ACTION NOT WORDS….THE CLOCK IS TICKING\r\nThis is a statement made by Colin Peake about the current state of affairs at Gloucester City but he clarifies that by also stating that in the world of football the financial position of the club is a pebble rather than a brick around its neck.\r\n\r\nPeake, has a vast experience of football matters not only with 20 years at Forest Green Rovers but in his current role has the PR & Media director of the Football Conference. This past season he has also been assisting the Tigers in a consultancy capacity but has had no direct involvement in how the club operates.\r\n\r\nDespite that he is a man who not only knows the game well but in the past has put several packages together to help other clubs and knows how serious or not the recent developments are to the club that carries the City name.\r\n\r\n“Since the floods forced the club away from Meadow Park it has been a constant struggle and when last September the plans for a new stadium were presented to the Council, it was hoped that some certainty would be afforded and with it the potential of investment”. Unfortunately for reasons which are too involved to try and explain in simple terms, it has led to the owner of the club almost admitting defeat and having to rescale any plans. I feel for Eamonn McGurk, who has bankrolled the club to the tune of £1m in the past 16 years and committed over £200k to the stadium planning process. Where has it got him, precisely nowhere”.\r\n\r\n“Whether any future stadium is at Meadow Park or anywhere at this moment is irrelevant. The clock is ticking in more ways than one. I have been working on behalf of all sections of the club over the past week to establish what needs doing, when and how. I do believe I have resolved the initial major issue which is the debt to their landlords, Cheltenham Town. Contrary to figures mentioned as of this weekend gone, the debt due was just under £17k and I have offered Paul Baker and his Board a resolution to that debt plus in addition monies which cover to the end of this season. There is however one vital condition to the payment, Gloucester City must achieve in conjunction with this payment the signing of the ground-share agreement for next season. Without the agreement being lodged by 31st March the only result will be relegation of the club from the Football Conference. If that happens there are two serious downsides. The first is the club would face life in the Southern League, from where they had been promoted three years ago and they would still find themselves without a ground suitable to the requirements of playing in that league. Whether there was sufficient time to sort another ground-share agreement with another club in the time available is a risk I would not want the club to run. The regulations covering ground-share is the same throughout football. So if the club were unable to meet that deadline they would become sadly just a local team playing in a very minor league.\r\n\r\nThe second and most important downside is if they lose their Conference status then out the window goes the funding streams which the clubs needs to help build the stadium. In my role with the Conference I have been able to engage in meetings and obtained verbal promises of extra funding for the club due to their unusual plight of how they became homeless. That is all dependant on any stadium having full planning consent. So the clock ticks away there!\r\n\r\nIt is simple to see the financial mechanics which are building up here and to add to the timescale the Conference would in all honesty not allow the club to ground-share for longer than five seasons without having some definitive end in sight to their nomadic life.\r\n\r\nSo in reality the gloves are off in more ways than one and the pressure is on all concerned to bring the club back home, wherever that home maybe. It is time for action and not words.”\r\n\r\nIt is also important to understand how the rent problem arose and Peake ia able to shed some light on this from his investigations. The club this season went almost seven weeks without a home game (the longest of any of the 68 Conference clubs) due to the rain and snow which affected the county, coupled with giving up two Saturday fixtures to allow Cheltenham unfettered access to their pitch and stadium for FA Cup live televised games with Hereford and Everton. Then on top when City had the opportunity to have some financial gain from their tie against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup, the game was called off with the television due to broadcast worldwide. When the game was played 10 days later the television deal was scuppered due to programming schedules.\r\n\r\n“Having given the reasons why this season has seen more financial pressures than previous years, there is no doubt in my opinion whilst they have had some bad luck the club need to look deeper into their structure and operation. They cannot continue to rely on their owner and the valuable Supporters Trust, who whilst both will inject a certain financial figure each season into the club, in the case of Eamonn McGurk he cannot do that every time there is a shortfall. The stadium must be his priority for the purpose of longevity and the club itself must try to stand on its own two feet, although under difficult circumstances.\r\n\r\n“I have arranged meetings over the next week with different parties including the Trust and I shall be advising those I meet with how they might wish to attempt to bring more finance into the club for the next two seasons. I am sure we will hear more about any schemes as soon as they happen. From my own perspective I\r\nknow it is hard in the current climate for businesses but I would ask other businesses in the City to look at the club with some compassion at this time. Yesterday morning I did have a call off a businessman who does not live or operate his business in the City but he stated he knew how hard I work for the game and wanted to encourage me to do more and handed me £500 to help out. In welcoming that donation I appreciate all businesses cannot do that and so rather than give a monetary donation I would ask them to consider getting some value from anything they can afford, by taking up a match sponsorship or other package on a match day, supporting outside events like the Sporting Evening in April by taking a table, or advertising with the club. It is not costly and at least you know where your money has gone.\r\n\r\nI am grateful to those who have afforded me time to date, in particular Paul James, Leader of the City Council.\r\n\r\nGloucester is my City, football is my game. The City has a window of opportunity with a life blood of a stadium for generations to follow. In reality everyone needs to come together because two years is a short time. Just think…… what did happen in 2007.\r\n\r\nIn summarising, I will be honest that the club needs to look inwards at how it operates and its structure. For whilst the manager and the team have done wonders this season there needs to be reality and remember, expectation only comes before reality in the dictionary.\r\n\r\nColin can be contacted on 07763 831070
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