STANLEY chief executive Rob Heys is calling for unity now that the club have survived their winding up order.
The Reds were due to appear before the High Court on Wednesday this week after failing to pay a tax bill of around £300,000.
However they have now come to an agreement with the HM Revenue and Customs office where the winding up order has been adjourned for 84 days and the club has been given a year to pay the bill.
And, with that hopefully settled, the chief executive is calling for all the disparate elements around the club to unite. Heys says:
- Accrington shareholder Ilyas Khan, chairman Eric Whalley and general manager David O’Neill all now need to work together for the good of the club
- The Reds are determined to pay the monthly payments - of around £27,000 - as it is last chance saloon for them with the HM Revenue and Customs office
- Businessman Dave O’Neill, currently Stanley’s general manager, could still take over the club in the next month.
- The betting scandal -with two current Reds players charged with breaching the Football Association’s rules on betting - has led to them failing to clinch a ground sponsorship deal
- The playing budget has been slashed by a quarter this season but it could be increased if revenue increases.
It has been a chaotic few weeks with the Reds receiving the winding up order and, in reaction to this, Accrington-born Khan, a multi-millionaire who owes 15 per cent shares in Stanley, called a meeting last week with fans.
They agreed to set up a "Fighting Fund" with an aim to raise £500,000 over the next year, ready to step in if Accrington are ever fighting for their survival again.
Khan promised to put in £250,000 himself to start off the fund and has set it up as a legal company with three Stanley fans appointed as directors and fundraising events will take place throughout the year with cricket supremo David Lloyd hopefully leading the way.
But Heys hopes, now the tax crisis has been averted, that everyone will unite.
"What we need is Ilyas, David O’Neill and Eric and anyone else involved in any capacity to work together.
"They all have the best interests of the club at heart and now that the tax bill is sorted out it is important that everyone comes together and gets behind the football club.
"Everything is out in the open now, we need to settle the ownership issue, stop splitting into factions and we need to push forward."
Heys, who reckons it costs around £1.5m to run Stanley annually compared to £150,000 seven years ago when he started, says the club are determined to pay off the tax bill every month as they have learned a valuable lesson.
"Last season was particularly horrendous and we have to make sure it is a one-off.
"We had Fraser Eagle removing their sponsorship, gates not as big as expected, the betting scandal, two players (Ian Dunbavin and Bobby Grant) up in court for affray in Southport and the debt followed by the winding up order - so, to say the least, it was a bad season for the club. There was too much adverse publicity.
"But we are still here and we have done a deal with the HMRC to pay off the tax bill over the year - there are a couple of lump sums and then an average payment each month."
Heys continued: "We did have a deal with the Inland Revenue last year and unfortunately we couldn’t meet it so we know it is last chance saloon for us now.
"But we are confident we can do it as we have cut the player budget by a quarter which has been well-publicised which is a major factor in being able to make the repayments.
"We do have around £450,000 coming into the club from the Football League for television rights and Coca Cola sponsorship which is given in amounts throughout the year.
"We also need to have money coming into the club through, hopefully, sponsorship, the sports bar, the Crown pub and the weekly draw which we need to boost more."
And the chief executive believes that businessman Dave O’Neill could now complete his takeover of the club. The general manager has been trying to buy the majority of Eric Whalley’s 54 per cent shares for months and it has been a long-running saga.
"I am sure people got fed up of hearing that a takeover was imminent at the end of last season but, with the full details of the tax issues now out in the open, I am sure people will appreciate that it was a sticking point," said Heys.
"No one wants to buy the club with a large debt without a deal in place with HMRC.
"Now it is settled I think the takeover could happen.
"Dave has already put money into the club. He put £150,000 in last year with £100,000 to pay off a tax bill then.
"Him and Eric do need to sit down and sort out the details between them. However the takeover won’t be done using a loan against future revenues of the club which I think a lot of people were rightly worried about when it was reported."
Khan, as a shareholder, was furious with this as it jeopardised the future of the club and contacted solictors when it was believed O’Neill would get his money in this way.
But, now the tax has been sorted out, Heys clarified: "We looked into the idea of using future revenue finance to provide funds to clear the HMRC debt. At the time we didn’t know whether we were going to be given a period of time over which to pay them back or whether they were going to demand the whole amount at once - that was the only reason."
Heys though confirmed the betting scandal - with Reds captain Peter Cavanagh and defender Robbie Williams charged with betting against their club in the final match of the 2007/8 season against Bury - has hampered finding a new sponsor for the ground.
Fraser Eagle, the major sponsors, went into adminstration and had to end their sponsorship of Stanley’s ground with the Reds losing more than £100,000.
"We have three large Accrington-based companies waiting to replace Fraser Eagle but the betting scandal has put everything on hold," said Heys - and the FA has yet to set a date for the hearing although both players have pleaded not guilty.
"We are still speaking to the companies but until the betting matter is resolved we can’t do anything.
"It is so frustrating. It might mean the ground goes back to being called the ‘Crown Ground’ if we don’t have a sponsor for next season as it can’t be called the Fraser Eagle Stadium."
Manager John Coleman’s playing budget has been slashed due to the unpaid tax bill. "We have started with a weekly figure for John and it is up to him how he splits it up. We hope to increase it if we increase the revenue and it is not all doom and gloom.
"After all the negative publicity, we hope this is a better season. Let’s move on now."