Weymouth hosts passionate fan forum amid financial situation

PASSIONATE Weymouth supporters turned out in force for an eye-opening fan forum as the Terras tackled questions about the club’s financial situation.

One of the key revelations was that Weymouth, according to interim chief financial officer Simon Etherington, had racked up £112,000 in debt during their time in the National League.

Over the past week, a generous group of fans and club connections have come together to pledge funds that will clear this grave debt.

Etherington acknowledged that the rest of the debt would be settled once the most serious debt was cleared.

READ MORE: Ian White and Mark Palmer resign from Weymouth board

Here, we walk you through all the questions and answers from the meeting, starting with the opening statements.

Interim CEO Paul Maitland, who stepped down as vice-chairman in February, opened by revealing that he was approached last week by the board to act after being made aware of the financial situation of the club.

Echoing a phrase used by former chairman Ian White, who was not present at the meeting, Maitland firmly underlined the need for Weymouth to live within their means.

Etherington then said that Maitland’s persuasive efforts convinced him to effectively lead the club through its final financial spell for the third time.

He added that without Maitland he would not be part of what is effectively a rescue group for the club and to save what is “a pretty serious situation”.

Etherington confirmed that a six-figure debt had accumulated, with the club having just £2,000 in their bank account.

The rescue group had managed to stabilize the situation by raising nearly £100,000 in donations, investments and share sales. Precise figures were not given for each individual.

Etherington read a list of names responsible for the bailout and later stated the need for the group to remain a collective in order to avoid missing an individual.

The club’s financial scenario was further eased by two companies prepaying sponsorship fees, as well as the expectation of £22,000 from the National League.

It was also admitted that the club owe Portsmouth money and that season ticket money and Omar Mussa’s transfer fee had been exhausted.

What were the questions?

1. Is it necessary for Weymouth to offload the players or terminate their contracts?

Maitland revealed that a meeting with manager David Oldfield will take place after tonight’s match with Worthing to work out the financial parameters of the playing budget. He stressed there would be no splashing around, while using the loan market for adequate signatures if necessary and depending on the product on the ground. The board will support Oldfield, but it is expected that if spending is not kept in check the club will find themselves in a similar position in the future. Maitland then urged fans to “bring your friends” to the Worthing game to get as much support as possible.

2. Where did the money go?

The consensus of the board of directors was that the competition in the National League had been incredibly difficult. Some people at the club have been ordered not to disclose financial information. Some directors alleged that there had not been a board meeting since May.

3. Was the overrun due to the player’s budget?

Etherington said overspending has been “cut to everything” and long-term debt has piled up over the past season.

4. It was brought to the attention of the current administrators that three of them were not fully aware of the financial situation. Why?

Manager Ralph Ricardo admitted there could be a potential breach of duty by the directors to pursue the matter and that would be explored at a later date.

5. Had the regularity of board meetings changed?

Manager Steve Walkinshaw revealed that monthly board meetings had been held until May, sometimes fortnightly. He alleged that a few directors had requested a meeting since May.

6. Why is Weymouth better off without Ian White and Mark Palmer?

Maitland said the club are still carrying out a full assessment of the events which led to the action being taken. Etherington called on fans who think they can offer specific qualities to the board to run for the board. He mentioned the need to find a permanent CFO and would be open to volunteering on a new finance committee with the next CFO and Maitland. He suggested that this committee could meet once a month and that he and Maitland would not be appointed directors because of their presence on the committee.

7. Why was the entire board not held accountable?

A clear answer was not given due to interruptions and heated debate among the assembled fans.

8. What was the level of indebtedness?

Etherington revealed that £112,000 in debt had accumulated and the club only had £2,000 in the bank. He dismissed as baseless rumors that the club were in debt of £200,000 or even £450,000 as claimed by various social media platforms.

9. The board was asked about speculation that an individual had approached the club trust with the intention of buying a large amount of shares.

Trust leader Paul Cocks, seated among fans, confirmed there had been discussions about share value between the trust and the board over the past 18 months. He believes a statement is due soon to update fans on the progress of these discussions. Cocks also said there has been no major approach by any individual to buy stock.

10. Isn’t it true that a company pulled out of a sponsorship deal due to toxicity within the club and an alleged leak of information?

Ricardo and Maitland both indicated that they were unaware of the allegation. Maitland added that without knowing the ins and outs of any supposed deal, he would not comment. Maitland then declared there would be no EGM, before Etherington appealed for the club’s support. Pete Nash, board member and chairman of the club’s Supporters’ Association, then thanked the club’s volunteers for their hard work.

11. When will a new president be elected?

Maitland replied that the club first had to restructure at the right pace and at the right time and that it would be remiss of him to put a deadline on appointing a successor to White.

12. Are donations really donations or loans?

Etherington said the donations are mostly donations and some were in exchange for shares.

13. A number of directors including Mark Golsby, John Waldock, Rob Bowman had left in recent months. Did they leave because they knew what was going on?

Mark Golsby, present at the meeting, confirmed that he left for personal reasons. Maitland admitted Waldock was now working five days a week at Swindon and couldn’t dedicate the appropriate time at the club, coupled with hip surgery. Maitland also added that Waldock would not disappear. Etherington went further, stating that Waldock is always willing to help out in some way. Etherington spoke about Bowman’s exit and revealed that Bowman still felt that now was not the right time to return to the club due to the stress of running his business.

14. Could the club save money by reducing the number of stewards at home games?

Walkinshaw advised that for attendances totaling less than 400, Weymouth are obliged to have a minimum of four stewards plus a senior steward. For crowds of more than 400 people, there must be 15 stewards.

15. With the Supporters’ Association extending their support to all teams at the club, Nash was asked if it would be best to focus on the men’s team given the current climate.

Nash argued that teams across the club spectrum can and do bring enormous value to Weymouth FC, particularly the women’s team.

The meeting ended with a call for more volunteers to help out on matchdays, either immediately or by giving it a first try with the current group.

Both Maitland and Etherington were thanked for leading the rescue party and were welcomed back to the club.

Maitland concluded by challenging the fans to ‘raise the roof’ of Bob Lucas Stadium for the Worthing game and demonstrate just how big the Weymouth club is.

Melvin B. Baillie