DUNFERMLINE Athletic could become the latest Scottish football club to face the wrath of the taxman with the Fifers facing a ominous deadline of just 12 days to raise £81,000 owed to HMRC.
At the end of a week which has seen Hearts announce they are on the brink of extinction due to unpaid PAYE totalling £450,000, it has emerged the East End Park club are facing a race to pay two tax bills.
In a turbulent afternoon in Fife, it was also confirmed that John Yorkston, chairman of the club for the last 14 years, will step down from his post at the end of the current campaign.
Yorkston will become honorary president of the club, while he will be replaced as chairman by Rodney Shearer on 30 June, 2013.
Three new directors have been appointed – Bob Purvis, chairman of the Purvis Group, Jim Thomson, managing director of Purvis Group and Bob Garmory, chairman of Carnegie College.
While further boardroom restructuring – seven directors stepped down last month – is intriguing, the money owed to HMRC is likely to be a more pressing concern to fans of the First Division club.
The taxman’s unwillingness to negotiate a payment plan for Hearts, as alleged by Tynecastle director Sergejus Fedotovas, is indicative of a hardening attitude towards football clubs which fail to meet financial commitments.
Dunfermline have no home matches to boost flagging income before £50,000 is due to HMRC on 19 November and another £31,000 two days later.
If Dunfermline fail to raise the capital, then HMRC’s response could be devastating. They are within their rights to issue a winding-up order, and push the club towards administration or, as in the case of Hearts, liquidation. The Fife club have already endured wage delays this term, with October’s salaries delivered to staff in staggered fashion behind schedule. They also tried, and failed, to re-arrange April’s home match with Falkirk to last Saturday in a move which would have raised significant funds.
It is thought, as of September, Dunfermline have accrued a loss of around £140,000 for the year to date, £60,000 over the deficit which was budgeted for. It has been put down to a poor average attendance, lack of home games and the general economic downturn – among other mitigating factors.
It has also been suggested the club are still looking to slash up to £400,000 from their annual costs if they are to survive in the long term.
Dunfermline are currently over £8 million in the red, with that debt owed to a series of directors, past and present, rather than a bank.
Despite the boardroom reshuffle, fans remain concerned regarding the precarious financial situation of their club.
Margaret Ross, chairman of the Pars Supporters Trust, said: “The new directors will be there to support us, I’m sure, however the supporters still have concerns over funding. I plan to talk to the directors, so we do not yet know whether these changes will alleviate concerns regarding the tax, that is an open question.
“As fans we will continue to fund-raise, because there is no doubt the club is in a challenging position.”