Rochdale AFC crisis explained as chairman warns club could go out of business by end of March

The historic club need to find £2million in investment by the end of March.
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Rochdale AFC risk going out of business if they do not find £2million in investment by the end of March, according to the club's chairman.

Simon Gauge has warned that “the existence of Rochdale AFC is at stake” if someone cannot be found to buy a 90% share of the club. It’s a desperate situation with Dale running up losses of £1m over the last year, in part due to relegation to the National League at the end of last season. 

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Here we take a look at the crisis engulfing the Spotland club, who had spent more than 100 years in the Football League before dropping into non-league.  

Who is Simon Gauge?

Gauge has been involved in the club since their relegation from League One in 2021 and oversaw their move to becoming fan-owned in August 2022. Since the take-over from Morton House consortium, the chairman claims to have loaned the club £566,000.

Rochdale's players react to their relegation to the National League last April. Rochdale's players react to their relegation to the National League last April.
Rochdale's players react to their relegation to the National League last April.

Financing the club is no longer a possibility for the chairman - who claims that cost-cutting exercises at the club have been a regular occurrence in recent months. They aim to maintain the National League cost base, but will be faced with a plethora of tough financial decisions over the next month to try and protect the first team budget. 

Why are Rochdale in this situation? 

Following relegation from the Football League the club have run losses of over £1m in the past year. This is largely due to having the same quality of facilities as a League One team but without the financing system to support them. 

What’s next for Rochdale?

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Despite coming close on several occasions to securing investment, the club and Gauge have been unable to get anything over the line. Shareholders have called an emergency meeting at Spotland on March 7 in an effort to find investors, and pass a resolution which can create favourable conditions for investors. Shareholders will be asked to agree to the removal of restriction on authorised share capital and the authority to allot new class of shares and class rights. The motion will create 9,000,000 new ordinary A shares.

If money cannot be found within the six-week period, the club could be liquidated. This means that their assets will be sold off in order to clear their debts. This would likely include the stadium and training facilities. 

Rochdale's Spotland StadiumRochdale's Spotland Stadium
Rochdale's Spotland Stadium

What has Simon Gauge said?

“Once a club of our size is on a descending trajectory with League One costs and reducing revenues, an injection of cash is needed to arrest the decline. We are a long way into a cost-cutting exercise at the club to get us to a National League cost base. We will continue to make these tough financial decisions over the next months or so whilst protecting, as far as possible, the first-team budget. This means that when investment is secured, growth can be achieved with a controlled cost base in place and all efforts can be put into increasing revenues.

“Let me leave you in no doubt, this resolution needs to be passed at the EGM for us to have any chance of securing the required investment that will ensure the long-term future of our club. If it isn’t passed the threat of liquidation at the end of March is very real. The passing of this resolution does not guarantee saving the club, but it will certainly give it a fighting chance.”

What is Rochdale’s history?

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Dale had played in the Football League for 102 years before dropping out last season, losing their Premier League solidarity money in the process, which played a big role in keeping the club afloat. The club now relies on parachute payments from League Two along with other revenue.

The club set a record after playing 36 consecutive seasons in the fourth tier of English football from 1974 to 2010. They currently sit just three points clear of the relegation zone in the National League. 

A heartbroken Bury fan as the club learned they were expelled from the EFL in 2019. A heartbroken Bury fan as the club learned they were expelled from the EFL in 2019.
A heartbroken Bury fan as the club learned they were expelled from the EFL in 2019.

Is this like what happened to Bury and Macclesfield? 

Bury and Macclesfield fans know all too well what Dale fans are going through at the moment. A united Bury FC are only back at Gigg Lane this season, playing in the ninth-tier North West Counties Premier Division after being expelled from the EFL in 2019.  Macclesfield are two divisions above in the Northern Premier League Premier Division having been promoted twice since reforming after being wound up in the High Court in September 2020. 

Elsewhere, fellow former Football League club Torquay became the latest to enter administration this week having dropped into the National League South from their previous heights. The issues have only increased calls for an independent regulator to be brought in to police the game.

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