Rhyl Football Club is in serious danger of folding, senior officials have warned.
Already in financial difficulty, and still unable to resolve the long-running battle to gain ownership of its home ground, the suspension of domestic Welsh football through the escalation of the Coronavirus pandemic could prove the final straw for the Lilywhites.
Rhyl now face the prospect of no significant income for the rest of the season, but still having to pay bills and fixed costs, a situation that could cripple one of Wales’ most famous football clubs.
A grim club statement released on Tuesday night said: “With the suspension of the domestic Welsh football season announced on Friday 13th March following the escalation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the reality of the stark financial situation for Rhyl Football Club has been hammered home with the likelihood of no significant income for the rest of the season and the key post season month of May, when the club maximises the famous Belle Vue pitch.
“However, the many bills and fixed costs will continue to be required to be paid.”
Supporters heard over Christmas that the club has fixed operating costs of close to £5k per month with a significant part made up of the monthly rent payments for their historic home of Belle Vue, its home since 1901.
This scenario leaves Rhyl Football Club in a position whereby the next few months will see the club’s debts increase and with no ground ownership its financial situation in the short term may well mean that its long-term survival is in real jeopardy.
Since the open meeting in December this issue has now accelerated rapidly due to the current Coronavirus situation.
Rhyl’s chairman Paul Higginson said: “Following our openness and honesty in December, Adam (Roche – managing director) and myself wanted to continue being completely transparent as this is arguably the bleakest situation the club has been in for over 25 years.
“Without significant external investment or clarity on whether the national emergency funding may assist sports clubs during this unprecedented period, the ability for Rhyl Football Club to resume playing duties is now seriously under threat.
“This is a situation which I’m sure many other clubs are facing. However, the nature of the ground ownership for Rhyl FC means that our problems are multiplied.”
He added: “The clock is now ticking for the club; we simply don’t have the financial resources to keep things going. Since our December open evening the response from the supporters and local community has been magnificent with fundraising events being held and individuals coming forward to help the club with maintenance tasks.
“However, the current advice regarding gatherings and social distancing means that these types of fundraising events together with other ground-related options now removed from the club leaves a bleak future ahead.”
In terms of the ground, which is privately-owned, Higginson added: “The rent for the ground remains the single largest cost for the club.
“The payment we make is well above market rent and this places a handicap on the club. With the lease nearing its end, being unable to access ground related grants and the current financial difficulties means that the club’s options are now extremely limited.”
The club reported in February that a response had been received from the owner, but Higginson confirmed that “with four years remaining on the lease the owner appears reluctant to commit to meaningful talks now with regards to the offer submitted, which was well above market value for the ground.”
The chairman added: “Without clarity on external financial support for sports clubs or support from an investor, the only option may be to unfortunately call time on Rhyl Football Club and then who knows what would happen, perhaps a new team may emerge, like CPD Bangor 1876, but in all likelihood the proud past of Rhyl Football Club may well be consigned to the history books.
“If the current club cannot continue and a new club is formed, then I hope that Belle Vue is retained as the centre of football for all ages in Rhyl and its community.
“The sporting covenants have preserved football at Belle Vue since the turn of the last century and raising funds to purchase the ongoing running of the club would be more likely to succeed if we had the option of purchasing the ground – that decision of course is in the hands of the current owner of the ground.”
Rhyl Football Club was founded in 1879 and boasts an illustrious history, having won the Welsh Cup four times, the Cheshire County League on three occasions and the Welsh Premier League title twice.
The Lilywhites have also played 14 matches in European competition and hold the record for the most NWCFA Challenge Cup wins (16).
Rhyl currently play in the second tier of Welsh football, lying ninth in the Cymru North.