Widnes had debts of £600k when they entered administration

James Gordon

Widnes had debts of £600,000 when former chief executive and director James Rule called in administrators back in February.

The club was saved following a fundraising campaign by fans after the previous regime had left the Vikings with just £786.31 in the bank.

Unlike in many other instances of administration, it wasn’t a creditor calling in the debt – such as HMRC in the case of Bradford – but the owners of the club that forced the situation.

In an interview just 12 months ago, Rule said: “We’ve cleared all of our historic debt, which was considerable, and we’re now at a break-even financial position.”

A new board, led by chairman Chris Price, successfully rescued the club but only after the club had been deducted 12 points and lost five players, and all sponsorship and ticket revenue had already been frittered away.

An advance on the club’s parachute payment had also gone, and as a result it is unlikely that Widnes will receive the remainder of that £500,000 payment following their relegation from Super League.

New chief executive Phil Finney says that they have had no choice but to honour a number of the outstanding debts.

Speaking at a recent members event, Finney said: “There was prolonged discussions about what was going on prior to administration, one of the advantages was allegedly you become debt free.

“Prior to administration, the debts were big. The amount of money owed to council was massive, the suppliers that we owed money to was pretty big as well.

“There was also a lot of rugby debt which come to light after the event, which is money owed to the RFL from previous regime, money to other clubs etc.

“So in terms of debt, we aren’t debt free.

“We’re still having to pay off debts that the previous club accrued.

“Rugby league is such a small sport, there’s agents, other clubs, medical staff, medical specialists that we’ve had to pay because if we didn’t pay them, they wouldn’t engage with us in the future.

“The slate hasn’t been wiped clean by any stretch of the imagination, we’ve had to do the right thing and honour some of those debts.”

Debts included £75k in unpaid PAYE tax and national insurance, as well as a further £20k in pension schemes. More than £40k was still owed to employees.

Several former employees, including players Krisnan Inu and Adam Tangata, are still exploring their legal options with regards to the situation, some of which remain deeply unhappy having turned down other offers to join Widnes in the off-season when the funds clearly weren’t there.

Back office employees who remained with the club after administration received their outstanding salary payments for February last week.

The biggest creditor was Halton Borough Council, their landlords at the Halton Stadium, who were owed £317k, and have helped considerably with the saving of the club and working with the new owners.

A total of £54,878 was owed to former kit suppliers O’Neills, who had supplied the Vikings for 10 years before being replaced by Xblades at the end of last season.

Sizeable insurance premiums meant that Widnes, amongst others, opt not to take insurance but to pay for treatment as and when they needed it, which has resulted in debts to a number of hospitals, including Spire in Liverpool, Manchester and Reading.

The list also includes legal firms, travel companies, printers, sports software provides and even match day host Roy Basnett.

More on Widnes administration saga

Widnes in administration; the club could cease to exist

Widnes step up fundraising efforts to save club

Widnes fans rally round the club in fight for its future

Widnes takeover involving consortium agreed subject to RFL approval