Goodnight dear friend, thank you for some amazing memories

Belle Vue stadium. Picture: Clint Jones, The 94th Minute blog

Rhyl Football Club is no more.

The company Rhyl Football Club Bellevue Limited has announced tonight it has initiated the formal winding-up of the company.

However, discussions are ongoing about the possibility of forming a new club to keep football alive in the town.

The four-time Welsh Cup winners, three-time Cheshire League champions and twice Welsh Premier League title holders had set a deadline of April 20 to attract necessary investment of £175,000 to remain in operation next season.

Despite the best efforts of officials and fans, that amount has not been reached.

Rhyl FC said in a statement tonight: “The difficult decision was taken by the Board of Directors after considering the financial impact of the suspension of all football activities due to the unprecedented impact of Covid 19, the unwillingness of the ground’s owner to consider either a long lease or sale on market terms and the ongoing fixed costs with no income prospects.

“With no viable approach received to invest in the club, the directors in the recent weeks have held open discussions with the Rhyl Fans Association to explain in detail the current situation.

“During those meetings it was agreed to explore the scope for a new football club in Rhyl, as happened in 1992, to seek to ensure football remains in the town of Rhyl preserving the rich history of football in the town.”

The dominant issue over recent years, has been the relationship between the landlord of Belle Vue, David Butters, and the football club, an issue which has impacted on expressions of interest in the club in recent weeks.

The club currently pay nearly £24,000 per annum for a lease of the ground, which was due to expire in 4 years.

Over the past decade various offers have been made to the landlord by the club chairman to purchase the ground, with the offers being in excess of market value.

On each occasion Mr Butters has showed no willingness to progress a sale of the ground. The maintenance of the ground is the responsibility of the tenant and whilst its status and capacity has seen prestigious events held in recent years there is a clear requirement for investment in its facilities.

The absence of ownership by the club or a long-term lease resulted in the Rhyl FC being ineligible for many grants to enable much needed improvements to be made.

In recent weeks the chairman advised Mr Butters of the importance of either a long lease on market rate terms or a one year option to purchase the ground in securing investor’s to save the club. The landlord did not respond to either proposal.

Rhyl’s last major success – winning the Cymru Alliance title in 2012-13

The current situation regarding COVID 19 has also impacted on the short and medium term stability of the club. Whilst there are hopes from the FA Wales that the season will be completed in the summer months it is anticipated that it will be longer before spectators can attend games.

The statement continues: “Over the last 12 months the club has increased its sponsorship and fund raising activities which has delivered additional income. With the support of the chairman the club was heading for a break even season, as with last season.

“However the suspension of football and the lockdown arrangements now means that fundraising activities have ceased.

“The close season and summer period traditionally brings a large amount of income to the club with tournaments and fundraising events. With the suspension of activities these income streams have dried up as rightly the focus has to be on the health of all supporters in these times of national crisis.

“The club has also explored options for external funding. Whilst there are grants available for small businesses as part of the Government’s response to COVID 19 the reality is that the funding available would not by itself bridge the gap in required finance.

“The club has also been in discussions with the Welsh FA regarding any assistance available. Whilst sympathetic to the plight of Rhyl FC the Welsh FA expressed that they were not in a position to support the club outright, with many other clubs across Wales expected to face similar financial difficulties in the coming months.

“The Welsh FA did indicate that a ‘small loan’ may be possible but only if secured. The club could not offer security nor would a small loan be sufficient.

“Since the club made the request for investment / sponsorship 5 approaches of varying statures have been received. Due diligence eliminated 3 of the enquiries and a further offer was withdrawn following the confirmation of the status of ownership of the ground. An additional tentative enquiry was made and subsequently withdrawn. In NO instance was any specific financial proposal made by any of these parties.

“The need to explore all these options and the delicate nature of discussions required an extension of time to be offered. Following the exhaustion of these options the directors were left with the current position.

“One of the comforts in recent weeks has been the active role played by the Rhyl Fans Association. They have been able to raise funds in recent weeks through fundraising campaigns and the directors have met online with officials from the Association to ensure they were fully informed of the current position of the club.

“All of these factors have left the directors with a difficult decision to make on the future of the club.

“Reluctantly the directors have had to conclude that, with no substantial source of external investment, the unpalatable decision had to be made to wind-up the affairs of the company Rhyl Football Club Bellevue Limited.

“This decision effectively ends the club’s 2019/20 campaign and will also see the it lose its Academy status. This will also see the football club lose its existing lease of Belle Vue.

“The club would like to offer its appreciation to all that have supported Rhyl FC in recent years whether as spectators, sponsors, volunteers, parents or players as we have all worked together.”

Chairman Paul Higginson said: ‘‘This is a very emotional day for everyone connected with the club – the volunteers, supporters, players, coaching staff and all the officers of the club. We are all fans and feel it deeply.

“That said the town has a very proud footballing history and a very determined character and, as in 1992, I have no doubt that a very strong new club will rise from this low.“

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