ACCRINGTON Stanley are to lose their ground sponsors after struggling Fraser Eagle became the latest victim of the credit crunch.
The long-established travel company has laid off 50 staff and closed its Great Harwood car sales operation.
And it will cease to sponsor Stanley at the end of the current season in a bid to save its 170-strong workforce.
The news was announced yesterday when bosses confirmed that some employees had been laid off for a minimum of five days and the situation would be reviewed next week.
The company signed a five-year sponsorship deal – said to be worth £1M – with Stanley in 2006 and the club’s ground was renamed the Fraser Eagle Stadium.
Although its headquarters are now on the Shuttleworth Mead business park in Padiham, Fraser Eagle was established in Accrington and has been a well-known name in the borough for coach trips, a travel agency, car sales and rail replacement transport.
Speaking exclusively to the Observer, managing director Kevin Dean said demands from suppliers sparked by rumours had forced the management team to take these steps and focus on the strong parts of the business.
He said Fraser Eagle Cars had ceased to trade – with cars at the former Nightingale’s garage on Whalley Road, Great Harwood, being removed over the weekend.
Mr Dean confirmed that the coach and holiday sections had also been badly affected by the recession, though the majority of the lay-offs had been made within the rail replacement section of the business due to increased competition.
He said: "We express our sadness at having to lay off 50 staff. It’s an extremely difficult time in business and the last thing we want is more staff being subjected to lay-offs and unemployment.
"We laid staff off rather than making them redundant because if we make a final decision we lose our skilled workers. Taking this temporary measure means we still have hope.
"We are trying to identify our growth areas and that’s what we’ll be focusing on."
Speaking about the Stanley sponsorship deal, he said: "We have had an extremely good relationship with Accrington Stanley over the last three years and they recognise that and the difficult times we are facing.
"We will be honouring our ground sponsorship for the remainder of the season but we would much prefer to employ staff than carry on the sponsorship."
He also confirmed that some lay-offs had been made within the Globe Centre call centre in Accrington, but added that there were no plans to transfer this arm of the business to a second call centre in Malta.
One member of staff, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "When the control centre opened in Malta two years ago the alarm bells started ringing.
"A lot of assurances were made to workers that their jobs were going to be safe. We have just been left hanging, waiting for further news."
Another employee added: "There has been a downturn in business over recent months but rather than doing the right thing by making staff redundant and paying them their rightful severance pay, they have adopted a cynical tactic of laying off staff on very meagre pay for one month and hinting they will ultimately be made redundant."
* AFTER the Observer broke the news to Stanley, chief executive Rob Heys said: "We spoke to Fraser Eagle about a month ago and they said they were struggling in these troubled times. We agreed that we would try and find a new sponsor for the stadium at the end of the season and we are now actively looking at that."
HAVE you booked holidays through Fraser Eagle? Did you work for the company or for suppliers who worked with the firm? Get in touch with us - telephone 01254 871444.