Gretna FC 'just hours from oblivion'

GRETNA Football Club are just hours away from going out of business after the club's administrator made a deadline of today for a sum of £30,000 to be injected into the club.

Gretna's predicament worsened dramatically yesterday and a proposed payment from the Scottish Premier League was put on hold. Without an injection of cash today – required to cover the club's wage bill for a week and also transportation and accommodation costs for this weekend's fixture at Aberdeen – Gretna will become the first Scottish top-league side since Third Lanark to fold.

The consequence will be to throw the SPL into disarray. Gretna's results will be wiped from the records and the league standings recalculated. It will prove a spectacular fall for Gretna, whose rapid rise owed everything to the backing of owner Brooks Mileson. His recent ill-health and apparent cutting of ties with the club has left the Dumfriesshire side in crisis.

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David Elliot, the appointed administrator, confirmed SPL officials have offered a 100,000 advance on money due to Gretna at the end of the season. However, SPL secretary Iain Blair requires a commitment to give to the SPL board that Gretna can complete their season's fixtures.

"Iain Blair has spoken with the administrators and reviewed the prospects for the club," said an SPL spokesman. "It was confirmed to us that Gretna had been put into administration, and obviously that triggered the ten point penalty and the player embargo. In terms of the possible advancement of fees, we indicated to the administrator we could look to advance fees on the basis that we received assurances that Gretna's fixtures were fulfilled.

"That is something that is up to the administrator now," he continued. "The ball's in their court on that front. The club is only entitled to the money if they complete the season."

The sounds emitted from Gretna yesterday made this promise seem impossible to give. Elliot stressed how desperate the situation had become. He said the club owed 350,000 to the Inland Revenue, who last week told Gretna they would be taking court action on Monday of this week to have the club put into liquidation. Elliot also said two former managers had put in claims of 800,000 and 100,000 for breach of contract. There is also hire-purchase debt outstanding on cars and cash owed to groundshare landlords, Motherwell, whose Fir Park home they are sharing this season

"This is critical, this is not a bluff," said Elliot at a press conference yesterday. "Gretna are potentially 24 hours from oblivion. I would have to stop the club. There is intense pressure from creditors. I anticipate many other claims." Most pressing is the need for 30,000 to cover this week's expenses, with the team scheduled to make one of their longest away trips this Saturday.

"The club has a fixture on Saturday in Aberdeen and needs funds for transportation, accommodation and wages," Elliot pointed out. "We are looking for a scenario where emergency funding can be put in place to allow time for more medium to long-term funding to be obtained. To fulfil that fixture on Saturday, I need to be able to secure emergency funding to pay the wages and to secure transportation and an overnight stay. I estimate that would be 30,000.

"At this point in time, I don't have it," he continued. "I would not allow people to work and not be paid their wages. If I can't see that they can be paid their wages then I would have to stop.I cannot allow the position to get worse."

Elliot revealed he had been in talks with one possible funding source, but would not confirm whether this was the SPL. Finding a sum of 30,000 is critical to the club's chances of being handed a cash advance from the SPL.

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"The football authorities are saying to me that they will advance those monies at 48 hours notice provided we can show that the club can fulfil its fixtures until the end of the season," Elliot said.

"My main concern is that we run out of time. The first step is emergency funding for Saturday to be in my bank account by lunchtime tomorrow. That gives us the window of opportunity to go to the league and say: 'The amount we require, we believe, until the end of the season, is this, can you cover that?' And if they can, they say they will have the funds to me within 48 hours. My main concern is whether we can get past lunchtime tomorrow."

Although the players survived yesterday's first day of official administration Graeme Muir has resigned his post as chief executive. Surprisingly, he said he had no regrets about the Gretna adventure.

"It's been a great experience," he said. "And I have a lot of respect for Brooks Mileson. "Things don't last forever and the history books will show the success he had."


Q: Can Gretna survive?

A: Only if someone comes up with 30,000 today to cover this week's wages and travel costs.

Q: Why has the club suddenly run out of money?

A: Funds from owner Brooks Mileson have been stopped, and costs are a huge multiple of revenue.

Q: Why has Mileson pulled the plug on the club he has so often said he loves?

A: He has not said, but it has been suggested that his financial position is not as strong as it once was.

Q: Is Mileson's illness the problem?

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A: Not entirely. He is out of hospital, and his son is in daily contact with Gretna.

Q: Who do the club owe money to?

A: Principally, there is an outstanding sum of 350,000 due to the Inland Revenue. Two former managers are claiming 900,000 and 100,000 for breach of contract.

Q: Will these debts be settled?

A: Not in full. The club has so few assets that the administrator will have to try to strike a deal with creditors to accept less than they are owed.

Q: Can the SPL come to the rescue?

A: Yes, but league officials are concerned that any money loaned will be wasted if the club goes out of business before the end of the season.

Q: Is there any chance of a happy ending?

A: No.