New Lower Clarence Magpies president Ben Campbell knows he has a job ahead of him to get the club back on track.
New Lower Clarence Magpies president Ben Campbell knows he has a job ahead of him to get the club back on track. Adam Hourigan

Magpies face $70,000 debt

FACING $70,000 worth of debt to creditors, the Lower Clarence Magpies Rugby League Club is hoping a new committee and greater accountability in 2010 will push the club in the right direction financially.

Senior 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.

A crisis meeting aimed at airing concerns about the debt and deciding on the club’s future was held at the Maclean Showground on Wednesday night and a vocal group of about 40 attended.

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.

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

Outgoing 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 occurred because of the particularly bad weather last year.

Last year’s big wet, he said, 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,” he 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 both people sneaking in alcohol and crowd control ... when you’re paying Sunday rates of between $55 and $60 per hour, it really adds up.”

The 2009 title-winning 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,” Mr Anderson said. “Last night we identified a lot of areas for savings.”

Both former and current presidents agreed the most important way for the club to fight its way out of debt is through game attendance, starting with a home-based clash with Evans Head on Sunday, April 11.

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

Mr 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.”

Looking to the future, Mr Campbell said ‘transparencey and accountability’ were the only way forward.

Mr Campbell encouraged concerned parties to attend the new committee’s first meeting at the Maclean Bowling Club on Monday, April 12 when all officer and committee positions would be formally filled. He said the Magpies had strong community support and potentially 16 members of the new committee – a significant increase on the previous committee of six.

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