What's the latest at cash-strapped Hartlepool United? Jeff Stelling, finances and takeovers discussed

Hartlepool United are a club in crisis.

Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 1:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th January 2018, 11:45 am

The threat of administration looms large over Pools, if they do not find the funds to make ends meet this month.

But where is the situation at right now? Our writer Liam Kennedy takes a closer look...

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The issue

Pools must find in the region of £200,000 to pay their bills.

The biggest chunk of that cash, reportedly around £130,000, must be found by Thursday, January 25, when the players, management and club staff are due to receive their pay for January.

The club also have an HMRC bill that needs settled by the end of the month.

Cash flow issues stem from owner John Blackledge, of Sage Investments, believing he has taken the club as far as he can. And as a result has pulled the plug on footing any more of the bills.

He decided to step away from the club financially at the start of last month.

Subsequently the club was put up for sale.

The background

Jeff Stelling has been speaking to one potential Hartlepool United investor.

IOR had the reins at Pools for 18 years, but then sold out to JPNG, a recruitment firm headed up by Gary Coxall in the summer of 2015.

A number of unpaid tax bills brought to light financial issues behind the scenes, and three separate winding up order petitions.

Coxall's financial mismanagement of the club spiraled out of control, to the point where current chief executive Pam Duxbury, a chartered accountant by trade, was brought on board to steady the ship.

When she arrived, appointed by Coxall, she began uncovering skeletons from every closet.

Manager Craig Harrison with assistant Paul Jenkins.

Pools balance sheets were damning towards the end of last season, and relegation from the Football League, for the first time in the club's proud history, only accelerated their financial demise.

But when Blackledge, who formerly worked with Duxbury, rode in to save Pools at the end of that campaign, all seemed rosy.

Budgets were set for the coming season with the now owner, after acquiring the club in July 2017, agreeing to a three-year plan for Pools. All that ended a little more than five months down that timeline.

Investment & takeovers

Pools need some outside investment, it's as simple as that.

Without it, the struggle to make ends meet will roll on from month to month.

Duxbury is working day and night to secure the immediate future of the football club, but progress has been slow.

Six potential investors or consortia initially showed an interest in buying into the Pools dream, but since then four have dropped out of the running.

All signed non-disclosure agreements and provided proof of funds to club solicitors, to the tune of £3million.

The intentions of the other two are not yet know, although just because they have not dropped out doesn't mean they've ruled themselves in either.

Others have expressed an interest but nothing concrete has emerged. No one has put an offer on the table to take Hartlepool United FC off the hands of Sage.

Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling has been talking to one potential investor recently. He has said the meeting was positive. But, as yet, no offer has landed.

Fundraising efforts

Fans from all over the country will pack out Victoria Park this weekend for the visit of Wrexham in the National League, for #savepoolsday.

Middlesbrough fans, in Pools' hour of need, have stepped up to the plate and hundreds are likely to make the trip across Teesside. It's seen as payback for 1986 and Boro's use of the Vic, when they faced their own footballing nightmare, with liquidation on the horizon and the doors to Ayresome Park were locked up.

Paying £20 a pop, the sales of tickets will all go into the pot to try and make up the numbers before deadline day next week.

A just giving page, set up by a fan, to aid Hartlepool United's cause has also raised more than a quarter of the cash required for this month. Fans from across the world have donated, as well as former and current players from teams all over the country. Gateshead's former Sunderland striker Danny Graham donated £2,500 alone.

Footballing issues

The football club have an obligation to fulfill their fixtures between now and May.

Their first game is this weekend's clash with Wrexham.

As well as that players are heading out the exit door. Pools have three players whose deals are up this month. It's difficult to see how any will be renewed.

They also had to sell Connor Simpson to rake in £50,000. In the circumstances Pools were paid all of that fee up front by Preston for the 17-year-old striker.

Day-to-day problems

Unpaid bills are hampering Pools progress.

The most high profile issue they've faced is the fact they are yet to get their home kit back from the launderette.

They were slapped with a £10,500 bill for the launderette's services. But they are reluctant to pay with little evidence of a written contract in place, allegedly.

At their last game they had to borrow some training equipment and make players bring their own towels because of this issue.

They also owe their regular bus company cash. They got the train down to Dagenham a fortnight ago, with no overnight stay as a cost cutting measure.

Because of the plight, people owed cash are coming out of the woodwork all the time, however big or small the sum.

The future?

The club admit themselves that admin is a very real prospect.

If they do not find the cash next week then administrators could be called in. A sell off of assets would then follow, with the 10 point deduction seeing them slip into the fifth tier relegation zone. The problem is bar the odd player, assets are at a minimum.

Jeff Stelling has been speaking to one potential Hartlepool United investor.
Manager Craig Harrison with assistant Paul Jenkins.