How did we get here: part two in a series
Yes, well, it was meant to be a series. But this whole episode has been so fast moving that my scribblings have quickly been adapted and rewritten to take account of whatever today’s crisis happens to be.
If it appears that my mood on social media has been somewhat bipolar in the last few weeks, and it’s not just me. It IS a roller coaster of extreme lows and the occasional high, as every piece of good news and bad news blows up and sends emotions running wild. It is not good for anyone, and even the administrators feel it, trust me.
As a club, I suspect that after paying the current squad’s wages, we were broke again a couple of days ago. If the Gelhardt monies have arrived, then the bank balance may be healthy again and we have a fighting chance of paying the August wages due in two weeks. Not just pay them, but pay them on time.
So yes, that is positive news but then there is next month, and the month after that and so on and I can understand perfectly the need to draw a line in the sand for potential bidders of 31st August.
Essentially the administrators are keeping the club afloat by selling players (one off revenue) to fund ongoing costs, which are needed to be paid every month.
We might be able to do that to cover August and September. If we get season tickets and shirts on sale, that might cover October and November at a push, but what happens after that if we still have no income coming in?
Sooner or later, we will run out of money and it is being exacerbated by the current pandemic.
Essentially the 31st August is a flag to say, we aren’t happy to start a season if there is a good chance we cannot finish it.
The original reaction amongst the fans was understandably alarmist. A realisation that if we don’t get a successful buyer in the next 16 days, then we are toast.
The other way to look at it is that the administrators are giving a nudge, or sharp dig to the ribs for these potential bidders, essentially because of the situation above and telling them to (I love this phrase) piss, or get off the pot.
ADMINISTRATION: WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Anyway, the first part I did weeks ago, covered how exactly we ended up into administration. Let’s now look at what has happened since and how the administrators have been managing the club.
So day one, they arrived and there was actually around £300k in the bank. The problem was that wages were due and back then, all of two months ago, they were probably somewhere in the region of £1.2m including non playing staff.
Given that Au Yeung, via his lawyers, had put down a “not a penny more” marker, the sole focus, back then and indeed now, was to generate cash. And unfortunately, for a football club, in a global pandemic, the only way to raise cash is to sell players.
And unfortunately, again, we were relegated (again thanks to Au Yeung) which activated all manner of release clauses and indeed dropping a division in general means that transfer fees are driven down. Although Man United once paid £6m quid for a kid from Crewe, wonder what happened to him *cries*
Added to the fact that we are in administration, then other clubs know that we are desperate for cash so will bid as low as possible to get a cheap deal.
Oh yes and unfortunately number three, we are in a global pandemic and apart from the handful of immune uber rich clubs, the arse has well and truly fallen out of the transfer market.
So, from the start, the sale of Jensen Weir and Alfie Devine, helped to get the June wages paid eventually. Had these wages got to 28 days overdue, then the entire playing squad could have torn up their contracts and walked away for free and there would be no club now.
By the time we get to the end of August, a couple more players will exit for decent money and we will be able to cover the current month’s wages.
This is actually a far better position than we were in a few weeks back but it is evident that we can’t keep selling players as we will run out of players and not have a team. And we are restricted on the fees that can be brought in for reasons disclosed above.
So I understand the frustration around players being sold off cheap by the fans, but this is a crisis and needs must. I should also point out that there have been lots of derisory offers for both our young and senior players. A bid of £450k came in for someone you would hope to get £2m for yesterday and there was also a bid of £35k earlier in the week for one of our youth players, who like Gelhardt, Weir and Divine will be worth hundreds of times that in the near future.
In summary, there is a balance to be achieved here and I think the administrators are handling it well. They are football fans ultimately and don’t want to see this club die.
There are inevitably going to be more player sales in the next couple of weeks and you can probably guess who they are likely to be but this in theory is good news. Sad news as well but good news for three reasons:
- a) it will reduce the football creditors further
b) it will improve the cashflow position to ensure wages continue to be paid; and
c) improve the financial viability to any potential buyer (reduces running costs and therefore operating losses)
THE £45 MILLION PROBLEM
Now I wanted to touch on the creditors situation as it has also sent shockwaves across the Latics community and is thankfully now being cleared up.
I actually haven’t fully been through the full listing or 100 page report that is doing the rounds*, so please feel free to correct me if anything is inaccurate, but I am doing this high level in the hope it can be read by a wider audience who don’t doze off half way through.
*though Alan from tPan has pointed out that I appear to be the financial controller of one of the companies owed money. Awkward. One for the “Jimmy’s on the club payroll” conspiracy theorists there.
Yes, Wigan Athletic has creditors of £45m. This is technically true and it has to be reported this way.
But it is also true that the only EXTERNAL creditors are a maximum of £10m and the truth is that even a large slice of that, is due to circumstances relating to the global pandemic.
In my mind the £45m creditor listing is more like £13m worst case owed, best case £5m.
Although that’s still £5m we haven’t right now, it can be found from player sales. Finding buyers who will pay a decent price, even in admin is the hard bit.
£10.7m is an intercompany creditor to Wigan Athletic Holdings, so they have a £10.7m debtor in their accounts to offset this, so it is not a real debt, it is a technical creditor. As the holding company is within the group in administration. This is an intercompany loan which will be cancelled out upon successful purchase, or (eek!) liquidation.
It is merely the Holding company forwarding money to the football club for running costs.
Keen readers of annual accounts like myself, will also have spotted that the stadium company also has a creditor to Holdings of £5m, again presumably for the same purpose. The Holding company forwarding monies to run the business.
The massive, gigantic, floppy eared elephant in the room is of course the £25m NLF loan. Clearly this is the one that is giving Barnsley and Bolton fans a hard on, whilst trotting out the “living within your means line but essentially, it is what other football clubs call share capital in another form.
