Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Club will need an owner with deep pockets to progress ambitions

Staying competitive in the Championship needs an owner with deep pockets, doing so during a pandemic means they have to dig even deeper into those pockets.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 25th February 2022, 4:45 pm

That was laid bare this week with the publication of Preston North End’s financial report for the year ending June 2021.

PNE lost almost £13.6m in the last financial year, one covering a period in which not a single fan clicked through the turnstiles at Deepdale.

Shorn of ticket and hospitality revenue, the only income came from central funds – television money and solidarity payments.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Could Deepdale be heading for new ownership?

Hence the frequency of financial injections – and the size of them – from Trevor Hemmings, increased.

Those payments have continued from the Hemmings family who control North End since Mr Hemmings’ passing.

The wage bill was £22m in the last financial year and will have since grown.

Hence it is forecast that this time next year when the finances are reported for year ending June 2022, the balance sheet will show another sizeable loss.

North End are still forking out compensation for Alex Neil and Frankie McAvoy, while paying the salary of Ryan Lowe.

Three bosses on the wage bill is an expensive business, but Neil and McAvoy will come off the wage bill at the end of this season.

On the same day that the filed accounts were published by Companies House, links emerged again of Chris Kirchner’s interest in buying PNE.

Kirchner is the American businessman who tried to buy Derby County from their administrators before Christmas.

He was at Deepdale for the Huddersfield game a fortnight ago, then again on Tuesday night when North End played Nottingham Forest.

Kirchner didn’t see a goal in either game but it doesn’t seem to have lessened his interest in any way.

The interest from him does appear very genuine, although where things are at, are tied-up in non-disclosure agreements and such like,

The 34-year-old hinted on Twitter of an interest when replying to PNE supporters who had interacted with him.

One reply read: “We will have something to share soon… different situation than Derby. Public pressure not useful in negotiations.”

So are Preston North End moving towards a new era of ownership?

According to the club in a short statement put out on Wednesday, outside interest isn’t anything new.

They let us know that since Mr Hemmings’ death, there had been ‘a number of expressions of interest in the club, including in recent weeks’.

Interest has come and gone over the years, some of it strong, some not so.

I suppose it is the same when you put your house on the market or want to sell your car. Some people come to look with a genuine interest, others just want a general nose at it.

Kirchner’s interest just feels like it has got legs although your guess is as good as mine as to whether it turns into a sale.

He has a desire to buy a club as shown by his desire to try and secure Derby.

With former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook his eyes and ears over here, it doesn’t look like only a passing interest in the English game.

Among the North End supporters there have been different reactions to the reported interest.

For some there’s a feeling of excitement at what might be, others have been more guarded in their emotions.

With the Hemmings family there is a very steady pair of hands at the wheel.

Trevor Hemmings owned PNE outright from summer 2010 until his passing last October.

That responsibility has passed to his family who vowed to continue the legacy.

The family are North End supporters’ safety net when it comes to the future.

You sense that they would not allow the club to pass into the wrong hands, any deal they do being in the best interests of PNE – as would have been Trevor Hemmings’ stance.

If a suitable buyer didn’t come along, they seem more than happy to continue their finance of the Lilywhites.

The interest from Kirchner and it being in the public domain of sorts, is new territory for Preston.

Those supporters who feel uneasy about it might do so over the fact they know little about Kirchner and of his wealth.

How would any deal be financed? We knew what Trevor Hemmings was worth through the Sunday Times Rich List – his businesses had been going for many decades and it was straightforward to build up a picture. That sort of information on Kirchner is not available but clearly he’s a man with money behind him.

His firm Slync.io recently sponsored the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament which was a significant deal.

North End’s ownership has always been very local, hence potential American ownership being a very new direction.

There was the decade of Trevor Hemmings at the helm, before that Friends of PNE headed by Derek Shaw.

They had taken over when the Baxi ownership came to an end – that an extremely successful partnership between club and business.

Before Baxi came in, the responsibility of running PNE fell on the shoulders of local businessmen for many years – Alan Jones, Keith Leeming and Malcolm Woodhouse to name but three.

They put their heart and soul – and money – into keeping the club going at various stages, facing some really difficult times along the way.

We will watch with interest to see how things pan out in the coming weeks and months.

It could be all change, it could be business as usual.

Whatever happens, those deep pockets referenced at the lead of this article are going to be needed as North End build under Ryan Lowe and climb away from the Covid era.