STANLEY chief executive Rob Heys insists the Reds will not go into administration, following the shock announcement that the club owes the taxman £300,000.
Club directors will be presenting a united front today at the end of one of the most tumultuous weeks in Stanley’s history, determined to convince the Inland Revenue of their plan to pay off their tax and national insurance debts.
They are confident they can negotiate a deal to make repayments in manageable instalments – even without a fan bailout or the £250,000 offered by multi-millionaire fan Ilyas Khan.
Originally the club was summoned to appear at the High Court next Wednesday, but Heys, Stanley chairman Eric Whalley and general manager Dave O’Neill will now travel to London’s Inland Revenue HQ instead.
Heys said: "Friday is a very big day for the club and hopefully it will go well and we come up with a deal that satisfies the Revenue and allows the club to go forward. We will have to go down with a presentation showing the reasons why the debts have been incurred and built up.
"Obviously we haven’t got £300,000 in the bank to pay it off all at once, but there’s very little benefit to the tax office of the club going into administration. HMRC is our only major creditor – the other creditors that the company has amount to around £70,000 and obviously we don’t own the ground."
Mr Khan has called a public meeting at Stanhill Hall tonight to discuss the formation of a supporters’ trust and creation of a "fighting fund".
He has repeatedly offered to make a huge investment if the club re-issues shares, but his advances have as yet been opposed by major shareholder Whalley.
Fans also hope that former England cricketer David Lloyd could be persuaded to act as a figurehead for the club, or in a similar capacity.
Radio Lancashire presenter and Reds fan Steve Lowe said: "If David has anything at all to do with Accrington Stanley it would be absolutely brilliant, even just basically turning up and doing a sportsman’s dinner once a year.
"We’re bigger than just a football club. It’s like a big extended family and a lot of people at the moment are very worried. If you start to engage fans more that has got to be a better thing for the club and the gates. It will encourage more people to come back and I know there’s a lot of businesses that would contribute to a supporters’ trust."
Rumours of financial uncertainty at the club have been ongoing with businessman O’Neill’s protracted takeover taking longer than expected – and now looking to have been shelved.
Whalley has claimed he will still be at the helm next season, but it is understood that he and all the club directors remain in contact with Mr Khan.
And Heys said: "Perhaps some things do need to change. A number of offers have come in with people looking to help the club out. If that’s half a million pounds or just £1 a week on the door it all helps the club going forward. If we want to survive we have got to look at ways of bringing in more money. There won’t be changes in ownership of the club in the next week or two but what happens going forward is very difficult to say."
He added: "The club accepts the responsibility – it has happened due to falling attendances, we had to spend £60,000 bringing the ground up to Football League standard and we lost our main sponsor Fraser Eagle, losing more than £100,000 this season."
The Reds are also expecting an additional financial penalty after failing to deposit annual accounts on time with Companies House.
The tax announcement has dealt a big blow to boss John Coleman’s hopes of attracting new players, but he has been reassured that the player budget – cut by a quarter this season – will not be further trimmed.
Coleman had been linked with a move for Carlisle midfielder Luke Joyce as well as a new striker and a centre back, but nothing has yet been finalised.
Assistant manager Jimmy Bell admitted that the timing of the announcement made it hard to market the club, saying: "We will keep talking to players and trying to finalise our squad, otherwise you end up getting the dregs. It’s made it doubly difficult though as the first thing the players ask is what’s going on with the club."
Bell added: "John and I did have an idea that they did owe money to the taxman but we didn’t know how much, so it was a shock when we heard. Administration would be a disaster. If you took 10 points off us that would put us in a really difficult position especially with the budget and the players. But I have the utmost belief in Rob and Eric and Dave O’Neill to get the club on an even keel."