Hemmings: My pledge to PNE fans

Trevor Hemmings
Trevor Hemmings
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Trevor Hemmings has underlined his commitment to Preston North End in an exclusive interview with the Lancashire Evening Post.

The PNE owner revealed that he was putting £750,000 into the club each month to keep it afloat, and by June of next year, his investment in a three-year period would have grown to £25m.

At the moment he has no plans to sell North End, concentrating instead on stablising the finances at Deepdale.

Phil Brown’s job is safe despite the recent rocky run, with Hemmings wanting stability in the manager’s office after two changes since the end of 2009.

Based in the Isle of Man but with offices in Chorley, Hemmings (below) rarely gives interviews – preferring not to court the media limelight.

However, he spoke to the Evening Post in response to concerns raised by Preston fans about the running of the club.

The Preston Supporters’ Group had yesterday issued a statement asking for clarification about a number of issues including levels of investment, the amount of debt which PNE had and his plans for the future.

Hemmings said: “I realise that people are passionate about the club and that they have concerns – I also have concerns. With regards to investment, my family and I are having to find £750,000 per month just to keep Preston North End alive.

“Is that not an investment in itself?

“This year, my plan had been to put £3m into the club.

“Now, that has gone up to £5.7m just so we can break even – that’s a massive amount and there’s no one else putting their hands in their pocket.”

Hemmings has had an involvement at Deepdale since the early 1970s, when he was vice-chairman under Alan Jones for a number of years.

When he owned Pontins, the holiday company’s name was put on the team’s jerseys when PNE were among the first group of clubs to venture into shirt sponsorship.

And when Hemmings wasn’t on the board, he remained a director of the club’s holding company during the Baxi era.

In June last year after PNE were served with a winding-up petition over tax arrears, he launched his bid to buy the club outright and take it back into private ownership.

Asked about whether he had plans to sell – a constant topic of conversation among fans since he became the owner – Hemmings said: “I’m not looking for a buyer.

“We are trying to clean the club up in terms of finance.

“Apart from what is owed to me, the club’s level of debt to the bank is manageable and fairly small in relative terms.

“I would like to see some of my investment back – if you put in £25m, it’s reasonable to think that way.

“By June 2012, over a three-year period I’ll have put in £25m to use on wages and running costs.

“You plan financially over a period of time, and in April and May next year, we’ll look at what is needed for the next period and re-budget.

“As far as selling is concerned, unless someone comes forward with sufficient funds and persuades us that they have the future of the club at heart, we won’t do it.”

It’s no secret that the club have been looking to reduce their wage bill, both before last season’s relegation and after.

But Hemmings pointed out that North End’s wage bill was still well above the average for many clubs at this level.

He said: “The reason why there has been no money for transfer fees is the amount taken up by paying wages.

“The average wage for a player in League One is £1,465 a week, which works out at about £76,000 a year.

“We are in a different world here, with some weekly wages many times higher than that, and that’s been something we’ve been trying to address.”

The position of PNE boss Brown has come under scrutiny in the wake of the run which has seen them topple down League One.

Hemmings obviously wants to see a big improvement in results but seems prepared to give the man he appointed 11 months ago time to turn things round.

He said: “The manager is hard-working and is always out scouting players in a bid to try and strengthen areas of his squad.

“We’ll try and help him do that and we are prepared to back him.

“I want to see this club be successful and I want the manager to be successful.

“What I don’t want to do is to be chopping and changing managers – you need to give them a base to build on.

“I love this club, I enjoy coming to Preston to see the games.

“Obviously I’ve had success in horse racing, and it would be lovely to see the same here.”