Dunfermline Athletic claim to be on the verge of a fan-based takeover, with the Fife outfit within 24 hours of securing the “substantial investment” which would rescue them from the precipice of liquidation.
Gavin Masterton, who owns 94 per cent of the club, has reportedly agreed to give up his entire shareholding, paving the way for a “supporter-led” model.
Due diligence will be carried out tomorrow which will allow the potential investors to analyse the Dunfermline accounts and, if they are comfortable with the numbers, a takeover bid will be imminent.
This scheme, the club have ominously stated, effectively represents “the last realistic chance to save [the] club”. Following a meeting yesterday with the steering group charged with saving the club, led by Jim Leishman, the current board released a statement.
“It is obvious to all parties that we need to act quickly to ensure the club’s survival,” it read. “To this end, the Steering Group would like to confirm that a number of Dunfermline fans have expressed an interest in making substantial investments in the club.
“We can also confirm that the future ownership of the football club will be as per the proposal agreed with the club on Wednesday, 13 March, which is a supporter-led model and there will be no shares held by the Masterton family in the club.
“The current board are sufficiently comfortable with the proposals put forward by the Steering Group to allow due diligence to commence on Monday, 18 March.”
Chairman John Yorkston has hinted one of the potential investors is a Swiss-based figure. The Pars Community (TPC) pulled out of talks on Friday, taking their promise of a £250,000 rescue package for the East End Park outfit off the table.
“There are ways [to survive], we are talking to numerous other parties,” Yorkston said. “We have been speaking to a gentleman who spends a lot of time in Switzerland. He contacted me over a week ago, I met him at Edinburgh Airport at the beginning of the week and we had discussions and these discussions about investment are ongoing.
“He does not want sole ownership but he wants to get involved. That is an option.”
Dunfermline face a race against time to confirm new investment and alter the structure of the club – including renegotiating with Lloyds Banking Group the terms under which East End Park is leased.
Of the club’s creditors, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs continue to cast the most ominous shadow.
The 128-year-old Fife club were officially presented with a winding-up order on Friday afternoon. They now have until 26 March to find £134,000 owed to HMRC.
“Hopefully there will be no crunch day, hopefully we will have things in place before that. There are negotiations going on and we are hopeful that we will get a solution,” added Yorkston.
The club have only paid 60 per cent of their players’ wages for February, meaning they owe staff £35,000, while business creditors are owed in excess of £450,000. The wage bill for March will be a further £95,000. And the club have emphasised the importance of fans turning up in their numbers for home matches against Dumbarton and Falkirk.
“Whilst we have that opportunity, we would ask all Dunfermline Athletic fans who can attend to come along to the next two home matches,” the club added.