Mikey Randall scores for the Lower Clarence Magpies in the NRRRL grand final last year.
Mikey Randall scores for the Lower Clarence Magpies in the NRRRL grand final last year.

Magpies club owes $70,000

FACING a debt of $70,000, the Lower Clarence Magpies Rugby League Club hopes a new committee and greater accountability this year can push the club in the right direction financially.

Club sources said the debt, owed to businesses throughout the Clarence Valley and beyond, comes on top of $34,000 owed to the club’s Lower Clarence Junior League Trust, a fund set up in the 1980s to pay for Magpies’ capital works.

The Magpies last year defeated Lismore-based Northern United 21-20 in a pulsating Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League grand final.

A crisis meeting aimed at airing concerns about the debt and deciding on the club’s future was held at the Maclean Showground last week with a vocal group of about 40 attending.

Newly nominated president Ben Campbell said he was still trawling through the club’s books to get a hold of exactly how the club had amassed so much debt in recent years.

Campbell said he was interested in hearing from concerned parties who could help track the trail of debt.

Former president Garry Anderson, who quit his post last week to take up a secretary-manager position with the Ballina Seagulls Leagues Club, explained some of the debt had occurred because of bad weather last year.

That, he said, had forced several home games away from the Maclean Showground to Yamba Oval, which had a lower capacity and where the gate was more difficult to control.

“We had 10 home games last year during the competition and three of them were at Maclean,” Anderson said.

“We had a couple of strategies that didn’t pay off in the last couple of years; we beefed up security at home games to deal with people sneaking in alcohol and with crowd control.

“When you’re paying people Sunday rates of between $55 and $60 an hour, it really starts to add up.”

The 2009 president said players in all three grades were from the Clarence Valley this season.

“Our sign-on fees last year were $12,000, this year they’re zero,” Anderson said.

“We identified a lot of areas for savings.”

Campbell and Anderson agreed the most important way for the club to fight its way out of debt was through game attendance, starting with a home game against Evans Head on Sunday.

“We need the local community to come along on game days, that’s where we make our money,” Anderson said.

Campbell, a Maclean-based builder who has been involved with the club since the age of seven, admitted some of the debt to local business was up to two years old.

“This has left a sour taste in a lot of businesses mouths,” he said.

“It still gets me that we haven’t been paying our creditors and I’ve asked for a full list of bills not paid in the last three years.”

“I’ve been feeling crook in the guts ever since I found out.”

He said two club members had come close to losing their jobs over the club’s unpaid debts.

“But if the club folds, they (the creditors) will never get their money,” he said.

“On the field everything is looking good – it’s off the field where the problem is.”

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