number 62.

    Employers must pay 12.8% National Insurance contributions on their employees' wages. That's in addition to the deductions from the employees' wage packets. £308,000 is 12.8% of £2.4m, which is a weekly outgoing of £46,274. I can imagine that a squad of 18 players (not counting players loaned to the club, who may be paid by the parent club or the loan club) are earning an average of £2,500 per week even down in League Two. There will of course be other staff which reduces the overall average.

    Fans regularly see the headline transfer fees paid to another club to buy a player's contract, but the players' wage demands usually only come up when a player is negotiating a new contract with the same club. The wages are the long-term problem.

    You could equally say that John Terry or Frank Lampard could give up two weeks' wages to pay off this debt (OK, three weeks - the taxman takes nearly 40%). They won't, though.

  • Comment number 63.

    No.61 Haizee.

    Perfect post.

    They broke the wage cap rule and therefore gained an unfair advantage against those clubs that live within their means.

    Why is that fair? Why should other clubs put money in a bucket when they were quite happy to break the law and cheat their way to promotion.

  • Comment number 64.

    No. 59 - madmickeyf, I'm afraid it's too late now to close the automatic promotion door between the Conference and the fourth division. In the Conference now there are half a dozen clubs (Oxford, Luton, Cambridge, Wrexham, York, and Mansfield) who generate the crowds and have the financial muscle to survive in the League. In the fourth division there are a number of clubs (Accrington, Macclesfield, Barnet, Dagenham, Morecambe...) that don't get large enough crowds to sustain full-time professional football.

    Rather than end automatic promotion it would be better to have two automatic promotion places, giving these bigger clubs a better chance of escaping the pyramid's lowest national division (and for how much longer can the Conf remain nationwide?) and restoring the status quo. Otherwise these 'bigger' clubs could well go the way of Halifax and Maidstone etc. as crowds drop and revenue decreases.

  • Comment number 65.

    How were they allowed to run up a £308,000 tax bill in the first place!

    Football is a disgrace.

  • Comment number 66.

    I remember reading that Stanley failed to get dispensation from the League to delay having to pay around 60K to install another 1,000 seats - did they have to do this? With this amount coupled with the collapse of Fraser Eagle and fall in attendances/revenue with the credit crunch shows how easy it is to see where this debt came from.

    Plus the club had a deal with the HMRC setting out a timeline to pay off the debt. This deadline was then shortened giving them til the end of October not the year.

    I am not saying that we should excuse the responsibility that the club has to look after its own finances but when clubs like Man U can be hundreds of millions of pounds in debt it makes you think doesn't it...

    In the grand scheme of things in football this isn't a great sum of money. This is a Lancashire club - how about some help from Man U and Man City eh? I see Blackburn are now in talks with the club to arrange a friendly for November - I just hope Stanley still exist then.

    What do the HMRC expect to happen when they let debts to them build up year on year and then demand their repayment within weeks in the middle of a recession...

  • Comment number 67.

    No.62 - there won't be more than a dozen players in League 2 earning £2500 a week.

    My club, Bradford City had the biggest wage budget in that division last season and the top earner wasn't on that much.

  • Comment number 68.

    There are some bitter comments appearing from some BSP club supporters.
    Stanley did not clog their way to the Conference title Gary Roberts, Rory Pendergast and Lutel James were hardly cloggers. A team playing with 2 wingers alway needs a strong centre forward (Paul Mullin)Some people can't take it. Ask Sol Campbell!

  • Comment number 69.

    It is interesting to see the variety of opinions on the current plight of Accrington. I have been to about half the home games over the last couple of years, and there are a few things that ought to be mentioned in regard to the bringing about of this situation.
    Firstly, Accrington have not exactly been massive spenders, they operate on a threadbare squad and even with an almost fully fit squad had youth players on the bench last night.
    The description of them as cloggers is unfair, they genuinely try to play a passing game, and this coupled with a dodgy defence makes for some quite good viewing for the neutral.
    A massive financial drain over the last couple of years has been the neccessity to bring the ground up to scratch for league football. This wasn't optional, they had to do it to comply with regulation and this has put a lot of extra strain on the already streched finances.
    The point of the decreasing attendances has been highlighted, however using a ball park figure of £10 a match (prices are £13 £8 concessions on terrace), this equates to approximately £8-10k a match. Add this to the catastrophic failure of Fraser Eagle and the problems are understandable.
    I completely agree with those commenting that badly run clubs should not be bailed out, however this club is by no means in the lowest catagory. Yes they have made mistakes, but in general they have made every effort to live within their means. There are many clubs in the football league in a relatively far worse state who are not as honest about their problems and so do not get the criticism, preferring to take the money off shady figures in return for a controlling stake. Whether or not Mr Khan is one of such figures is not known, however the genuine attempt to get themselves out of trouble rather than bailing out (Yes you Mr Risdale) is a refreshing change.

