Dunfermline Athletic are once again standing on the brink of liquidation after former owner Gavin Masterton yesterday lodged an interim interdict at the High Court in Edinburgh in a dispute over the club’s training ground.
With administrators BDO set to release the majority shareholding to Pars United, a late hitch developed concerning ownership of Pitreavie, which the fans’ group do not wish to be included in the terms for the sale of the club.
Pars United want the long-term lease, assigned by Fife Council to the club in 2006, to be cancelled rather than be included in the majority shareholding.
However, former Bank of Scotland managing director Masterton lodged an interim interdict as joint administrator Bryan Jackson prepared to renounce the lease, which was the last remaining obstacle in the fans’ bid to take ownership of the club.
Security for the lease of Pitreavie from Fife Council is held by a pension fund, the trustees for which were Masteron and former chairman John Yorkston. Masterton claims the lease is worth £500,000 and has stepped in at the 11th hour to block the sale of the club to Pars United, who view the training ground as a liability.
This comes after Masterton revealed a plan earlier this year to place the lease for Pitreavie in the hands of the Pars Trust, a forerunner of Pars United.
The case will now be heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Monday.
It is understood that Pars United are still considering whether to accept the lease of Pitreavie as part of the ownership deal with BDO, which would leave them responsible for the training-ground upkeep.
The prospective new owners of the club have recently revealed that Dunfermline already require a £150,000 cash investment to survive this season.
The East End Park outfit entered administration earlier this year. A bid by Pars United for a Company Voluntary Arrangement was accepted in July after creditors agreed to take zero pence in the pound.
Jackson conceded at the time that there were still hurdles ahead that had to be negotiated. “There is still a lot of work to be done but the decision is clearly an important step toward the ultimate goal of the club coming out of administration,” he said.
However, this aim has now come unstuck and the club’s future has been placed back in peril. In a statement issued last night Pars United admitted they were “deeply disappointed” by the turn of events.
“The offer submitted by Pars United to BDO in July to buy DAFC was subject to a number of conditions,” said the statement. “One of these related to the lease at Pitreavie, which we requested be terminated so Pars United was not taking on this responsibility in future for the ongoing maintenance. We have been consistent in terms of our stance on this matter for many months.
“BDO are currently trying to resolve this matter so we are in a position to imminently purchase the club. We are deeply disappointed with the developments today, but have to rely on BDO and the other connected parties to resolve this issue by the end of the week.
“Pars United are unfortunately not in a position to say any more on this matter at this time as it is in the hands of the administrator and the court. Please can we ask all fans to remain patient until further clarity can be provided.” Dunfermline entered administration in March over an unpaid £134,000 tax bill. Seven senior players were made redundant and the club were docked 15 points.
Dunfermline were eventually relegated to the third tier of Scottish football. They currently sit in second place in League One but were beaten 4-0 by Forfar Athletic on Saturday.
Manager Jim Jefferies last night admitted that this latest setback was the “last thing” his young side needed.
“My players have come through a lot recently and the last thing they need is for this to drag on,” he said. “It is the first time they have all been involved in this. And maybe this is what it takes to get a club out of administration. There is always something that crops us.
“It’s annoying,” he added. “We have come through a lot playing wise. That side of it has been going fairly well considering the trauma. We don’t really need this again to cause any disruption. It takes a lot to get players in the right frame of mind. I am just hoping it can be sorted.
“We have to rely on BDO and Pars United getting it resolved.”