English Rugby Team Plymouth Albion Close to Bankruptcy

January 5, 2012

English Rugby Union club Plymouth Albion are in dire straits after the Championship sides shareholders held emergency talks last night in a bid to save the club from bankruptcy.

Chairman Dr Graham Stirling issued a plea for cash to keep the struggling club afloat until the end of the season.

“We need to raise about £200,000 to see us through,” Dr Stirling said at an extraordinary general meeting, called at a few days’ notice.

And he said the members of the board had “made it clear that we will all consider our positions going forward”.

Around 60 of the 130 shareholders met at the Brickfields ground for talks that went on for more than two hours.

Dr Stirling said they had pledged money to help the club, which is understood to have a shortfall of around £500,000. But he added: “We’re not there yet.

“We have had a very positive response. It’s the wish of the shareholders that we do everything possible to stave off administration or liquidation.

“They are making pledges and we will take a look once that’s all added up and see where we stand.”

The club’s financial woes reached crisis point last week after moves to bring in a new investor collapsed.

Businessman Nigel Passmore was brought on board in November, shortly before Albion sacked long-serving chairman of rugby Graham Dawe.

Mr Dawe was replaced by former Exeter boss Peter Drewett and coaching consultant Phil Greening in a deal underwritten by Mr Passmore.

Dr Stirling said Albion bosses knew the club was in a perilous state in November.

“We thought we had a solution seven weeks ago when Nigel came on board, but unfortunately that fell through,” Dr Stirling said.

After Mr Passmore severed his ties with the club just before Christmas, Albion was unable to fund the salaries of Mr Drewett and Mr Greening, and they quit last week.

Mr Dawe attended last night’s meeting. He said afterwards: “There is still a lot of work to do but the meeting was positive.

“The groundswell of opinion is that people want to see the club remain in the Championship.”

Dr Stirling said he hoped to avoid putting the club into administration. Going into administration would mean a points deduction and almost certain relegation.

“That could be a route to go down but it is an absolute last resort.

“For a club like Albion the cost of going [out of the Championship] would far exceed the cost of remaining in and fixing the problem.

“The shortfall is largely attributable to lower gates, lower ground spend, lower sponsorship and lower commercial and non-rugby income.”

Players and staff would not be asked to work without pay as happened at Plymouth Argyle Football Club last year, he said.

“We are not in a similar position to Plymouth Argyle. The magnitude of the problem isn’t on their scale. It’s still serious, but it’s fixable.”

Shareholder Andy Kelland said before the meeting: “I’m here to listen and find out how serious the situation is. It sounds pretty serious.”

One shareholder, who did not want to be named, said: “I would be happy to put in £50 or £60 but not the sums of £5,000 that are being asked for.”

Another who wanted to remain anonymous said the club would probably raise enough money to stay afloat until the summer “but what then?”

Council leader Vivien Pengelly said: “I can’t comment on the Albion situation, but I would fight to keep the Brickfields as a sports facility.”