Can Hereford United avoid administration?
As it so happens, I had a pleasant day out in the mild autumn weather in Herefordshire yesterday. The road signs at the county border showing a bull and a 'we can' slogan got me thinking about the fate of Hereford United. When I got home there was an e-mail directing me a statement by the club about its financial plight.
This is clearly very serious, indeed the club is hovering on the brink of administration. They admit that they will not be able to meet their PAYE commitments and Revenue & Customs does not like being used as a credit card, Although they will alllow some leeway, particularly if a club is up front with them, the inevitable consequence of a continuing failure to pay will be winding up proceedings.
They are clearly having cash flow problems: it's a bad sign when you start to look at the number of home fixtures and hope those around Christmas will bring money through the gate. The extent of the hit that results from a reduced share of Premier League television money is evident. £734,000 last season is a tidy sum for a League 2 club on a modest budget, but such parachute payments as are made are of a modest nature compared with those received by Championship clubs coming down from the top flight.
Herefordshire is in some ways a prosperous county, at least in outward appearance, but as in most rural areas, there are real problems of lack of access to work and poverty. Quite a lot of manufacturing in the county is tied to food and drink production and probably doesn't pay big wages by the standards of car plants in the West Midlands.
There are some reasonably prosperous retirees, but most of them are not mega wealthy and many of them spend their time complaining about the impact on the landscape of the polytunnels that underpin the successful soft fruit industry (although most of the labour is imported). It's difficult to see some wealthy benefactor suddenly appearing. Given that, the chairman's strategy appears to be ''all hands to the pump' which may be the only viable option, but may not succeed.
In extremis, one can always make an appeal to football fans in general through bucket collections at Premier League grounds or online.