Non League football supporter, Butter Pie aficionado, Northern Soul lover,
Champion of Supporters rights & fan ownership 

The extended ramblings of Chorley Mon

Subtitle

The Tangled Web that is Chorley FC & it's Ownership Structure.

****UPDATE*****

At the end of the 2014/15 season the roof over the Duke Street end of the ground that is owned by Victory Park Holdings Ltd was condemned as dangerous and required removal. The only alternative to this was to close that entire end of the ground. In the absence of any financial or indeed practical support for this from the stadium owners the board of Chorley Football Club Ltd set aside funds from its own budget, recruited a number of volunteers and secured the use of engineering equipment to remove the condemned structure themselves. Naturally this has ledt to questions on the (uncovered) terraces about when the roof would be replaced. This, of course poses quite a conundrum to the board of Chorley Football Club. The ground is not theirs. It is not the football clubs. There is not even any security of tenure beyond the current football season to play there. So, why on earth would they take approximately £60k out a tight football budget to stick a roof on a property that belongs to another company, a property for which there is no guarantee of the club playing at in the long term? The same question can similarly be asked of the numerous other projects at the famous old ground that need addressing that include, but are not limited to:

Outdoor toilet facilities
Indoor toilets for men

    1. Seats in the stand
    2. Rendering to the back of the stand
    3. The roof on the social club
  • If the club do nothing they run the risk of losing fans in the winter months as they also run the risk of losing fans who are not accustomed or willing to watch their football in a ground with such decrepit facilities.

     

    Naturally, the next questions to be asked are:

    1. Can we get a long term lease on the ground?
    2. If not, why won’t the owners give us a long term lease?
    3. What plans do the owners have for Victory Park if not for Chorley FC
    4. If there are no other plans, why not give the club a long term lease?

There are limited number of people who are able to answer these questions, none of whom play any part I the day to day running of Chorley Football Club. What we do know is, having read this article we can see that Victory Park is now has a charge against it as part of the £360m worth of assets Northern Trust Ltd put up to secure the £238m loan. This is clear from the most recent entry in the Land Registry and the Statement of Charge obtained from Companies house. Furthermore the Statement of Charge also contains this on page 14, section 6 paragraph 6.2:

“No Chargor shall (nor shall any charger agree to) enter into a single transaction or a series of transactions (whether related or not or whether voluntary or involuntary) to sell, lease, transfer or otherwise dispose of the Charged Assets except as permitted by the Facilities Agreement”


People often ask about the ownership of Chorley Football Club and it's tenure at Victory Park. Many people, both locals and especially opposition fans refer to the club being owned/ bank rolled by a billionaire. Little information is available to either supporter, casual observer or opposition fan and this page is all about setting the record straight, busting a few myths and explaining how the club is structured. The information given here is widely available on the internet for those that want to look for it. Sadly, there's probably only me anal enough to do so and so for the rest of you here's what I've found.

A bit of background:

Chorley Football Club was saved from almost certain extinction by local businessman Trevor Hemmings in 1994 (or rather his Group of companies that come under his "Northern Trust" umbrella). He cleared the club's mounting debts and acquired the Club lock stock and barrel. At this early point it is worth stressing the gratitude due to Northern Trust, not only for that intervention over 30 years ago, but for the numerous other financial interventions made throughout that often turbulent period; not least in 2011 when a club official callously betrayed the trust reposed in him by siphoning over £70,000 of club funds. The already cash strapped club was left with a seemingly insurmountable task in satisfying creditors; not least the much feared HMRC. Whilst the club's directors (none of whom are shareholders) rallied round to raise £15,000 of their own money Northern Trust doubled their effort by contributing £30,000. A press release issued by the club at that time (Friday 7th October 2011) read:

"... the directors have injected fifteen thousand pounds of their own money into the club and this amount has been matched by Northern Trust Group Limited the property company based in Chorley. Northern Trust owns the Victory Park ground and once again the directors of Chorley FC wish to express their sincere thanks for the very substantial support provided by Northern Trust Group Limited over many years and in this particularly difficult situation."

On reflection it is interesting to note in 2011 that Northern Trust were described as owners of Victory Park, not of the football club. The press release quoted above concludes by suggesting further enquiries be directed to the club's solicitor, Simon Robinson of Kevills Solicitors in Chorley (remember that name).

