Bendigo Spirit facing cash crisis

Bendigo Spirit chairman Greg Bickley.

Bendigo Spirit chairman Greg Bickley.

THE two-time WNBL defending champion Bendigo Bank Spirit is again under financial pressure, with a tax bill wiping out the club’s monetary gains of the past two years.

Spirit chairman Greg Bickley would not go into detail on Thursday as to how much money the Spirit owed the Australian Taxation Office.

But he said the bill was “significant” and related to the foundation years of the club.

“It’s significant enough to wipe out the good work we’ve done over the past couple of years,” Bickley said.

“I’m not going to put a dollar figure on it, but I want to make it clear that it’s not the fault of any individual.

“It’s an assessment made from the foundation years of operation and is something that impacts on our cash flow, but is significant enough to wipe out our gains of the past two years.”

Bickley says while the tax bill poses a major cash-flow challenge short-term for the Spirit, the future of the club isn’t in danger.

“We’ve got a board that is determined to continue sound economic management of the club to ensure that we not only survive, but secure the financial stability of the club,” Bickley said.

“It’s (the club) not hanging by a knife-edge. It’s unfortunate and we’ll work through it, but it just adds to the challenges of the club’s operations.”

The Spirit has won the past two WNBL championships on the back of it almost folding after the 2011-12 season because of a financial crisis.

“We had started getting ahead in the past two years,” Bickley said.

The Spirit’s latest financial pressure comes 24 hours after the Bendigo Gold Football Club’s announcement it won’t be seeking a VFL licence renewal at the end of the season

Bendigo’s VFL club has constantly battled financial insecurity through its 17 years in the competition, with the club no longer sustainable.

Bickley said the decision for the Gold to pull out of the VFL showed if Bendigo wants elite sporting teams in Bendigo, they must be supported.

“It’s very sad for the players, members, loyal sponsors and everyone associated with the club that the Gold will fold,” Bickley said.

“What is of greater concern, however, is at present there are two elite sports teams based in Bendigo and next year there will only be one.

“The Bendigo Spirit and Bendigo Gold are playing in elite competitions and bring the highest level of competition to Bendigo and promote the Bendigo brand across Australia.

“If we want to continue to see elite competition based in Bendigo, we must support our Bendigo teams.

“The cost of operating a national team based in Bendigo is significant and continues to be a challenge.

“Finances are very tight and it will be a challenge without significant ongoing community and stakeholder support.”

The 2014-15 WNBL season tips-off in October.

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