DUNFERMLINE Athletic fans must raise nearly £175,000 in five weeks or the club will definitely be liquidated.
That was the stark warning issued yesterday by the club’s administrator, Bryan Jackson, who confirmed that only an anonymous individual and the Pars United fan grouping are in the running to buy the club. Possible buyer, businessman Ronnie Weymes, has definitely withdrawn his own bid and is “in talks” with Pars United, it was confirmed last night.
Jackson has taken the view that the club founded in 1885 cannot continue in administration past mid-July as the Scottish Football League’s agreed disciplinary sanctions – a 10-point deduction and the payment of a £150,000 bond – would automatically take effect at the start of the season, making Dunfermline worthless and unable to be sold as a going concern. Jackson said: “It is either a CVA or liquidation – there is no other option. If I cannot get a CVA approved by the creditors in July, apart from us running out of money to run the club, the sanctions will kick in and that will be that. I have to be stark, because that is the way I see it. I would say it’s 50-50 at the moment.”
Pars United confirmed last night that their plan for ordinary fans to raise £100,000 and “patrons” to raise £400,00 is on course, with £27,000 in from the former and £300,000 pledged by the latter, leaving £173,000 to be found.
Margaret Ross, chairman of Pars United, said: “It’s time for people to step up. We are confident that the fans and the patrons can get the money together.”
Jackson’s warning followed the release of the official Administration Report and Proposals which show that Dunfermline Athletic FC Ltd went bust in March owing £12 million. The realisable assets as at 11 April were reported to be worth just £11,856.
The largest creditors are the companies and family of the club’s major shareholder Gavin Masterton who are owed more than £8m. Even with further cash having come in, creditors face receiving 1p in the pound, which is likely to upset Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs which originally sought a winding up order over £161,000 debts, causing the club’s board to plump for administration.
The total owed to 139 trade and loan creditors amounts to £1,848,032. This includes £92,374 owed to Fife Council; £111,793 due to Belhaven Brewery; and £45,414 owed to security firm G4S. Local businesses and individuals owed large sums include former director Kip McBay and Pars United member Ross McArthur, owed £295,000 and £145,000 respectively. Club sponsor Robert Purvis, who is known to be keen to help the proposed fans’ buy-out, is owed £97,500.
Jackson’s tactic is to seek a Company Voluntary Arrangement with creditors. For that to work, the sum of at least £500,00 must be raised, with £150,000 of that set aside for football debts plus another £200,000 “working capital” – to cover anticipated losses next season – and a £150,000 contribution to the CVA.
Former owner Masterton’s own company, East End Park Ltd, which owns the stadium, is itself now in administration. Jackson confirmed that he is in talks with Blair Nimmo of administrators KPMG regarding a licence to use the stadium next season.
A big obstacle to the future survival of the club are the football debts which total more than £220,000. Although there is no legal duty on the administrator to pay such debts, the football authorities are likely to insist that any new owner should meet all or a significant proportion of them before Dunfermline are allowed to play again.
The Scottish Football Association itself is owed £900, but the football debts are mostly money owed to other clubs and 139 present and former employees. The latter group alone are owed £166,485 with manager Jim Jefferies due £10,123 and football director Jim Leishman owed £16,424 in wages and a further £29,589 which is believed to have been a loan.
Most of the 12 players who were immediately made redundant by the administrator in March are owed four figure sums while the report shows that a further £60,295 is owed to clubs north and south of the border.