CUOSC not prepared to risk club’s future
In the last few weeks we have been making regular comments to try and update fans.
We fully accept the detail that we have been able to provide is not what fans want. CUOSC are in a really difficult position about what we can say compared with what we want to say.
Although we would like to say more, like all companies, what is said in the boardroom and to interested parties and their representatives has to remain confidential unless everyone agrees otherwise. We must respect their requirements given the risks.
The Blues owe Purepay Retail around £2.4 million – cash they remain very grateful for – and CUOSC’s directors are not prepared to put the club’s future under threat with that debt outstanding.
At the same time, we have a responsibility not to do anything or to say anything that could create serious repercussions for the financial stability of the club, even if saying little means fans are upset with us, we are criticised and our effectiveness is undermined. We have to act responsibly in the light of the risks faced by the club.
These are real concerns for us and it has been made clear we need to keep that in mind.
We are not happy with that position. But we are sure fans want us to put the club first and that is what we are doing taking this approach. If we felt able to say more and not put the club at risk we would, as we believe it could help create better understanding and address supporter concerns.
This means there is anger and questions are raised that often go unanswered and there is no substantial progress. The information vacuum creates speculation and wild accusations that are aired on social media. Even when they are totally untrue they gain a degree of credibility which damages everyone.
We are doing our utmost to open up communication with fans but we cannot do this alone. It takes a willingness to communicate. Similarly, we don’t control progress either. Any deal progresses at the speed of the slowest party. Meanwhile, the club is left in limbo.
We could step back from the club’s boards as some fans have advocated, but if we relinquished our place we do not believe it would help, in any way, to bring about the ownership change we all want. The issues would still remain and we would be on the outside.
The directors of CUOSC have supported the club for longer than some of them care to remember. They have lived through the good times and the bad. They love the club like any fan – that is why they are putting the club first.
CUOSC have always made it clear they are open to meet anyone who thinks they can help.
There are some specific areas which are fundamental to CUOSC’s position that we need to restate.
We have been trying to bring about ‘succession of ownership’ for some years, as most fans are aware. We recently canvassed fans’ opinions with an extensive questionnaire that has given us a good insight into what the majority want.
Their messages are crystal clear and reinforce our approach. We will publish these results and use them to produce our manifesto for the future of the Blues.
CUOSC is not an obstacle to the type of change fans want, a change of control that can take the club forward. We want it urgently.
We emphasised again in May that we really want to see ‘succession’ and we remain totally committed to doing all we can to bring it about, not blocking it.
‘Succession’ has to mean a change of control. It cannot mean that the current ownership remains in place controlling the club, funded by others or significantly influenced by others in the background with effective control but no accountability or responsibility. Club ownership cannot be remote – it needs to be hands on.
We don’t support the status quo with funding to keep it going. That doesn’t give the foundations to progress and face the challenges ahead. We need new impetus and energy and a fresh start.
Ideally, we feel an immediate outright change of control is preferred.
A staged transition to a change of control may well be possible but is not ideal.
CUOSC hold 25.37 percent voting rights in the club and we have always understood that our ‘voting rights’ can be a safeguard to protect the club. We take that responsibility seriously.
We are realistic about the impact on any new owners but the shares are absolutely not a block to progress.
CUOSC have consistently said we would reluctantly consider diluting our ‘voting rights’ in order to attract the right investor.
We have demonstrated this in the past with other would-be investors. This is unchanged.
In a staged transition our rights could again also be diluted, but only if and when the point is reached when transition becomes a change of control which the EFL approves.
Recently, expectations of supporters’ trusts have increased significantly and fans may be handed more power when the final report of the government’s review into football governance comes out.
We reiterate for CUOSC to consider supporting any planned change of control to a conclusion we would need the interested party to set out clearly and convincingly their plans to take the club forward to the fans.
Alongside financial commitment, we would also need, in particular, to see a commitment to transparency and to prioritising fan engagement. This is more important than ever for successful football club ownership.
It is known that a ‘succession’ plan was agreed in 2019 for change of control. It went to the EFL. We then reported the plan had stalled because of some significant variations.
While CUOSC and the individual shareholders share a united view on almost all of the issues, some remain unresolved.
CUOSC’s Holdings Board representative Billy Atkinson was told at the end of July that we might have some answers in ‘a few weeks’. We have asked again and are still waiting.
This has gone on much longer than any of us wants and we accept it is frustrating for everyone. We share that frustration.
We have been putting the fans’ position and concerns forward via CUOSC’s place on the club’s Holdings Board and in shareholder meetings relentlessly. As weeks have turned into months our views have become more forthright.
Any moves to alternative options can only progress after the existing issues are resolved. It needs certainty over any possible implications for the debt. This demonstrates the complexity of the position and narrows options and is what CUOSC is focussing on.
We continue to work to find a way forward for the good of the club, but we cannot put a timetable on this or what will happen in the end as these are not within CUOSC’s control.
We are happy to meet with fans and answer any questions we can. This can be done at our regular pre-match supporters’ surgery before Saturday home games. Or you can email email@example.com and arrange a meeting.