It seems there’s more trouble a-brewing down Hornets way. The rugby club that dropped the name of their own hometown since their dramatic rising from the dead (with help from RAFC directors to the tune of £40,000) have once again realised that attendances of 300 fall short of the break-even margin in a stadium that fits 10,000. By quite some distance. If allegations turn out to be true, Hornets have not paid rent since May this year, and football club directors have once again had to foot the bill. With Keith Hill decrying a lack of funds, and with the first-team squad perilously thin, Dale fans have become increasingly despondent at the situation; which seems to rear its ugly head every couple of years. So is it time for Hornets to buzz off?
What’s clear is that information needs to be released either from RAFC, Hornets, or Rochdale MBC (which are the three notional shareholders of the SC – the Stadium Company, which in turn owns Spotland – despite the Rugby Football League holding Hornets’ share), to stop hearsay, rumour and bare-faced lies becoming the order of the day. Hornets fans are obviously inclined to believe their own story, which is that rent has been paid from Hornets to the SC until the end of the 2011 season; this money has been donated to Hornets from wealthy backer Paul Ormerod, who has since withdrawn his financial support. This means that Hornets – although poverty stricken, and obviously massively under-supported – are square with the SC and thus with RAFC as well. If this were true, Dale fans could have no possible grievance until at least next year. Quite how Hornets could continue with no outside financial support and ever-dwindling ticket receipts is another matter.
But, several Rochdale fans on the unofficial message board have attested that this is not the case. Their version of the story is that Hornets have neglected to pay any rent or costs to the SC for the past three months, and that the fund this debt to the SC, the football club’s own directors have had to dip into their savings to pay for it. Add to this the £40,000 that Dale directors wrote off when the old Rochdale Hornets went bust, and you soon see that Rochdale AFC are subsidising Hornets to the detriment of their own success. This just a few weeks after Keith Hill stated that League One standard players are choosing other options to Rochdale for the sake of £100 per week.
So if this second story is the correct one (and I’m inclined to believe it; Hornets fans have shown themselves repeatedly to be misleading and/or ignorant with regards to the financing of the SC), then why haven’t the Dale directors done something about it?
The answer might be: because they can’t. The Stadium Company, which is owned at the moment by Rochdale AFC, the RFL and Rochdale MBC in a 45:45:10 ratio, has a rule in its constitution that says 75% of the shareholders must agree on every proposal that is put forward. In effect, everyone has to agree. If RAFC were to put a proposal forward stating that Hornets can no longer play at Spotland, the RFL would veto it, because it would effectively make Hornets homeless. With all three parties having veto power, it’s impossible to prevent stalemates such as this occuring. Funny then, you might think, that when the last flare-up of financial woe occured at Hornets, 18 months ago, Hornets seemlessly transferred their own share of the SC to the RFL as collateral for a loan, without the knowledge of the football club. Doesn’t this strike you as odd? That the SC, with its supposed vetoes, allowed this transfer to happen without the knowledge of one of its own shareholders? Did RAFC just not turn up to that meeting?!
The doings of the SC are impossibly murky and under-hand – the chairman of it is a Hornets fan and ex-Hornets chairman, unbelievably. Administration (of the SC) has been mentioned, but until something drastic happens, Hornets can sit pretty in their situation, bleeding Rochdale AFC dry and paying rent whenever they feel like. This is not acceptable in our first season in League One since the 70s. Hornets need to pay up or downsize, and the decrepit and immoral Stadium Company should follow. It’s time that Rochdale’s chairmen stood up for the club and to hell with the rugby club that has done nothing but leech for the past decade. If it means the end of rugby in Rochdale, then so be it; if there is interest, they will return. If not – then I guess we’d all have been done a favour.
Written by Matt Boothman on 10/7/10.