What's going on at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground?

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

REVELATIONS that Wrexham FC bosses have used The Racecourse Ground as security against loans to rescue Crusaders rugby league club from administration have sparked fury among fans.

On Christmas Eve, club owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts signed a loan and guarantee agreement between Wrexham Village Ltd, the Rugby Football League and Super League (Europe) Ltd.

As security they used The Racecourse Ground on Mold Road.

Details of the agreement and a copy of the official document relating to it have posted on the fan website Red Passion.

And a number of fans have posted comments criticising the move.

The person who made the original posting, ‘Wrexham Casual’, says on the site: “This is scandalous, I’m absolutely sickened.

“If Wrexham Village and/or Wrexham Crusaders Ltd fail to pay back the money they have borrowed then the RFL and Super League will part-own the Racecourse Ground, which belongs to Wrexham FC.”

Another post on Red Passion says: “It is now virtually impossible to separate The Racecourse, Wrexham Village, Wrexham FC and the Crusaders. The company structure doesn’t match the debt structure.

“It is difficult to know who owns what and who owes what to whom.”

Richard Owen, chairman of Wrexham Supporters’ Trust, said: “We are disappointed with the constant drip-feed of information on this issue from the club and the lack of clarity about it.

“As a result of this development it is looking like Wrexham FC has lost control of its main asset – The Racecourse – and we are now afraid for the future of the club.

“Among the risks is a potential increase in rent to the club – if they sell the ground a new owner might increase the rent.

“The club can’t secure debt against the ground if it no longer owns it. If that happened, as it did with Mansfield recently, there could be a threat of eviction.

“We would like to be told more by the club and the Rugby Football League on what this means.”

Mr Owen said trust officials were planning to meet with members of the Wrexham Supporters Federation to discuss the implications of the move.

A spokesman for the Rugby Football League said: “The loans to Crusaders are a commercial issue between the directors of Crusaders and the RFL and it would be wrong of us to discuss details of it.

“The RFL has done what is necessary to protect its own position.”
Geoff Moss said: “This is a legitimate business arrangement and does not place The Racecourse Ground in any jeopardy.

“Before the loan agreement all charges had been against myself.

“All we have done is to spread the charge to the ground.”

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas said: “I am hoping to meet with Wrexham Football Club’s directors soon.

“ I will be setting out my concerns and those of people who have contacted me about developments at the club.

“For the sake of clarity, I believe there is no part of The Racecourse site which should not remain with the club.

“As much income as possible is needed for the club to be viable and recent building developments received the backing they did on the basis they were in the best interests of the club and town.

“I am talking to the council about the actions they are taking in this respect.

“I condemn any abusive behaviour towards club staff by fans and I do not believe such actions help secure the future of Wrexham Football Club.

“Securing that future, and securing it at the Racecourse, should be the focus of everyone involved. I will make sure the directors of the club are told my views clearly when we meet.”

LEADER COMMENT:

A NEW decade has dawned but there appears to be little hope of an outbreak of peace on the eternal battleground that is Wrexham Football Club.

The revelation that club owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts used The Racecourse as collateral to raise loans to save the Crusaders rugby league team, which shares the stadium, has raised anger and fear among Wrexham football fans to a level not seen since the regime of Alex Hamilton.

Mr Moss, for his part, says he is at the end of his tether over personal abuse directed at himself and his family by some supporters and is desperate to sell the football club.

He and Mr Roberts would argue that the loan and guarantee deal with the Rugby Football League involving The Racecourse was unavoidable if they were to save the Crusaders. And in an open letter to fans, the owners have offered to grant a minimum 25-year lease to both Wrexham FC and Crusaders at a rent that would yield no profit to Wrexham Village Ltd, the holding company which owns the stadium.

The fans, though, have a number of concerns. Firstly, how has it come about that the football club, which has occupied The Racecourse for nearly 140 years, can no longer call upon its main capital asset because it has been used as security for the Crusaders, who only arrived in 2009?

Secondly, given that when it relocated from South Wales the rugby league outfit brought with it the best part of £1.25million of debt – a liability which effectively  precipitated the present crisis – what benefit has it brought to the football club?

And thirdly, what guarantee would Wrexham FC have that it could continue to use The Racecourse should the Crusaders club fail to repay its loans and the RFL assume part-ownership of the ground?

Messrs Moss and Roberts also say they would offer new owners of the football club the option to buy The Racecourse. But how would this be possible if it stands as collateral for money owed by Crusaders, save for the unlikely event that the new Wrexham FC buyers were willing to pay off the rugby league club’s debts?

The whole affair is mired in what frequently feels like an unfathomable complexity and much of the anger and mistrust may well be founded upon misunderstanding.
If football (both association and rugby league) is to have a future in Wrexham, it is vital therefore that the owners and the fans’ groups establish a regular platform of communication in order to pose and answer questions, explain their standpoints and hopefully resolve their differences.

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