The trouble is that when IEC sold their share capital to NLF, they preferred to fund the club with a loan instead, which they have tried to foist upon the club at extortionate interest rates. Of course they did.
Either way, this will only ever be paid at 25p in the pound, as it is an unsecured non football creditor.
Don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but there is also an ongoing theme as mentioned a while back by Gerald Krasner as to whether the loan actually exists and the administrators are speaking intermittently to Au Yeung to find out whether this needs repaying or not. However, I think we can all imagine that getting a straight answer out of the slippery f*cker is a challenge.
Having this unresolved is almost as destructive as putting us in admin in the first place, as it is putting off any potential new owner from putting a bid in, as even at 25% (£6.25m) this effectively gets added to the purchase price.
And yes it is highly ironic that the man who tried to wipe us out could now hold the keys to saving us.
There is £10m of other creditors aside from the above two items.
There is £4m of non football creditors, the largest of which is HMRC at £2.8m. Again, we only owe money to HMRC because all VAT & PAYE Payments have been deferred due to COVID-19, so this is not a normal creditor.
Again, as non football creditors, they only need to be paid 25p in the £1, so £1m and there is no points deduction attached to doing this.
Finally, we have the £6m of football creditors, which most of you are aware by now, of which the largest part is sums owned to other clubs for instalments on transfer fees and loan fees.
There are also the sums owed to current players due to them deferring 20% of their wages due to COVID-19. Again another creditor that would not exist in normal circumstances.
There are going to be a lot of clubs whose balance sheets are stretched at the minute, evidence as if you needed it, that this couldn’t have happened to us at a worse possible time.
However, the transfer fees element is unwinding each time we sell a player and could drag this £6m figure down to £3m or £4m in the next few days.
Essentially, we are paying it off every time we sell a player. If we owe £1.5m to Barnsley to Kieffer Moore, then that alone reduces the figure to £4.5m, with Barnsley getting their £1.5m rather than us getting the cash. Who knows, their fans might actually stop moaning for a day but I’m not holding my breath?
Same happens if/when we sell Robinson and Williams (Everton are a creditor), Lowe (Portsmouth) and Windass (Bon Accord 4th team)
It means we don’t get all of the cash but we do clear down our outstanding creditors and reduce what we owe, making that 15 point penalty less likely.
BUT WHAT ABOUT OUT TRANSFER FEES?
One thing that I wasn’t aware of that the administrators explained to me is that none of this money goes from club to club. It is filtered and channelled through the EFL, so we don’t have a choice how to spend this money, it is distributed by the EFL.
If you receive money for a player, the EFL will check to see if you either still owe transfer instalments to anyone else for that player, or whether you owe any money to the club you are selling to before releasing the rest.
At this point, I’d just like to touch on the Debtors we have, as people have asked me about this also. The simple question is that, just as we have outstanding transfer fees to pay, then surely other clubs owe us money, such as Sunderland for Will Grigg or Brighton for Dan Burn.
Again, it just follows the same process in reverse. The Brighton one is complicated though. We also had two players on loan from Brighton, who we paid loan fees for, so any monies received as the latest instalment on Dan Burn, would first have Balogun and Mlakar’s loan fees taken off.
Getting money out of any other debtors will be difficult in our current circumstances. It is a sad fact of business that if you owed a company money, and it looks like they could go bust in a matter of weeks. Well, you’d probably hang on to your money for a few weeks as it might be pointless paying up anyway.
Let me wrap this up, as I have rambled on for a while again. Firstly, let me summarise the creditor position (amounts owed in millions):
The football creditors will only drop lower as we sell more players, as the lion’s share of it relates to payment outstanding for those players.
The administrators have also confirmed that the wages outstanding for players who have left the club will be paid shortly, which may or may not include their part of the wage deferral.
We are getting cheaper to buy, we are getting operating costs down to a more manageable level and we do have interested buyers, so there is grounds for optimism.
If the stars align there could actually be more good news than bad next week, for the first time in a while and it will all be due to the efforts of those people who have been doing sterling work on social media, the CEO, who is still working for free, the Supporters Clubs and the administrators. And everyone who has donated to the fighting fund.
We are not out of the woods yet and there is still a real threat that Wigan Athletic could cease to exist in a matter of weeks, so let us not get too carried away with optimism just yet, as it is a very dangerous thing to do.
It is reassuring to know that steps are being taken to put in place a “Plan B” behind the scenes and I am talking with Jonathan Jackson, the Supporters Club and the administrators to look at the potential options.
We may have to fend for ourselves if the worst happens but knowing there are good people involved and many more out there willing to help amongst the fanbase, will stand us in good stead.
If nobody buys us, and even if one of the people who has been rumoured to be interested does (RBTL there), we may need to pursue this.
But even if the doomsday scenario (hopefully) never prevails, there is going to have to be increased fan representation in any future Wigan Athletic. We should demand it, to prevent anything like this ever happening again.
Finally, I’d like to thank the administrators for being generous with their time. I know some fans out there have been critical. The same ones who are critical of everyone to be fair: JJ, the Supporters Club, Paul Kendrick and yes me.
I’m cool with that. To leave you with a bit of Aristotle: the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.
It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and offer criticism and opinions. Opinions don’t pay the bills unfortunately.
Rest assured the administrators are working to save us, and yes they do get paid for it. I suppose those being critical work for free all the time?
There are a lot of good people supporting them and working to try and save this club and as Dean Watson said to me the other day: from the administrators perspective: nobody wants a failure on their CV.
We are a long way from safety but let us hope that the next week brings some movement in the right direction, after the amount of times this club has been put on the floor recently
Keep the Faith
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