Majority shareholder Gavin Masterton is to step down from the Dunfermline board, citing “unbearable” pressure on him and his family.
The Pars will reveal significant changes to the East End Park board at a media conference today as they battle for survival amidst major cash-flow problems.
Masterton will remain as a director for the coming weeks, however, to help oversee the imminent – and delayed – launch of a share issue it is hoped will generate up to £500,000 for the financially-stricken club.
With some fans’ groups having already signalled their opposition to the fund-raising scheme, Masterton was increasingly being viewed as a barrier to change by supporters.
However, the retired former treasurer and managing director of the Bank of Scotland repeated a stark warning to fans last night when he predicted the Fifers will fold without the success of the share issue that could make up to 25 per cent of the club available to investors.
He said: “It’s quite simple. If the club cannot go ahead with the share issue, there simply will be no club. Our aim is to raise £300,000 to £500,000 through the share issue, which will help provide stability to the club’s cash-flow.
“The share issue will also provide fans the chance for their voice to be heard on the board and will provide three seats on the board. The club has to progress with this to secure its future.”
Masterton has been a board member since 1990 but was the subject of protests during and after Saturday’s 4-0 hammering from Partick Thistle, and has now been convinced to step aside, a move that it is understood will take place before the end of the season.
Club legend Jim Leishman, who stepped down as director of football last year following a boardroom battle that led to the resignation of seven directors, will now lead a ‘working party’ of local business people aimed at taking the club forward.
Masterton will remain the biggest shareholder in the Pars and is hopeful his departure from the board will help bring together the disparate groups who have been in disagreement over how best to shape the future of the troubled club.
He explained: “DAFC has always been a great passion of mine. Over the past few months, many parties have continually asked for unity between the supporter groups and the board and this has obviously not happened. I hope, therefore, my decision to step down from the board of directors will have a unifying effect. Every group can have a potential role to play in the future of this great club and the key then is for people to sit down calmly and discuss each option.
“I have stated repeatedly that Dunfermline is too a small town for squabbling about the club’s direction and that everyone must pull in the one direction, otherwise Dunfermline risks losing a huge asset to the town. I have found the intense pressure that I and my family have been placed under over the last six months has become unbearable. As such, I feel, for the club to move forward, it is only right that I and my family now take a step back. I still have a substantial investment in the club, therefore it is in my interests to see the club go from strength to strength.”
Aside from the progression of the share scheme, yesterday’s announcement also revealed that Masterton will “nullify part of his personal loan to the club as that still remains the only means to stabilise the club for the remainder of the season”.
It is understood that Dunfermline currently operate with no bank debt but have relied on a number of loans from Masterton and current and past directors that have helped keep the club afloat.
The latest available figures also suggest the club carries debts of around £8.4 million to companies run by Masterton, whilst, through his business Charlestown Holdings, which in turn owns a company called East End Park Ltd, the 71-year-old effectively owns the club’s stadium, making it clear he will still play a massive part in shaping the club’s future.
Masterton’s reputation amongst the club’s players has also plummeted in recent weeks after he infuriated them in an interview in which he suggested they should feel “lucky to have a job” as the club stumbled from one month’s salary problems to another.
And, after receiving an initial 20 per cent of February’s wages, a sum which rose to 50 per cent on Friday, the Pars first-team proceeded with a formal complaint to the Scottish Football League over their on-going cash concerns.
Manager Jim Jefferies has described the players as being at “breaking point” but they were pulled back from the brink of striking from Saturday’s match with Partick.
Meanwhile, chairman John Yorkston, who is set to step down at the end of the season, is to be named honorary president, whilst it is also planned that Karen Masterton and Tracey Martin will step down from the board but remain in their day-to-day roles at the club over the ‘transitional period’.
Fifers in dock over gate receipts
DUNFERMLINE have been charged with failing to hand over gate receipts following their William Hill Scottish Cup tie with Hamilton at East End Park on 2 February.
The club face an SFA hearing on 21 March accused of breaching Scottish Cup rule 46 (c)(3) that says ticket money, after the deduction of expenses, should be shared evenly between clubs.
They also face a charge relating to a breach of cup competition rule 46 (e) which instructs that “the share of the receipts, or the guarantee, should be paid, in cash, on the day of the match, unless any agreement is made to the contrary”.