Gosport Borough FC has winding-up petition dismissed - but has been behind with rent for its ground

GOSPORT Borough Football Club has had a second winding-up petition thrown out by HM Revenue and Customs.

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 12:17 pm
Gosport Borough chairman Mark Hook, left, and manager Alex Pike at Privett Park

The football club faced a high court hearing in London yesterday after being issued the order on October 24.

It was the second winding up petition in three months, after the taxman handed the club one in August, although that was also dismissed.

However, information revealed in a Freedom Of Information request found that the football club was behind on its rent for the Privett Park Enclosure, in Privett Road – for which it pays £8,130 a year to the borough council – on a number of occasions throughout September and October.

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Club chairman Mark Hook, who is also leader of Gosport Borough Council, said that the football club is run and has problems like any other business.

He said: ‘Like other businesses, we have cash flow problems due to various reasons and may miss direct debit payments now and again.

‘Our tax was due on September 19 and we got the high court writ on October 6 – 17 days is not a long time.

‘We are not the only tenant that gets behind on its rent.

‘The difference is that we always ensure that we catch up – there are other businesses that do not and that is when we have a problem.

‘We are aware of our responsibilities and now want to focus on the football.’

Mr Hook stated that it is unfair to link his role as leader of the council and chairman of the football club.

He said he is willing to step down if the right investor comes along.

There have been rumours of a consortium which is looking to take over the club.

Jeremy Fox, chairman of the supporters’ club, said: ‘What I want is the best for the club, whether that is if a consortium takes over or if the owners continue to run the club.’

The club had its lease extended until January 2046 at a council policy and organisation board meeting on September 21 so it can apply for Sport England grants, as a 25-year lease is needed.

At the meeting, then-treasurer Julian Bowcher said it was up to date as of September 21 with its rent when asked by Gosport Lib Dem leader Cllr Peter Chegwyn.

However, Freedom Of Information requests show the club was behind on both September 20 and September 27.

Cllr Chegwyn said: ‘Cllr Hook wears two hats and should come clean.

‘He should tell people where the money has gone after reaching the first round of the FA Cup and the FA Trophy final in the last few years.

‘He owes it both to the fans and to the council taxpayer and explain why they are not up to date. Anyone who was behind on their council tax or rent would be taken to court – how come he is allowed to get away with it?’

As reported by The News, goalkeeper Martin Rice walked away from the club last week after claiming there were delays in his wages.

Lib Dem Cllr Rob Hylands, who is also a Gosport Borough FC fan, believes if there is interest in the club then Mark Hook should step down as chairman.

‘The situation is terrible as a fan and very worrying.

‘In the last few games, we haven’t played as well as we should have and it looks to be taking affect on the players.

‘If there is someone interested, Mark should step down for the sake of the club.’