The clock is ticking on a Moray Highland League football club’s survival fight after an emergency meeting last night failed to find a way out of its financial crisis.
Rothes FC has until the end of this week to pay £20,000 towards an unpaid tax bill – or face liquidation.
And last night it emerged that the beleaguered Speysiders owe HM Revenue Customs £33,000 – after failing to pay any tax since July 2009.
Club representatives will appear at Elgin Sheriff Court tomorrow to try to argue down the size of the bill.
However, there are fears Rothes may not survive into next week.
Hundreds of supporters flocked to last night’s summit at the Mackessack Park social club, where the club’s dire straits were laid bare.
It follows the revelation earlier this month that it had been served with a winding-up order after years of financial mismanagement
Chairman Robbie Thomson, who had previously vowed to fight to ensure Rothes FC’s future, announced his resignation.
However, his wife Anne said she would continue in her role as club treasurer – at least until the Speysiders’ next annual meeting.
Mrs Thomson said: “I was unable to attend last night’s meeting due to work commitments, but I can confirm that my husband has decided to step down as chairman.
“I don’t know if the decision will be taken out of my hands, but I intend to stay on in my role as club treasurer.”
It is understood that the base sum owed by the club to HM Revenue and Customs is £20,000, while the additional £13,000 comprises fines and penalties.
One fan who attended the packed meeting said Rothes FC bosses floated the idea of allowing the club to go into receivership, but the notion was met with a defiant response from the throng of supporters.
He said: “Some of the staff said the situation was so bad it may be best to just let the club go altogether, but there was a big yahoo about that.
“The supporters are definitely against that.
“I think a lot of people are holding back from putting money in, as they are unsure whether the club will be able to amass enough to clear its debt.”
Local millionaire businessman Richard Forsyth, who owns the Fortsyths fabrication group, was among those at last night’s meeting.
Supporters said he pledged assist the crisis-stricken club, but expressed some reservations over the financial “black hole” it was facing.
One fan said: “He made it clear he didn’t want a position in the club, but said he would help.
“Mr Forsyth is a Rothes loon though, and he’s done a lot for the town over the years, so I don’t think he will let Rothes FC go down.”
Another meeting will be held at Mackessack Park on Monday evening with the aim of forming a new club committee and looking into appointing a replacement chairman.
Rothes FC vice-chairman and director of football Rab Mulheron was unavailable for comment last night.
However, a message posted on the club’s Facebook page said: “A big thank you to all that attended the meeting tonight.
“Sorry about the short notice but as you know it was a necessity.
“A very progressive and positive meeting and together we will move forward.
“See you all on Monday at 7pm in the Social Club for the next one where we can sort out a clearer path to the next chapter in Rothes Football Club.”
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Pearl Paul said the club’s plight had prompted a ground swell of feeling.
She said: “There is great hope in the town that Rothes FC will find a way to keep going, and I’m sure people will be extremely grateful to anyone who helps ensure its future.
“Other football clubs all over the Highlands have been in touch to say they hope Rothes FC can find a way to keep going.”
The Speysiders’ season got off to an ignominious start at the weekend when they suffered an 11-0 defeat away to league champions Brora Rangers.