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Fan takeover of Morecambe FC "not possible in the short-term"

Fan ownership of Morecambe Football Club is not possible in the short-term, says the club's supporters trust.

The Shrimps Trust held its Annual General Meeting on Thursday evening at the Mazuma Mobile Stadium, where the subject of fans attempting a takeover of the club came up.

This came as the club has been up for sale for almost 12 months with no new updates on any potential deal to buy Morecambe FC.

Jack Steer, from the Shrimps Trust committee, speaking at the meeting, said: "Fan ownership is not something that's possible in the short-term for the Shrimps Trust, for financial reasons and operational reasons.

"We don't have the finances or personnel to do that."

Mr Steer also addressed calls from supporters to hold a protest about the current situation regarding the ownership of the Shrimps.

"A protest has been discussed...we don't think that's appropriate at the moment," he said.

"It's not a course of action we want to take at this moment in time."

The sale of Morecambe FC has dragged on for months, causing frustration both within the club and with fans.

In May, the Shrimps Trust wrote to businessman Sarbjot Johal, who has been in talks to buy the football club through his company Sarb Capital.

The letter asked Mr Johal to urgently provide extra information that the English Football League (EFL) requested from him, so that the situation can move forward; or end his interest in buying the Shrimps.

Mr Steer said the Trust had received no reply to their letter.

Mr Johal was a guest at several Morecambe matches last season and put money into the club.

This included a "six figure sum" in March through a purchase of shares.

This was announced by the club after wages were late being paid at Morecambe FC that month.

But there have been no recent public updates from the EFL - which has to approve any new owner - the club, or Morecambe owner Bond Group Investments (run by businessman Jason Whittingham) about Mr Johal buying the Shrimps.

Mr Johal has also made no comment.

Rod Taylor, co-chairman of Morecambe (pictured centre, with Shrimps manager Derek Adams and assistant manager John McMahon), also spoke at the AGM.

Mr Taylor praised Ben Sadler, CEO of the Shrimps, the Shrimps Trust committee, staff, volunteers, the fans and the board.

"The sale of the club is controlled by Bond Group Investments - not the board - and their one director, Jason Whittingham," he said.

"We are not in control of it. We get on with running the club every day. Hopefully this episode in the club's history will soon be resolved.

"We have a strong board and a superb CEO who has made a massive difference.

"We've got to keep staff morale up and we will keep doing that."

Ben Sadler (pictured below) also spoke to Trust members and talked about how the 'family excellence' match day experience at the club has massively improved.

Morecambe FC also provided an update on the sale of the club in a statement released on August 25.

"At present, the board of directors continue to work day-to-day to operate and progress the club within the parameters agreed with the owner," it said.

"This season, as we have previously documented to supporters, we were initially informed we were working to a breakeven budget which would have been an extreme challenge.

"The owner, Bond Group, thereafter confirmed a support package would be in place to increase the budget, predominantly on the playing front which had taken the biggest hit in the breakeven drafts.

"(Co-chairman) Graham Howse confirmed the uplift is hundreds of thousands of pounds and whilst this still leaves us on one of, if not the lowest, playing budgets in the league, it does demonstrate the level of player wage inflation since we were last in League Two.

"The outcome of this is that the club is still set to lose a significant amount of money this season despite us increasing revenues and profits in the money generating areas of the club. This agreed shortfall will be funded by the owner.

"The owner is still working on a sale of the club, and we will of course update supporters should any significant progress be made on that front, when we are able to.

"We hope you appreciate the legal sensitivities of us commenting on anything other than the facts we are informed of, which to date is minimal. Graham Howse is constantly engaged with the owner pushing for updates, with Jason always available to speak even if there’s nothing to report, which remains a constant frustration for all.

"Jason Whittingham attended our game (on August 15) vs Notts County. We had a pre-arranged and regular board meeting at the club (that) Tuesday afternoon, and it made sense for all to remain at the stadium to watch the match in the evening. Whilst Jason is no longer a director, as owner, he is more than within his rights to attend in the boardroom.

"As was released earlier this week, we have been subject to an agreed decision with the EFL. This relates to the non-payment of wages which was publicised in March 2023. The agreed decision means that should there be a non-payment of players wages again before 30th June 2024, the club will have three points deducted from our points total, with the owner also having to place 125% of the gross monthly wage bill from across the club in a separate account only to be used should there be a non-payment again.

"Wages have once more been paid on time for August, a little early due to the bank holiday. To confirm this has now been actioned and we have satisfied the EFL with regards to the deposit account. It is also prudent to highlight that as per the above, the owner has stated his commitment to funding the club over the season in line with the agreed budget."

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