A bit of opinion: The Hemmings era started with some pretty generous backing, as I recall, in pursuit of a return to the (Vauxhall) Conference. Manager Dave Sutton was given what I can only presume was an enviable playing budget and set about assembling a large and expensive squad. However, the only "success" to speak of during this time was reaching the semi final of the FA Trophy; going out over two legs to eventual winners (and at that time Non League heavyweights) Macclesfield Town. After that the "sugar daddy" approach appeared to have been reconsidered in favour of one of sustenance. There are many theories around why this may have been which I'm sure many on the terraces at Victory Park would be happy to indulge you in, but my aim here is to inform you of what we know, not what we think we know.

The nitty gritty: There are, essentially three companies involved in what we know as Chorley Football Club. These are:
  1. Chorley Football Club Limited
  2. Chorley Sporting Club Limited
  3. Victory Park Holdings Limited


Chorley Football Club Limited

The company was incorporated on 10th August 1994 and essentially concerns the activities of the football team and the management thereof. It's directors are known to most people who frequent Victory Park and are listed on the last Annual Return as: Ken Wright, Jeremy Lee, Andrew Nield and Glen Hutchinson. However, none of the directors are listed as shareholders and therefore "owners" of the football club. There are just two ordinary shares in Chorley Football Club Limited and these are both owned by Chorley Sporting Club Limited. Recent Annual Returns clearly show the dent left in the finances by the theft detailed above.


Chorley Sporting Club Limited

This is where the waters start to get muddied. This company was also incorporated in 1994 and is the parent company of Chorley Football Club Limited. Going back to 2004 it was also the parent company of Chorley Lynx RLFC, but the town's Rugby League Club ceased to exist in that year when Northern Trust/ Trevor Hemmings decided to no longer fund the £1000 per week losses that Club was incurring.

The directors of Chorley Sporting Club Limited are listed as Ken Wright and Glen Hutchinson. Again, neither are shareholders of this company; and it is with the shareholders that the fog starts to descend. Until recently Chorley Sporting Club Limited was a subsidiary of Northern Trust and hence Trevor Hemmings as per the acquisition of 1994. However there are now just two shareholders listed for this company: 

  1. Peter Singleton - 409,392 Ordinary shares
  2. Simon Robinson -409,393 Ordinary shares (I told you to remember that name).

It cannot be said, as yet, at what point Chorley Sporting Club ceased to be listed as a subsidiary of Northern Trust, but it can be speculated that it may well be connected to Trevor Hemmings take over of Preston North End in 2010 and may also explain the reference in the quoted press release above to Northern Trust being the owners of Victory Park only.

As we learned from the press release in 2011 Simon Robinson is a solicitor at Kevills Solicitors in Chorley. Peter Singleton was a partner at Kevills up until his retirement on 30th April 2012 (as announced on Kevill's Facebook page) although he was to remain involved as a consultant.

So, the answer to the question: Who owns Chorley Football Club? appears to be Messrs. Singleton & Robinson


Victory Park Holdings Limited

As with the previous two companies Victory Park Holdings Limited was incorporated in 1994 and owns the Victory Park ground. The directors are listed as Mark Widders, John Kay, Patrick Hemmings and John Holden. The shareholders are: Northern Trust Group Ltd (2 ordinary shares).

Victory Park Holdings allow Chorley FC to play at Victory Park although a long term formal arrangement such as a lease is not in place. Preston North End's academy team also use the facility; remembering of course that Preston North End are owned by Wordon Limited, who also own Northern Trust Group Limited. Part of this arrangement has seen groundsmen from Deepdale work on the Victory Park pitch and occasionally stewards from Preston North End have helped out at Chorley during some "big games".


To conclude:  Chorley Football Club is neither owned or "bank rolled" by a billionaire or even a millionaire owner. Any recent successes on the field can be attributed to a committed board of directors and club officials, an inspirational management/ coaching team and a talented, spirited, enthusiastic & hard working playing squad. This has bred a passion for the football club the like of which has not been seen for fifty years. However, with the current ownership structure and without a long term lease on the ground the club's progress may well be stifled. A long term lease would allow the club to pursue grants and funding for much needed stadium improvements and redevelopment. The supporters and the people of Chorley must be the catalyst for this by demonstrating the will to back the football club beyond attending matches. In short; if Chorley FC is to set ambitious targets by, lets say, 2022 it has to be with some tangible supporter backing.

The best way to do this is to join the Chorley Supporters Trust, a not for profit industrial & provident society set up with the assistance of Supporters Direct. Only through a strong Supporters Trust can fans lobby for greater representation with their club with the ultimate goal of taking ownership of it. This model has seen the successful rebirths of AFC Wimbledon, Chester & Halifax and also the creation of FC United and is the very best way to ensure the remarkable journey Chorley FC have enjoyed in the last few years can continue. You can find out more about the Chorley Supporters Trust and join by clicking here.

***************UPDATE***************************