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Bulls hit financial trouble

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Relegation from League 2 to the Conference has produced financial challenges for Hereford United and part-time football is one of the options being considered.  However, most Conference sides are now full time and such a move could undermine a push for promotion.   The Bulls are currently 12th out of 24 teams.

At the moment the club is losing £8,000 a week.   The club knew there would have to be budget cuts after their relegation from the Football League for the second time in 15 years.   However, disappointing attendances have been a particular problem.   That in part reflects performances on the pitch, so cutting back further could start a vicious cycle of decline.

The board budgeted for home gates of around 2,400, but so far have averaged just 1,819.  At £11-£12 a ticket, that is a shortfall of £8,000-£9,000.   In League 2 average attendances were 2,553, but even that represented a decline from 3,421 in 2007-8, although 2009-10 was worse at 2,138.

On top of the other problems, Hereford face a sizeable VAT bill after a routine audit revealed under payment.   Revenue & Customs claim that the club owes about £45,000, predominantly from the 2008-9 season.  The club is trying to negotiate a payment plan.

On the expenditure side the wage bill has been reduced after striker Marc Canham left the club to join Blue Square Bet South side Bath City on loan.

Bulls chairman David Keyte, who owns 16 per cent of the shares in the club, has called a shareholders meeting later in the month in a bid to attract new investment.   He admitted, 'With football up and down the country struggling with low attendances, it doesn't stand out as an obvious investment.'    He also hinted in an interview with BBC Hereford & Worcester that his patience was wearing thin: 'On a personal level, I possibly have some regrets about carrying it for the past three years.'

The squeeze on disposable income that has resulted from inflation outpacing earnings has had an impact on all lower level clubs.   Hereford has the advantage of being a 'stand alone' club with a substantial catchment area it can call its own.   However, propserous retirees in the area may not identify with the club, while others might be prepared to travel to the West Midlands conurbation for a higher level of football.   Its relative remoteness may put off some away fans from making the journey.