MOTHERWELL have warned supporters that their financial backing is vital "to ensure the continued financial stability of the club".
With fewer than one in five of the "loyal core base" of fans having pledged their support to the Well Society, a group set up two years ago with the aim of delivering the 70% shareholding of former chairman John Boyle into community ownership, the Motherwell directors have warned they may need to seek external investment to raise much-needed capital if there is not a vastly-improved take-up of membership in the next six momths.
The society needs to provide £1.5m as a "strategic reserve" if it is to assume full ownership of the club but so far has raised only around £450,000.
With the club poised to post a financial loss for a third season in succession, the board have called upon the fans group, who have two representatives on the board, to show they can meet a pre-arranged target of £800,000 by November.
Should they fail to reach that figure, the directors will look outside the club for the financial injection they feel is necessary. They have already taken on a short-term loan of £125,000, underpinned by guarantees from the directors, in the current financial year.
"An increase in the capital available to the club is essential and such a capital injection should be pursued as a matter of urgency," read a statement from the directors. "The preferred source of that capital would remain the Well Society, however, other sources of capital investment, including the sale of shares to private individuals, have to be explored.
"While not wishing to diminish the simply outstanding work and commitment of so many people to make the Society a reality, this performance to date is disappointing and, to be crystal clear to everyone, does not represent the sustainable financial underpinning for the club's strategy that we hoped for and require.
"We urge all fans of the club to recognise the reality of the financial situation we face and to do anything they can to assist the club urgently. We recognise that our on-the-field success and the generally positive culture and atmosphere at the club has meant that there is no perception of 'crisis' and therefore no imperative or urgency for many otherwise deeply loyal supporters to join.
"While we are not yet at a 'crisis' position, we are flagging that we require to take action now to ensure the continued financial stability of the club. This action will either mean a substantial increase in resources towards our reserve or a very substantial reduction in our expenditure plans.
"This latter route would have the inevitable impact of diminishing our competitive capabilities on the field and creating a negative financial spiral. The consequences of this latter route are only too familiar to all supporters of the game in Scotland.
"The board of directors continue to believe that the Well Society can achieve its stated aim of raising sufficient capital to acquire and run the club on a sustainable basis. If the target figure of £800k is achieved by November 2014 the plan of
fan ownership can be a reality. This can
only happen if those who support this
aim act now by joining or contributing further to the Society.
"We therefore ask all of our shareholders, members and supporters to reflect very closely on what we have set out above and to consider their position carefully. We know how much we have to rely on a very small number of people but we are all in the same position. We urge everyone who shares our love for the club to act."
Despite having finished second in the SPFL Premiership for a second year in succession and qualified for European football for a sixth season out of seven, Motherwell's crowds have been lower than anticipated. Their average attendance for 2013/14 was more than 700 fewer than in 2006/07 when they finished 10th and were nearly drawn into a relegation battle. Other factors such as reduced prize money, poorer commercial revenues, bad results in the cup competitions and a loss-making Europa League tie with Kuban Krasnodar have all been cited as contributory factors to the club's precarious financial position.
Qualifying for next season's Europa League qualifiers has meant Stuart McCall's playing budget will remain the same for the campaign ahead, but the board warned that this will be the last year they can do so "unless a very substantial improvement in our revenue position occurs".
"Once again we are delighted to have celebrated an exceptional on-field performance in the league campaign," continued the statement.
"While results in both cups disappointed and we did not progress in Europe beyond the early stages, we cannot overstate the achievement in reaching the runners-up spot for the second year in a row.
"Given the turnover in core first-team playing staff, the ability of Stuart McCall and his team to recruit, motivate and reconstruct the first team has been quite exceptional. He has done so while maintaining an excellent culture that is becoming the trademark of our family club.
"Qualification for Europe has allowed the board, based on past revenues generated and making reasonable assumptions on income for the coming season, to maintain the playing budget at the same level for season 2014/15.
"However, this is the last year in which we will feel able to do this unless a very substantial improvement in our revenue position occurs and/or the targets for the Well Society are reached. A sustainable step-change in our revenues is not likely to be enjoyed in the short term unless we enjoy the windfall of unexpected player sales or exceptional cup performances. Given our experiences in recent years the board cannot, and has not, planned for either as a central assumption. This means we must turn our attention to the achievement of our strategic reserve target of £1.5m as an urgent financial priority for the club."