THE man at the centre of the Hereford United crisis says he is on a mission to put the pride back into the crippled football club.
Tommy Agombar, who bought the Bulls for just £1 from former chairman David Keyte earlier this month, has upset supporters by failing to set out his plans to save the debt-ridden club.
The new owner told the Hereford Times this week: “Some people think this club is a sinking ship, but it isn’t. It is a phoenix rising from the ashes.
“Despite the rumours, we bought it for the football. We are 100% committed to playing and developing football here. Our aim is to make Hereford United a great club to be proud of.”
The 53-year-old London businessman said he was not ready to disclose his business plan in detail, but revealed some of the issues covered when he met Herefordshire Council – United’s Edgar Street landlord – on Monday.
“We met to discuss the sustainable running of the club and the leases with a view to utilising the land to benefit the club going forward,” he said.
“But the leases are staying with Hereford United and future money from any development will go straight back into the club to benefit it.”
He said all admin staff at Edgar Street had now been paid their outstanding money but all had decided to leave the club. “Everyone around me has been telling me to walk away from the club because of the scale of the debt, but I know if we get it right on the pitch we can turn things around.
“But we need the help of the supporters and everyone else. I am not the sort of bloke who walks away from things and I am willing to work with anybody who wants to help this club.
“I have been putting out so many fires around the club since I got here that I have not had time to concentrate on the development side of things.
“We are currently focusing all our effort on the successful management of the club and we will endeavour to regularly update everyone on more details as we move forward.
“The reality is that we have to work extra hard as we start two leagues below where we should be and need to manage the debt that is already in the club.”
He added: “Finding sustainable ways of putting money back into the club is key to its future success. We need to look at existing income streams and develop their future potential such as advertising at the ground and revenues from the bars.”
But the battle for the hearts and minds of the exasperated fans took a new twist this week with the emergence of a business consortium seeking to find an alternative way forward for the troubled football club.
Spokesman Jon Hale said the group did not believe Mr Agombar was the right man to be the council’s tenant at Edgar Street. The group cited several reasons including his failure to meet the Conference deadline for settling the club’s debts which led to it being expelled from the league.
The consortium wants to be involved in forming a new club as it believes the only way forward is for the Bulls to be liquidated and relaunch as a ‘phoenix’ club.
Mr Agombar said: “This group is talking about liquidating the club and paying no-one and then starting with a new name. But I am willing to sit down with all the creditors and come to terms with them. I have no intention of winding up the club because no-one wins in that situation, especially the creditors.”
“I intended to buy a Conference club but the league put too many obstacles in my way. I was willing to pay creditors but the Conference was asking me to put £350,00 into their bank account for us to stay in the league. I was not willing to do that.
“By Monday £150,000 will have been paid to some of the football creditors.”
Mr Agombar, whose family ran a successful London scrap metal business, added: “We ask the community to bear with us as we are working through everything and would like to thank the truly dedicated fans who have already offered help and support to the club in various and much-appreciated ways.
“We want this to be a club for the community.”
No deal on lease talks
HEREFORDSHIRE Council’s leader and chief executive met with Tommy Agombar on Monday but there was no agreement from either side on moving forward issues over Edgar Street leases.
Three leases tie the council to United. Mr Agombar wants two of the leases relating to ground redevelopment transferred to a holding company of his choosing and council lawyers are assessing the request.
While the council is the club’s landlord, it does not own or have any direct control or involvement in the club. The club currently owes the council around £65, 000 including rent arrears and if it folds, the leases revert to the council.
Assigning the Edgar Street leases – one for 75 years on the ground and terracing to the west, the other for 33 years for the stand and parking area to the east and both dating from 1982 – was one of the last big deals done by the former Hereford City Council.
During the late 1990s the leases were reassigned to property developers but they were regained early in the David Keyte era.
The deal saw the club pay £452,000 to secure the return of the leases and settle a £1,069,500 debt, clearing the way for a new single lease and the development opportunities that could bring.
That deal was intended to offer the club security for the next 30 years.
The council was ready to allow an extension to the new stadium lease of 250 years once development at either end was underway with proceeds from the sale of development areas held jointly.
Business consortium reveals its own vision to save club: http://bit.ly/1iQp4AJ