Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Football - it's just not rugby....

Recent local news has reported on the financial plight of Llanelli AFC (the Reds). For various reasons the club is facing mounting debts including a winding-up order from the taxman for £70,000 (unconfirmed amount). Of course this is football and not rugby. Had it been the local rugby team, with a debt running to £9m, one could expect Carmarthenshire Council to leap in and save the day with a big wedge of taxpayers money, despite conflicting advice, at the time, from the accountants. I am referring, of course to the Parc Y Scarlets stadium saga.

I wish all local teams sporting success of course whether it's rugby or football, but, as I have mentioned numerous times one can't help notice the special place that rugby has in the hearts of our local authority. They almost branched out into the world of Olympic hurdling as the press office wiled away the early summer months by hiding a cardboard cutout of Dai Greene around Llanelli. However, it appears that Mr Greene has  been dropped like a stone since the big event without even a 'well done anyway' on the council website.

Robbie Savage has replaced him now as the latest council celebrity, fortunately for him, his career has developed away from football to that of telly dancing stardom and straight into the heart of the Exec Member for Regeneration and Planning, Meryl Gravell.

Meryl adopting the same hair colour as Robbie Savage

Even celebrities have to toe the line though when it comes to positive propaganda - Prince Charles, naturally, couldn't go wrong - even by acquiring two new homes at Llwynwermod (in 'open countryside'), he failed to raise more than an eyebrow apart from those eyebrows belonging to local residents who hadn't been so, er, fortunate (and an early appearance for the Council in Private Eye).
A few years back I remember one celeb, Neil Morrisey (out of Men Behaving Badly/Bob the Builder) who failed to follow the PR rules. He blasted the Planning Department as 'shambolic' in a press release concerning planning row over a hotel in Laugharne. The following week, what appeared to be almost a legal apology and correction appeared in the Carmarthen Journal from Bob himself.

Anyway, I have completely digressed from my original point which was about the Council's enthusiasm for all things rugby and, as this Llanelli Star letter writer and football fan has put so succinctly, the precedent which has now been set....   .

"The Reds can now enjoy the support of Carmarthenshire Council and expect the following:

1. Be able to sell their existing ground for profit even though they do not actually own it.

2. Get the council to provide a pocket of land, free of charge, and have a new purpose-built stadium erected at taxpayers' expense.

3. As a further benefit, be allowed to charge third party users of the ground for profit, even though they do not own the stadium or indeed the land it is built on.

4. Get a £2.4million bridging loan from the council at almost interest free rates, and start paying it back when it is convenient. Maybe never?

5. Get the council to commit to pay for a member of staff in order to 'develop the business' for the future. This appointment will be over an indefinite time period and will help with future creative accountancy problems.

6. Be provided with a brand new retail outlet in the East Gate development even though the club has not paid a penny back on the £2.4 million bridging loan.

7. As a safety net for future difficulties it will also be possible to sell a part of the new gifted land adjacent to the new gifted stadium to a brewery company wishing to build a hotel — again for profit.

After all the precedent has been set.

R L Rees


Update 3rd September;
Local press are reporting that the legal action by the taxman has been withdrawn as club bosses have managed to settle most of the debts.


Anonymous said...

It is tough going for the Reds at the moment. They are still one of the top 3 or 4 sides in the League of Wales, but since the Swans got promoted into the Premiership the crowds have dropped dramatically at Stebo and the lack of revenue has obviously hit them hard.

It is a shame because Stebo is a nice place to visit, an easy walk from Llanelli town centre, and there is a nice and cheap match day café there too (in comparison to another venue on the outskirts of the town).

While the council bend over backwards to help the Scarlets, both financially and in terms of free advertising such as providing the signs on the various roads into Llanelli, they are doing nothing to help the Reds.

They justified OUR investment in the Scarlets stadium on the supposed financial benefits to the area and the “well being” of the community. Apparently the new stadium will make everyone healthier and happier (seriously – read the submissions the council made to the Stradey public inquiry!).

A successful Reds team will provide Llanelli and Carmarthenshire with as much if not more positive exposure than the Scarlets, as football has a far greater audience. Did CCC look into the financial benefit to the area of the 1200 Motherwell supporters that followed their team to Llanelli for a Europa League match a couple of years ago? If the Reds were helped to repeat that regularly it has to be good for the area.

I am not saying that CCC should use our money to bail out the Reds – like the Scarlets they are a business after all – but at the very least they could help to advertise Reds matches in the same way they provide free advertising to the Scarlets and Llanelli RFC. (This obviously applies to others like Carmarthen Town, the Quinn’s and Whitland as well).

As for the Scarlets selling off a car park to Marstons to build a hotel – how? They are leasing the land on a peppercorn rent for 150 years from CCC. How can they sell leased land?

Only in Carmarthenshire. It is certainly not an even playing field.

william price said...

Did you say, Llanelli rugby team are running a 9million debt?
I'm missing a gravy train here, how can I get a job there?
Remember my cousin who lives in Llanelli, finding it odd, that it's cheaper to go to the Liberty stadium than support the home team.

Anonymous said...

The debt was £3m when they said they were going to leave Stradey, and post the move it climbed as high as £15m before the funding directors agreed to write off £6m or so.

Mark James ‘ rescue plan for the Scarlets was a complete failure. If it wasn’t for the funding directors repeatedly bailing them out since their move to Pemberton they would have folded.

Like many things in Carmarthenshire, the Scarlets are still going despite CCC not thanks to them.

caebrwyn said...

@Anon thanks for your comment. Indeed, it's not a matter of bailing out private companies with taxpayers money - it's about fairness. I've never heard the Council promote any other local sports to the same degree as they do for the Scarlets, for free.

@william Price
The team were £9m in debt in 2006 when the Council decided to take the stadium project forward. By November 2011 they were still £5.5m in the red, with interest on the Council loan deferred.