THE TROUBLED saga at Hartlepool United took a new twist with the launch of a police investigation..

A short Cleveland Police statement read: “Inquiries are ongoing into possible financial irregularities at Hartlepool Football Club.”

No arrests have been made and the club has handed over a dossier of evidence to Cleveland Police. The Northern Echo has been party to some of the portfolio before Police instigated their actions.

Officials at Victoria Park contacted Cleveland Police with their concerns in recent weeks as the state of the club’s finances unravelled.

No-one within Victoria Park is currently under investigation.

An outstanding tax bill, which has threatened the very future of the club, will be paid today with the proceeds from the online Just Giving page.

Supporter Rachel Cartwright launched the page and more than £86,000 has been raised. She will pay around £48,000 of that directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs today. The distribution of the remaining funds has yet to be determined.

The club has actually denied that a winding-up order has been received by HMRC.

However, The Northern Echo received confirmation from the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary on Monday that the club was due in the High Court in London on Wednesday, March 21 at 10.30am to answer a first hearing.

And if they were unable to provide evidence they had the funds to pay the £48,000 bill which has mounted up in recent weeks, then insolvency proceedings would follow.

A statement from the club read: “It has been reported that the Club is in receipt of a winding-up order from HMRC. To date, this is not the case.

“However, the Club has been in contact with HMRC and have confirmed the liability due will be settled in full directly by the Just Giving fund-raisers on Thursday morning. This has been made possible by the fantastic fund-raising efforts of Hartlepool United fans and the wider football family.

“In addition, there is a report circulating regarding a police investigation in to financial irregularities at the Club. It should be clear that whilst the Club cannot discuss details of the investigation, the reality is that the police are responding to a request by the Club and nobody currently involved at Hartlepool United is the subject of any investigation.

“Meanwhile our efforts are fully focussed on exploring various expressions of interest which, whilst the financial challenges in the short term are obvious, must be subject to a process which protects Hartlepool United for the long term.’’

Pools were officially put up for sale on December 22. Since then, only Hartlepool businessman Chris Musgrave has gone through any sort of process to take over.

He stepped back when he discovered the state of the club’s finances and the level of debt, claiming even the £1.5m he was willing to put in straight away wouldn’t be anywhere near enough.

While it is understood there is a consortium in the early stages of being put together, it will take weeks before anything is in place.

Rumoured interest from Sweden has failed to materialise. An agent was hoping to pull together investors to form a consortium and while Östersunds chief Daniel Kindberg has spoken of the possibility, there has been no offer.

Staff and players have to be paid again in two weeks and the club has no money in the bank. Time is fast running out for the club to survive. After being unable to prove to the National League they are able to complete their fixtures for the season, they have been placed under a transfer embargo.

As a result of injuries and departures, boss Craig Harrison has only 12 fit first-team players available for Saturday’s game at Barrow.

The manager said: “It looks like Liam Donnelly won't be fit, Rhys Oates won't be fit. Luke George will hopefully be able to play some part in the game and possibly Michael Ledger, too.

“Luke and Ledge have trained this week with the group and it is just seeing how they react to it heading into the weekend.

“We will keep an eye on it and see from there.’’

Including first-year professionals, he said: “We have a bare 15 or 16 plus the two goalkeepers for Saturday.

Captain Carl Magnay is suspended after his sending-off at Eastleigh in their last game.

Harrison added: “Josh Hawkes and Liam Travers played with the reserves on Tuesday but they will be back in with the main group ahead of the weekend.

“We will have to give them a chance. It is through necessity that we need to bolster the squad.

“One or two of the first and second year apprentices will be involved in first-team training this week and next week.

“Ideally I wouldn't choose to put kids into the team in this situation but it is a case of needs must.

“We have 20 pros, including two keepers and four first years.’’