In an act of transparency, the Hawke's Bay United football franchise is declaring it's caught up in the financial doldrums of the national summer league and needs the province's movers and shakers to come to its rescue.
The franchise, whose Thirsty Whale-sponsored team are competing in the 2018-19 ISPS Handa Premiership, is seeking $40,000 to $50,000 to help lift it from its fickle fiscal status.
"Depending on whether the funding becomes available or not we have identified what the worst-case scenario may be and, obviously, we're still planning and applying for funding ," says board deputy chairman Andrew Huxford after calling a meeting with board chairwoman Paula Walker and franchise general manager operations Shane McKenzie in Napier.
"We have to be open and transparent so if none of that comes in then that's the debt we will face. Hence the appeal to the community to try to close that gap while we continue to talk to sponsors directly and also apply for funds on a monthly basis," Huxford says.
"This is relatively hot off the press but majority of the national league clubs are experiencing financial difficulties at this time."
He says most franchise clubs have a bigger budget than Bay United who hail from a catchment area that has the lowest level of business sponsorship.
"It's a lot different being in Hawke's Bay than to be in a much bigger metro city, if you like."
Walker says while the franchise applies for money it isn't always guaranteed, thus the challenges.
"If we move through the season as expenses are invoiced to us we can no longer apply for funding because it becomes a retrospective application so we have to apply for funding in advance of incurring a cost," she says of the costs of hiring training/playing venues, floodlight use and travel (up to $10,000) as well as the New Zealand Football entry fees of $30,000 a season.
McKenzie says the obvious way to meet those costs is to have a 10-fold increase in the number of fans coming through the gates at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, and corporate sponsorship from provincial businesses.
"The message we're trying to get out there is that we need the support of the community and businesses so the time for people to get behind us is now because there might not be that opportunity down the track.
"You might look back in regret and [felt] you could have done something and you didn't," McKenzie says.
On average, Bay United is earning $5000 to $10,000 a season from gate takings in charging adults $10, seniors and students $5 (13-and-under children free) a game.
Huxford says some funding applications are in the pipeline while they are in talks with potential sponsors.
The board sent an SOS letter to affiliated clubs, youth teams and flagship team to highlight the fiscal disposition three weeks ago. Through the media it hopes to find traction with fans to keep developing youth talent and provide a pathway for them to bigger platforms.
"We just want people to know that potentially there's a risk in the future of Hawke's Bay United not being able to participate in the national league," he says.
Huxford says the intention is to canvass Bay community backing before the flagship team, under the tutelage of coach Brett Angell, lose their perch.
While Bay clubs haven't responded to its letter, bar one asking why fans aren't allowed in to watch games for free, he says the franchise is in the dark as to why it hasn't had any traction although the festive season can be a factor.
Port Hill United, of Napier, is the only Bay club backing the franchise financially as sponsors.
In a meeting last Friday, the board decided appointing a club liaison focused on engaging its affiliate club members to woo fans through the turnstiles.
Another plan is to hold a fund raiser, such as quiz night, where players can be auctioned to join a quiz team comprising fans, sponsors, families and Bay businesses.
The franchise says it has the lowest budget for players to account for travel to trainings and gear, something New Zealand Football prescribes franchises to administer.
"We're all amateur and there's a limit set by New Zealand Football on what's acceptable per player for a season," says McKenzie.
That NZ Football ceiling is $160,000 for a squad of 20 players a season.
"Ours is significantly less than that — under half of that," he says, before rounding that off to around the $50,000 mark.
"They [players] are all contracted with a monthly reimbursement that is certainly not anywhere to live on."
McKenzie says the coaching staff's remuneration also comes under the funding applications which take up a fair chunk of the costs.
On the flip side, people are coming to the province because they believe in Bay United choose to be part of the culture.
Walker presides over the group of other franchise chairpersons in a committee established earlier this year to ascertain the financial sustainability of the league and to report its findings to NZ Football.
"That collective group has made some changes with the ongoing discussions on the financial sustainability ... so it's high up on the priority with New Zealand Football and the outcome of the recent summit as a result of the New Zealand football review."
She says NZ Football understands the dilemma facing franchises.
"The way the national league participation agreements are reviewed and agreed by New Zealand Football, there's no guaranteed regional spread."
Walker says the Bay franchise has to reapply every two years to renew its licence and not an endless tenure. It broke even last season but was in the red in previous ones.