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Seven days to save Linnets

PUBLISHED: 11:05 26 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:24 06 July 2010

Paddy Davitt

King's Lynn football club has less than a week to overturn the High Court's decision to wind up the debt-ridden Unibond Premier Division outfit.

Norfolk's biggest non-league club can apply to rescind the compulsory winding-up petition invoked yesterday, if they clear a £67,000 tax debt owed to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

King's Lynn football club has less than a week to overturn the High Court's decision to wind up the debt-ridden Unibond Premier Division outfit.

Norfolk's biggest non-league club can apply to rescind the compulsory winding-up petition invoked yesterday, if they clear a £67,000 tax debt owed to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

However, Linnets' chairman Ken Bobbins admitted last night that the current board were unlikely to settle the five-figure sum with the club's total debt believed to be in excess of £150,000.

“I could pay the tax bill personally but it's all the other outstanding debts that are the problem,” he said. “For that reason alone I can't take that burden all on my shoulders. We felt there was a plan in place to pay the tax bill but a few days ago we found out that was no longer the case.”

Mr Bobbins had requested more time to pay the debt following the sudden exit of finance director David Handley who was granted a six-week extension at a previous hearing.

“One of the club directors had undertaken to finance repayment of the debt,” Mr Bobbins told the court. “Last Thursday, he informed the club and the revenue that he was reneging on this verbal agreement. That left just three days to turn this around.

“We have already paid £40,000 towards this bill. We would not have taken this step if we didn't intend to pay the debt. That would be ridiculous. We are fully committed to paying the debt. We have been left stranded by somebody who was talking to the tax inspectors and said he would pay them.”

Registrar Derrett issued the compulsory order after lawyers for HMRC argued the circumstances demonstrated the club was “clearly insolvent”.

“I am afraid what you are saying confirms that the company is woefully insolvent,” she said. “Although I sympathise and feel very sorry for the circumstances you find yourself in, I do think it is appropriate to make the usual compulsory order.”

Bobbins enlisted the help of North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham who had held talks with HMRC officials.

“I've done what I can with Revenue and Customs,” said Mr Bellingham. “I wrote to the chancellor. They weren't prepared to treat them differently to other ordinary individuals. They are operating in a tough environment. But they are providing a community service - it's part of the local way of life.

“I would expect the Revenue and Customs to help in these times of economic crisis. The football club is a small business - the government should be helping small businesses. We are not in the south-east with someone who will come forward with lots of money. If you are out of the league, it makes it difficult. We do need, in the first instance, to explore all avenues to see if they will give a longer extension. The club is a vital part of the town's history. It's a fantastic community asset. You only have to see the number of people who support the club. It's unthinkable that they will close, it's quite unthinkable.”

Unibond League officials have confirmed Lynn's scheduled home league match this Saturday against Guiseley can go ahead, pending the club's decision whether to try to rescind the winding-up petition.

Bobbins, however, reiterated last night that no firm decision had

been made whether the match would take place on The Walks prior to further discussions with club personnel.


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