  • Comment number 70.

    i am from ISRAEL and i am ARSENAL supporter. i hope Accrington Stanley will survived. this is hard era for the modest clubs and they should
    cut their costs. good luck !

  • Comment number 71.

    i would just like to say that considering the current situation AS find themselves in the manager and the players and everyone involved in the club are doing a sterling job. being an avid Chesterfield fan i attended the game this weekend and although we won and quite rightly deserved to, i thought accrington were a very good footballing side and the manager clearly had the players focussed on their football. being a fellow league 2 fan i feel so deeply for the Accy fans and wish my club would do their part to help their plight. Its awful and heart wrenching for me to see a fellow football league club slipping out of existence when the fat cat teams in the premiership sit happily on millions of pounds worth of debt with not a care in the world, it makes me sick. i am so saddened by the fact that above league 1 football is now no longer a sport but a business that seems to give no secondary thought for the fans except for how many shirts they can flog to us at extortionate prices every year!!!i would love to see Accy survive this and to all the people who wrote in to this blog saying rediculous comments like "let them go bust they deserve it" well i hope karma catches up on you selfish people and you find your club in the same position in a few years time and then see how your plea may fall on deaf ears. good luck to all Accy fans i will do my damndest to make it to a match and help you in your fight against the money hungry powers that be in this country!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    36. At 09:06am on 24 Sep 2009, adampsb wrote:

    The Tax bill more than likely relates to VAT which the HMRC calculate based on the previous year's revenue and charge in advance at the start of the financial year and although attendances are on average 1500 per game the revenuew bill is based on crowds of 2500 per game. In essence if more people turned up for games the tax debt would be lower

    This is clear misunderstanding of how VAT is calculated. Did you just dream this up? Any VAT registered business simply pays the difference between the VAT is charges on its revenue and the VAT it is charged on its purchases. It is only the last link in the chain, the consumer, that pays VAT.
    I have no sympathy as the the club is using taxpapayers money to keep afloat. They will have been many months of action from HMRC trying to collect the unpaid tax before it had got to the winding-up stage. Ultimately the only option HMRC has to force a business to pay is through winding-up/bankruptcy proceedings. This often results in the clubs going into admistration. HRMC are really in a no-win situation. Clearly Stanly are not the only club that are doing this, as many football clubs have been living beyond there means by not paying their taxes.
    I hop Stanley surive, as my club would lose 3 points if there were to go out of exsistance.

  • Comment number 73.

    I'm very glad to see other clubs helping out Accrington Stanley at this difficult time.
    I know it sounds daft but if a few other clubs (particularly the Premiership sides) would each donate £5'000-£10'000 each then Accrington Stanley would be some what nearer to the £308K target. After all, the Manchester City owner would be able to pay the dept off in less then half a days interest... so 10k shouldn't bother him.
    fair enough it is not other clubs responsibility to pay the depts of another club, but for any one that is a football fan, no matter who you support, it is not nice to see another club go into administration.
    Speaking of football fans, if everybody that went to a Premiership game this weekend (24th and 25th October)each donated 5p to SOS, each game averaging at 25000 attendance x 10 games the Accrington stanley would raise £1250000!!! yes, thats £1.25 million!
    I personally wish ASFC the very best of luck for the near future an I am keeping my fingers crossed for the club. Good Luck, Jamie (avfc fan)

  • Comment number 74.

    As the sponsor of Accrington Stanley's dugouts since the conference days we have started an inititive to raise £10,000 towards the outstanding bill as a thank you for the work and effort Accrington have put in to the relationship. In our eyes Accrington has been well run and circumstances which are today affecting many businesses, not just football clubs, have contributed to the current situation. If you have 5 minutes to spare please take a look at


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