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Morecambe FC board issue stark ultimatum to owner over sale of club

Photo credit: Jack Taylor

The Board of Directors of Morecambe Football Club say the club is at ‘serious risk’ unless the club is sold soon.

In a lengthy statement, they’ve outlined concerns about the immediate future financial stability of the club, as well as making their position clear – that their roles as directors will be untenable – unless steps are taken to move forward with a sale.

The club’s financial situation comes against the backdrop of the long and protracted sale process, which has dogged the club for many months.

The Shrimps have been up for sale for 15 months, during which time the board say no potential new owner has come close to completing a deal with current owners, Bond Group.

Now, the board are urging potential buyers to deal with them directly in order to speed up the process.

Co-Chairman, Graham Howse

‘’Firstly, the Board assures staff, players, supporters, and everyone associated with Morecambe Football Club that it is doing everything within its powers to enable the Club to continue to meet all its ongoing obligations,’’ begins the statement.

‘’Secondly, the Board wishes to make clear to supporters that no funds can be taken out of Morecambe Football Club by Bond Group without the Board’s approval. No such withdrawals will be authorised by the Board, and therefore all fans can be certain that their hard-earned money spent at the Football Club will be used in the best interests of the Club. Anyone considering a stay away protest should understand that this will only harm Morecambe FC, not the Owner. ‘’

Statement of 'No Confidence'

‘’Thirdly, the Board of Directors is placing on record that it has no confidence in Bond Group’s management of the process of selling the Club. This process has now run for 15 months, but in that time no potential new owners have gone through the EFL’s Owners & Directors Test, a number of apparently credible buyers have stepped away the process following initial conversations with Bond Group, and Bond Group’s communication with the Board regarding negotiations with their apparently preferred buyers has become a stuck record of assurances not being met and deadlines missed.''

Morecambe Football Club was put up for sale in September 2022 by Bond Group, which is owned by Jason Whittingham.

For many months it was understood that Bond Group's preferred bidder was young entrepreneur, Sarbjot Johal, who was in protracted negotiations hoping to complete a proposed takeover with his company Sarb Capital Ltd.

The English Football League (EFL) has to approve any prospective new owner of any club. The sale to Mr Johal never materialised.

Sarbjot Jojal

Back in February, the EFL released a statement, confirming that the situation with Mr Johal remained ongoing, and further information was required to be provided to them before any approval could be given regarding any purchase of the Shrimps.

At the end of last season, the club announced that fourteen out of contract players would leave the Mazuma Stadium, with no new deals offered to any player. A position, the board say, was as a result of the ongoing budget constraints.

In May, it was announced that significant loan repayments to Bond Group, among other factors, meant that despite making a profit in excess of £1m in 2021/22 (the Shrimps' first season in League One) the club would post a loss of around £800,000 for the 2022/23 season.

Efforts to expediate the smooth sale of the club in recent months have broken down, and relations between the board and Jason Whittingham from Bond Group, who himself does no sit on the board, strained.

The statement continues: ‘’On Saturday 16th September 2023, the Board of Directors wrote to Bond Group to formally request that they directly involve the Board in the process of selling the Club, and considerable efforts were made to re-establish the constructive working relationship between all Directors and Owner necessary to make this possible.

‘’Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the 2½ months since, and the Board is therefore now calling upon all potential buyers, including any that may already be involved in conversations with Bond Group, to engage directly with the Board of Directors so that it can help facilitate a more professional and efficient sale process.

The statement ends with a stark warning.

‘’The largely voluntary Board of Directors, most of whom are staunch fans of the Club, is making this statement because a significant change of approach is required by Bond Group. Without it, nothing at Morecambe Football Club can move forwards and the Directors risk finding themselves in an untenable position, which puts the Club and the wonderful community that it sits at the heart of at serious risk.’’

Bond Group Investments has owned Morecambe FC since 2018.

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