A year after almost going bust, Gateshead chairman reveals financial state and how club can survive coronavirus shutdown

Gateshead chairman Neil Pinkerton insists careful financial planning means the club are well placed to survive the coronavirus outbreak in the short term - less than a year after almost going out of existence.
Neil Pinkerton, right, and fellow consortium member Trevor Clark.Neil Pinkerton, right, and fellow consortium member Trevor Clark.
Neil Pinkerton, right, and fellow consortium member Trevor Clark.

The Heed are facing a number of challenges caused by the suspension of football and are working hard behind the scenes to stay on an even keel.

Pinkerton, who took over as chairman 11 months ago, hopes the National League's decision to end their season will help clubs move forward.

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But having helped bring Gateshead back from the brink of oblivion last summer with the backing of the Gateshead Soul Supporters Trust and local businessmen, he believes the club is well positioned whatever the future may hold.

Gateshead manager Mike Williamson and No2 Ian Watson.Gateshead manager Mike Williamson and No2 Ian Watson.
Gateshead manager Mike Williamson and No2 Ian Watson.

"Short term, we don't see too much change," he said. "We will be guided by the government to see when we will be able to restart

"We, as a club, are just OK at the moment but that's through the generosity of our shareholders and some careful financial planning.

"There's no businesses that haven't been affected, including Gateshead FC.

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"We had four home games left in the season and two of those were against Darlington and York City. Darlington on a Saturday chasing a play-off place and York on Good Friday going for the title - you can imagine the type of crowds and income that would have brought."

What the outcome for the National League remains undecided, but deciding promotion on a points per game average is a possibility.

Leagues at step three to seven have already decided to null and void their season, to the ire of clubs like South Shields and chairman Geoff Thompson, who had hoped for a PPG outcome, and they will be looking on with interest.

Having gone 11 games unbeaten, Gateshead were on the cusp of a play-off place in National League North, one place outside of the zone with games in hand on the teams above them. However, Pinkerton believes if there were one promotion spot, then the league winners should be promoted, as play-offs can't be played now, even if that would mean Gateshead potentially missing out.

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Pinkerton added: "People have to remember we are a different organisation to step three. We have different rules.

"I get people's pain given how they have invested heavily in their clubs, but that's where we are.

"We would accept Kings Lynn going up on PPG as that's probably the fairest way, but to try and conclude the play-offs would put other clubs in danger of extinction and that’s not what we advocate.

"This season just needs a line drawn under it and we all start again when it's possible to do so."

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For the Heed, that would mean remaining as a full-time outfit.

Despite costs potentially needing to be cut, the club is committed to keeping the management and playing structure as it is and having another push at promotion.

The club is in a far healthier position than it was 12 months ago, when under the catastrophic ownership and stewardship of Dr Ranjan Varghese and Joseph Cala, it was kicked out of its Gateshead Stadium home for unpaid rent, had a number of serious debts racked up, and was 72 hours away folding.

Pinkerton and a five-man consortium eventually saved the club, and although they were forcibly relegated by the National League from its top flight, managed to remain a full-time outfit and appointed ex-Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson as their new manager.

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"We still plan to be committed to full-time when we resume, with Mike and Busted (assistant manager Ian Watson) in charge," added Pinkerton. "We want to retain the squad as well.

"We are fortunate in that we no longer have the debts we inherited as a club. The last 12 months, everyone has been paid on time, all creditors are up to date, we've settled all legal issues that the last regime left us with, and things are all positive on that side.

"But there's a lot of investment needed to keep a club going and we are actively looking to strengthen our board. We are in this for the long haul, we wanted to do something for the community. It's not easy but doing that for the community makes it worthwhile.

"We are keeping our head down and keeping calm. There's a lot of hard work going on in the background and now we're just waiting for the sun to come out.

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"It was just 12 months ago when we came in to try and save the club and now there's all these other things to deal with.

"But there are people dying around the world and the priority for us as a club is making sure our staff, players and fans are healthy and safe."