Seven key questions that Pools chiefs must answer as fears for club's future grow
The financial crisis at Hartlepool United took another twist this week with the news that potential saviour Chris Musgrave had pulled out of a takeover.
The Hartlepool-born businessman released a statement which cast fresh light on some of the ‘serious financial issues’ surrounding the club, also claiming that he hadn’t been able to identify exactly how much was needed to save the club.
The development raised further issues about the state of Pools – and the future. Here’s seven key questions that need answering.
Where has the money gone?
We are told that current owner John Blackledge is owed £1.8million.
We’re also told that the amount he wants to recoup from the sale of Hartlepool is ‘negotiable’. Guided estimates have ranged anywhere from £0 to £1.2m.
Blackledge is widely credited as being the saviour of Pools at the back end of last season, taking on many of the debts
We have also previously reported that he consolidated a number of legacy debts, and a whole host of other issues, under the name of Sage Investments.
Does that, with covering wages in June, July, August, September, October, November and only part of December, total £1.8m?
It must as there are a number of bills, that stretch back months that have not been paid.
Some suppliers have not been paid all season.
Surely season ticket and merchandising money generated by hard working fans has not been totally soaked up? If it has, then tell us.
Even though Pools has never been a viable business model, it was actually debt free in the summer of 2015.
Who is owed cash and just how much?
No private company is at liberty to open up the books to the fans - because of the emotion that is involved in football there is always a sense of false entitlement on this controversial subject.
But, given that so much of this Pools financial situation has been played out in the public eye, and the town’s club is so close to the wall, that Poolies DO have the right to know.
The club will take the cash of fans, as a result they owe them a level of transparency.
This kind of transparency does not involve how much players earn or how much the manager gets every month, just simple stuff like how much the club owes x,y and z. This bill needs to be paid, this one will or won’t be, etc, etc.
How much the club’s impending tax bill, due within a fortnight, is and whether the club have means to pay it, would be a constructive start.
All the rumour and conjecture has only succeeded in clouding matters.
How has a chartered accountant been unable to produce key pieces of information needed for a takeover to progress?
Is something being covered up or are we looking at a woman - Pam Duxbury - who has too much on her plate? It’s a fair question to be asked in this delicate situation.
Someone who is qualified in this field should be able to have the club’s financial house in order for a potential investor, a local millionaire, looking to save the club, right? Wrong.
This is a massive concern moving forward.
Without all the correct information, like how much goes in and out, who is owed and what, how could any person with cash invest? Overseas or Hartlepool-born, people with the kind of cash needed to rescue Pools have not made their personal fortunes by being daft. They need to have all of the right information to make a considered decision.
It’s understood that, at this point, that’s not the case. If that’s true, why?
There has been a chartered accountant running Pools for 12 months. This is not a question that should need asked quite frankly.
Why has it taken so long for Hartlepool United’s problems to be unearthed?
From the club being out up for sale the Friday before Christmas, Pools were hanging off the edge of a financial cliff less than two weeks later.
It’s safe to assume these issues did not arise within the space of 14 days.
Pools have been in dire straights for much longer than that.
If that were the case the solution was not to bury your head in the stand.
It’s clear that has happened at Pools.
If administration was needed in the Autumn, do it and face the consequences.
If the club needed put up for sale, do it at the earliest possible opportunity.
If the club needed valuable funds to meet its costs, share that information, that way the punters might have come back much earlier that they did.
Who knows, Pools might have had four or five sell-outs instead of just the one.
Where is the club at now?
What we’d like to know is how many people are still at the table, is the deal 100% dead with Chris Musgrave, has there been any new interest?
Until this is known it’s difficult to look past a potentially disastrous end for the club in the not too distant future.
What does the future hold for Pools, should no takeover progress over the coming weeks?
Administration, winding up orders and liquidation.
All very much on the table as things stand.
Everyone has seen what happened at Darlington. Will the same happens at Pools? Things will become a whole lot clearer in the next couple of weeks.
What does each of the scenarios mean and what can the fans do to help?
What is the next step in the process? We know the wages have been covered this month, but what about the other bills?
Without investment will the wages be covered next month or will the club need fans to dig into the same emptying pockets they already have this month? You can only go to the well so many times before it runs dry. For many people it’s gone beyond that already.
Player sales, ten point deductions, relegation three levels - all less than palatable but nothing is off the table, at this stage.
Will the club see out their fixtures this season, whatever happens?
Should no white knight ride in to save Pools, will they have the means to see out the season?
In the worst case scenario Pools would be liquidated. Their assets (players) would be stripped and should they no longer be able to field a team, their results would be wiped, future games cancelled and would be immediately thrown out of the competition. Can those in the halls of power ensure this will not happen? If not, why not?