Time to clear the air on ‘cash crisis’

Time to clear the air on ‘cash crisis’

Rob Fielding says that regardless of the truth of the “cash crisis” article in the Sunday People, the club needs to clear the air with its supporters.

How can Vale – seemingly debt-free and with a multi-millionaire owner – not be able to settle bills?

Rob Fielding writes…

Only a few weeks ago, I mentioned that the FA Cup game against Plymouth would be important if we were to strengthen our side for a play-off push. Now, if tabloid stories are to be believed, the cup revenue may be much more important but for entirely different reasons.

For anyone outside of the Vale ‘family’ this latest story must be confusing. How can Vale – seemingly debt-free and with a multi-millionaire owner – not be able to settle bills? And for anyone on the outside reading the various views and theories on the forum, it probably won’t get any simpler.

Is it:

  • Down to former business partner Paul Wildes?
  • Down to poor business planning which has seen Vale committed to a wage bill almost double that of two years ago?
  • Down to a lack of proficient staff at the club
  • Simply a cash flow issue and one that can easily be resolved?
  •  Just the tabloids stirring up a story with no substance?

It could be a mixture of some or all the above but the truth is that no fans really know for sure, but there’s certainly plenty who are prepared to back one theory or another – regardless of how little or how much they know of the club’s workings.

However, whatever way we look at it, we know from his own Twitter account that the owner says he’s put £1m into the club this season. I sincerely hope it is mostly on one-off important infrastructure projects (e.g. the pitch, the club shop, the work on the Lorne St) and not merely the owner plugging a monthly deficit.

I’ve largely refrained from commenting on forums or social media because I’d still be effectively speculating  from a position of ignorance…

Making a loss on projects like the ticketing system and the ground improvements is to be expected but it is to be hoped that long-term, these development will more than repay the investment. The same could not be said for the club overspending each month. That’s simply unsustainable. We witnessed the same gradual loss-making, snowballing under Valiant 2001 and look what happened there – we ended up in administration.

So, while we all know that Norman Smurthwaite owns the club, that we all (or at least most of us) appreciate him putting his money into Vale and bringing us out of one of the darkest periods of our history, nevertheless, those things should not make him immune from questioning when a story like this appears.

The problem at the moment is that none of us really know where the club lies financially, so whether it’s in debt, suffering cash flow issues or simply solvent, we really should be told. Yes, technically, I know it’s none of our business but as we’ve seen before if the club refrains from comment that often results in speculation, gossip and (in some cases) wild scaremongering spiraling out of control. Much of which can damage the club’s reputation – in some cases irreparably.

And it’s also the case that as the loyal fans, the club’s lifeblood, who donate huge parts of our earnings into season tickets, away travel and club merchandise – well, we deserve an explanation.

I therefore think it’s wise and correct that the owner should speak to the Sentinel newspaper and clarify just what is going on…

I’ve largely refrained from commenting on forums or social media because, frankly, regardless of how much information I am personally party to, I’d still be effectively speculating from a position of ignorance. After all, I don’t own Port Vale nor do I pay the bills. It hasn’t stopped others though and any silence or avoidance of the big questions won’t stop it either. Rather than endless speculation and never-ending forum threads, I personally would rather know from the horse’s mouth, the news (even if it’s bad news).

I therefore think it’s wise and correct that the owner should speak to the Sentinel newspaper and clarify just what is going on at Vale Park. I await the publication of Mr Smurthwaite’s views and hope that we get to the bottom of this “cash crisis” one way or the other.

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