MEMBERS HEAR FUTURE PLANS
(Friday 6th February 2004)
Accounts 2003 With the three presentation meetings complete, Wycombe Wanderers Football Club members have had a chance to hear proposals for the future structure of the Club as well as being offered a question and answer session to help clarify certain issues. The Board have an objective to raise capital to get them over potential cash flow problems and want to re-constitute the Club to allow the money to be raised through share capital. However, they have to overcome the concerns of members who believe that this could risk the long term future of the Club in return for a short term gamble and a potential loss of control of the Club. The Club have asked an independent accountant to assist in the process but they will have to obtain 75% of any members vote held at an AGM or EGM to make any changes.
Club Chairman Ivor Beeks was keen to point out at the first meeting held on Tuesday 27th January that the Board had not yet set any proposals in stone, commenting "There are no pre conceived ideas. Anybody coming here this evening thinking we have got all the answers, we haven't. What we have got is a range of thoughts that we wish to share with you and hopefully we can get a lot of feedback, so together hopefully we can move forward."
Further meetings took place on the evenings of Monday 2nd February and Wednesday 4th February with the key players at the Club giving a 30 minute presentation to the members on the current financial state of the Club and what options they believed were there for the future.
Financial Director Rod Tomlin pointed to the Club's net assets of 2m but revealed that an estimated net 500,000 loss at the end of the current season compared to a budgetted loss of around 300,000 would leave the Club with "Intense pressure on cash flow". The situation is also compounded by factors including the agreed pay-off to former Manager Lawrie Sanchez, a drop in gate receipts and lower returns from the conference and banqueting facilities. Tomlin stated "We do need to trade in the future at no worse than break even level. That's what we have to plan to do and certainly if we need to attract new investment, that's absolutely what we must do"
Club Vice Chairman Brian Kane spoke at the first meeting and said "I personally believe there is no reason why Wycombe couldn't be a Gillingham, a Rotherham or a Crewe in Division One. I think a well run club that has been close to Division 1 in the past, there is no reason why Division 1 shouldn't be a goal or target for us." However, he insisted that the option of continuing without reviewing do not exist, adding "We have reached a point where we have to make some decisions. The options from the decisions we can still think about bit the continuation of the status quo I do not believe is there." Kane, who joined the Board in the summer of 2000 and who is widely tipped as the next Chairman of the Club, added "I believe one of the most important things is that for a Club that comes from the size of town that Wycombe is that we maintain the heritage and safeguard the Club. When we've been looking at the options, one of the most important things is to ensure that going forward is we safeguard our heritage."
While there were no firm proposals on offer Chairman Ivor Beeks stated the objective was "To open to a wider share ownership and the potential to raise additional free capital and investment." However, he qualified this by adding "but not at all costs". He stated that a possible 15% could be put on shareholder but also confirmed that number of current directors would become shareholders along with new 'investors'. It was later estimated that there would be less than ten major shareholders in the perceived new structure with Rod Tomlin hinting that Tony Adams had suggested that he had friends and contacts who had an interest in Wycombe Wanderers.
As suggested in the press and through the official matchday programme, this objective aims to raise around 1.5m in capital by reconstituting the Club to a 'normal limited company' and issuing shares to a number of 'investors' who would then effectively own the Club. Previous suggestions that part of the Club could be 'sold-off' or the ground split from the business side have been ruled out due to tax implications and potential problems with getting sanction from the Football League. A part ownership by a notional 'Supporters Trust' is also said to be being considered but talks to date have brought little progress.
Members have concerns that scrapping the Limited by Guarantee constitution will leave the Club open to a potential takeover threat and asset stripping as has been encountered by numerous other Football Clubs in recent years. It's clearly a concern that the Board are trying to placate. They are taking advice from leading accountants Baker Tilley who specialise in the 'reconstruction' of companies in the fund raising and 'not for profit' sector. They have worked with Football League Clubs including Chesterfield, Gillingham, Portsmouth, Leicester City and most recently Luton Town. A representative from the company attended the meetings to outline their involvement with the Club and to field concerns from members. The Club have yet to decide whether to engage them.
The Club have promised that feedback from the meetings will be passed to members in the near future. Members are also being asked to contact the Club with their questions, concerns and ideas. The Club have set a deadline of June 2004 on resolving these latest proposals but if history is anything to go by, there is a lot of debating, spinning, unspinning and general deciphering of information to come. See the story unfold on chairboys.co.uk


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