A charity which collected more than £140,000 from Highland League supporters has had its funds frozen as it faces the prospect of a court battle for the cash.
The Wick Academy Development Fund was registered as a charity in March 2002, with the objective of providing “social, leisure and recreation facilities” in the area.
It carried out fundraising activites until 2009 but not a penny of the £143,644 raised has ever been spent.
Watchdogs have now found there appears to be “no realistic prospect of activities being undertaken by the charity trustees in furtherance of the charity’s objects”.
Although not tied to the club, many Wick Academy fans donated their money to the cause in the belief the cash would eventually pay for facilities to help train future players.
The WADF’s assets have now been put in the hands of a court-appointed officer following the probe into its affairs.
The move has been welcomed by campaigners who have been calling for the £140,000-plus to be released and spent for the benefit of the local community.
But WADF chairman Jacky Gunn, who also previously served as chairman of the football club, yesterday pledged to fight the ruling by the the Office for the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
Even though its last fundraising activity was in 2009, Mr Gunn insists that the plan to create a community sports complex remains live and fears the legal intervention will lead to money being “squandered.”
OSCR launched its inquiry in September 2010 after members of the public raised concerns about its failure to make use of its funds.
In its newly published findings, the organisation states: “OSCR has engaged repeatedly with the charity to try to ensure that it used its funds to further its charitable purposes.
“Following our inquiries, we have concluded that there is no realistic prospect of activities being undertaken by the charity trustees in furtherance of the charity’s objects.”
It added: “The charity is not providing public benefit and is therefore at risk of removal from the Scottish Charity Register.
“Should it be removed from the register, its trustees would remain under an obligation to apply the charity’s assets in accordance with its purposes.
“We have no confidence that the trustees would comply with this requirement.”
OSCR intends applying to the Court of Session to appoint a judicial factor to manage the affairs of the organisation.
It has directed WADF not to part with any funds without OSCR’s consent for six months.
Wick businessman Colin Stewart has been among those calling for WADF to be wound up.
He said: “What OSCR is saying is that the trustees can no longer be trusted to fulfil the objectives of the charity.
“This money is doing do good to anybody just sitting in a bank.”
A defiant Mr Gunn yesterday said the charity was set up to provide a new home for the football club and claimed that those efforts had continued.
He said: “We want to stay in control of the fund. If it gets taken over, it will get destroyed and money will be squandered on legal fees and administration.”