TOUGH TIMES: Q&A with North Albury president Paul Spencer

BRETT KOHLHAGEN: How grim are things at Bunton Park?

PAUL SPENCER: At the moment they are fairly tough. We have been chasing our tails for 2½ years now while the sports club has been struggling a little bit. We have been able to dig ourselves out of a hole by using the following year but we have slowly but surely been getting caught and this year we have.

BK: Can you turn the $130,000 debt around?

PS: I believe so. There are a lot more people who are starting to stand up that haven’t before.

BK: What was the players’ reaction on Monday night when you told them the club was in debt?

PS: It went pretty well. A few players were disappointed that it has taken so long for it to come out but we were hoping the things we had in place would bear fruit and they obviously haven’t. A couple of players are looking at their options but the majority are fairly happy.

BK: So you’re confident of keeping the list together? 

PS: I don’t believe we will lose any more. A lot will depend on how we go over the next few weeks and getting money to players. I’m hopeful we can retain all of our players.

BK: When do you hope to have the player payments sorted?

PS: We are pushing hard to have 50 per cent done by January 30 and then the rest in the first few weeks of February.

BK: Why was the AGM pushed back to January 28?

PS: It was in the hope that we could clean the mess up before I handed it to the new committee. I was at the helm and have to take responsibility. I’m trying to fix it.

BK: Do you have a successor in place?

PS: I believe so. We have someone who has been a president before that has said that they will stand up. I guess the proof will be in the pudding at the AGM.

BK: How important is it for people to come out of the woodwork?

PS: At the end of the day we have some very good workers around the club, but what we don’t have is supporters around the club. Without our life members and sponsors, our numbers are about 100. When we play in finals we have 3000 or 4000 supporters. We want Hopper supporters to come and pay their $90 or $60 memberships and become a part of it. If 500 people come on board it’s a lot of money that can come into the club.

BK: Do you think Jason Akermanis should have stood up more in this situation?

PS: ‘Aker’ as far as the leadership of players has done a great job and that’s his position. He is paid to get the team on the field and get on-field success. That is how he is judged. The off-field stuff is my responsibility. I would like ‘Aker’ to help us generate sponsors and I think he could be very good at that.

BK: If the sports club continues to struggle, what does it mean for the footy club?

PS: It’s going to make it harder and harder for us. We will have to find other income streams. The club is going through a tough time and has gone through a lot of cuts to improve its situation. Going forward I believe it will come back on board and be able to support us, but at present it’s not in a position to do that.

BK: The fact you don’t receive any bar takings at home matches must hurt the bottom line?

PS: Most football clubs have their own bar facilities during and after games which can generate between $3000 and $5000. We don’t have access to that as it goes to the club. It has a major impact upon us for sure. The days of making money from selling raffle tickets and hot dogs and pies are gone. We have to find other ways.

BK: Where do you go from here?

PS: We are working hard behind the scenes. We have started a new level of sponsorship which is similar to Albury’s and Yarrawonga’s, which is a $500 sponsor. It gives them good benefits as a Platinum Hopper and we are hoping to get 50 to 100 people on board quickly to help get us out of our immediate trouble.

BK: Wodonga had a debt of $167,000 a couple years ago and Myrtleford owed $80,000 and both seem to have moved on relatively well. Does that give you heart?

PS: For sure, most clubs go through it and come out the other side. I think even Albury were in trouble a while back. We just have to work hard and stick together and I’m confident we will turn it around.

Outgoing North Albury football club president Paul Spencer.

Outgoing North Albury football club president Paul Spencer.