CUOSC welcome the news that United are now officially looking for new investment.
While we will always be grateful to Edinburgh Woollen Mill for their loan facility, which helped the club through some difficult times financially, the club must now move on and seek new investment.
Initially, we believed EWM’s involvement would lead to a change of control the majority of fans wanted.
In 2019 we joined talks to try to bring this about but, at the same time, it was made clear to us that if confidentiality was breached it would put any deal at risk. Regretfully, this meant we had to keep supporters in the dark.
As we had done with previous potential investors we agreed to dilute our shareholding to allow a major change of control at the club.
We need to make it clear at no time were we asked to give up any shares. We were asked to agree to allow the ‘B’ non-voting shares to be consolidated into the ‘A’ voting shares. The result would mean our voting share in the Holding company would reduce to just under 10%. We agreed this subject to a full change of control.
Towards the end of 2019 press releases were prepared and ready to go out but the deal needed final EFL approval.
By December 2019 it became clear that the assurances required by the EFL were not acceptable to EWM and they would not sign it off.
Still working under a confidentiality agreement attempts were made to reach a revised arrangement.
CUOSC were still asked to dilute our shareholding but this time there would have been no change of control at the club for the foreseeable future. We believe this would not have been acceptable to our members or the wider fan base. The Holdings Board was made aware that CUOSC would not support such an arrangement.
It was unacceptable to CUOSC then and that remains the case today.
However, we stayed in negotiations to try to find a solution. Delays were inevitable caused by both the Covid pandemic and EWM going into administration.
In May 2021 the Holdings Board directors were read a statement from CUOSC formally withdrawing our support for the proposed revised deal. In recent weeks it became clear that finding a solution would be impossible.
The football world has changed a lot since 2019. It is clear club owners and directors need to be more transparent and open with fans. We should point out that we have never spoken to the EWM owner, only his representatives.
The government’s recent fan-led review is recommending supporters have more say in the running of their clubs and reinforces our belief that EWM were not a right fit for the club. This view was also supported by responses to CUOSC’s questionnaire on the ‘future of football’.
United owe EWM around £2.4million – a debt that has since been novated to Purepay Retail. Along with the club, CUOSC have been asking for talks to arrange a repayment plan.
This would remove the immediate risk of the debt being called in as it is currently repayable on demand. Also, potential new investors would then know where they stand.
We hope that any such investor would want to work with fans groups for the benefit of the club and community.
We reiterate that we have always acted in the best interests of the club and its supporters. We are not a blocker of change of control but are not prepared to risk its future on the wrong deal.
CUOSC now believes the time is right to move on and we hope this announcement will usher in a new era of transparency and engagement with fans.
If anyone has any questions or requires more details we would be happy to talk.