Matt Horsley carries the NSL trophy after the Wolves’ grand final victory in 2001. The future of the club is now in doubt .Wollongong FC could fold if the club fails to clear $240,000 in debts, it was revealed yesterday. CEO Jock Morlando and football committee chairman Craig Osborne declared the club’s future was at stake if the club’s owners failed to pay money owed to the Australian Taxation Office, senior coaching staff and Illawarra creditors. The stunning announcement came just over two months after Wollongong FC won the NSW Premier League grand final. Although debt is not unusual in Wollongong FC history, the present economic climate means the club’s future is at risk.”If the debt is not cleared by the owners, the future is clearly grim,” Mr Osborne said.He said the club had three options: clear the debt and continue as Wollongong FC with the same owners, colours and logo; wind up the club and allow the region’s NSW Premier League licence to lapse; or seek new ownership to run a Wollongong-based club with a new name, logo and colours.The Mercury understands Wollongong FC may try to clear its existing debts and become a community operated club under a new governing board and structure. Such a move would be the “most significant milestone and decision made in the history of this club”, Mr Morlando said.Mr Morlando said he had been assured by Wollongong FC’s owners that the $37,000 NSW Premier League entry fee due to Football NSW by December 2 would be paid, thus ensuring an Illawarra-based team would be playing next season.”We are being advised by the club’s benefactors that clearing of the debt is being attended to,” Mr Morlando said. “The debts have accumulated over a three-year period whilst the Wolves have continued to be without a permanent home.”Mr Morlando conceded Wollongong FC would not be playing at Lysaghts Oval in 2009 and that delays in the ground’s construction and the subsequent effects, such as limited gate takings, zero money from canteen sales and stunted corporate sponsorship and signage, had contributed to the club’s plight. NSW Premier’s Department grants worth $2.5 million to relocate Wollongong FC and Wollongong Olympic from Brandon Park to Lysaghts Oval have been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. “We have been told that the ground will be ready for March next year,” Mr Morlando said.He confirmed the club was in “urgent and complex” discussions with stakeholders and governing bodies to ensure the region’s NSW Premier League status. Any new plan would need approval from the owners of Wollongong FC, Football NSW, Football South Coast and Wollongong City Council.
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