Rescue deal for RL club ‘definitely off’

Wigan businessman Stuart Harvey with former Warrington Wolves star Paul Wood and Whitehavens coach Carl Forster
Wigan businessman Stuart Harvey with former Warrington Wolves star Paul Wood and Whitehavens coach Carl Forster

A bid to rescue a struggling rugby league club - by a Wigan businessman - appears to have come to an end.

Stuart Harvey, boss of Wigan-based Right Trades, had pledged to turn around crisis-hit Championship side Whitehaven.

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He helped to bring in former Challenge Cup winner Paul Wood, the "Prince of Ince", to play there for free.

And he wanted to forge a mutually-beneficial partnership with the rugby league arm of Serbian sporting behemoth Red Star Belgrade.

Mr Harvey also brought on board Shevington businessman Carl Vincent, of Vincent Cameron Drilling, as part of a proposed a rescue package for the Cumbrian club.

But after battling rumours his new consortium wanted to merge Whitehaven with rivals Workington, which has been linked to former Salford owner Marwan Koukash, he has now walked away.

In a statement, Mr Harvey said: “We had presented paperwork to the RFL (Rugby Football League) and provided proof of funds, along with a financial plan for three years.

“I do not think we have told the club anything they didn’t know during these discussions and it is a sad day for all concerned.”

Mr Harvey, who played the game semi-professionally for Hunslet and London Skolars, called in a number of favours from his contacts across the rugby league world.

Former Great Britain captain Adrian Morley starred in a video message, urging RL fans to attend Whitehaven’s recent fixture with Bradford Bulls.

New training kit had been secured for the first team and the consortium was in the process of overhauling their website.

One sticking point appears to have been a £60,000 appeal, which predated the consortium’s involvement.

Club board members have said that the time had arrived when they needed to spend the money collected so far.

And they insisted that if they were forced to return pledges, it might even prevent Whitehaven from finishing the current season.

Club chairman Tommy Todd and the board have expressed their “disappointment” that the deal with Mr Harvey, thrashed out at an open fans meeting, had fallen through.

He stressed that the parties had parted “amicably” but that the deal was “definitely off”.

Mr Harvey became involved at Whitehaven as he had long-standing ties with the club’s coach Carl Forster and his assistant Tony Stewart.

He was told, after making an official approach, that the club had debts of around £140,000.

Mr Harvey had been seeking investors who were willing to stump up an upfront payment of £5,000 and donate £100 per week towards their ongoing costs.

The consortium would then have come up with the remainder of the necessary funds.

Bosses at Whitehaven have confirmed that they will battle on, with 11 Championship games still to play, after the Wigan consortium’s withdrawal.

A statement added: “The board will be releasing details of future plans as and when possible, but would like to put on record our thanks to Stuart Harvey and his consortium for the work they have put in over the past three weeks trying to get the deal done.

“The club cannot stress enough that we need the fantastic support we have received over the past three weeks to continue to show that Haven can and will be a force to be reckoned with.”

Whitehaven play their Championships games at the Recreation Ground.