A war of words has erupted between veteran MP Tony Lloyd and the group bidding for a ‘hostile takeover’ of Rochdale AFC.
Rochdale MP Mr Lloyd is urging the English Football League and the government to intervene in the move by Andy Curran’s Morton House MGT and First Form Construction Ltd.
He has written to the EFL and sports minister Nigel Huddleston asking them to look more closely at Mr Curran and his organisation.
READ MORE:FA probes claims of ‘homophobic comments’ from group behind ‘hostile’ Rochdale AFC takeover
Mr Lloyd has also voiced concern over comments attributed to the takeover group allegedly calling people of the town ‘small minded’ and the club’s current board ‘nancy boys’.
As reported by the Manchester Evening News, club chairman Simon Gauge has already written to the Football Association claiming Mr Curran made the ‘offensive’ comments and also suggested that any future disputes could be settled in ‘a fight in a boxing ring’.
The comments were allegedly made during a Zoom meeting between the current Rochdale AFC board, the English Football League (EFL), Mr Curran and his adviser Alexander Jarvis.
Mr Curran has not commented on the claims specifically, but Mr Jarvis has now sought to clarify what his client said.
Mr Jarvis said: “My client said ‘several board members were small-minded and wanted managed decline instead of returning to League One’.
The Football Association is investigating the claims.
Mr Curran has also now released a statement, via Mr Jarvis, in response to comments from the town’s MP.
Labour MP Mr Lloyd said he fears Rochdale might suffer the same demise as neighbours Bury FC, after their club collapsed in the 2018-19 season.
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He said: “The Football League system has seen numerous owners whose competence to run a football club was simply not there, many simply using the club as a cash cow for their own benefit.
“They have frequently left clubs weakened, or in the case of Bury FC, no longer in operation.
“The EFL, in principle, has duties with regard to the ‘Fit and Proper Person Test’, and the need for owners to have a financial model that does not put the club in jeopardy.”
He said that ‘very little is known’ about those who wish to take over Rochdale AFC and that ‘what is rumoured is jarring’.
MP Tony Lloyd has spoken out against the proposed Rochdale AFC takeover
Mr Lloyd continued: “It is not obvious who would be the ultimate owners of the club were the hostile takeover attempt to succeed and nor, as far as I understand, have the would-be owners made their case to the club.
“They certainly have not made their case to the supporters and the people of Rochdale. This is not only not reassuring, it is unacceptable.
“I look to the EFL to give the supporters and the people of Rochdale assurance that the EFL will pursue its own duty of care, to guarantee the best outcome for Rochdale AFC as part of the Football League.
“I have written in similar terms to the sports minister but making the point that football governance is high on the government agenda and it would be bizarre for Rochdale to face an unacceptable takeover whilst government were preparing plans to prevent this kind of scenario.”
Responding, Mr Curran’s statement said the MP had either been ‘misinformed’ or ‘not made aware’ of the current financial position of Rochdale AFC.
He went on: “The club is certainly not a ‘cash cow, far from it. It’s got no money and without significant investment, the club will run out of money before the end of the year.
“The board has already confirmed it has no intention or means of putting in the funds required to sustain the club for the foreseeable future. (These include) a substantial outstanding loan (which) is secured against the stadium; HMRC payments are in arrears, and players have been sold below market value.
“We have made an offer to the current chairman to provide immediate funds to pay off these debts, increase the playing budget and buy players for the best possible opportunity of achieving promotion back to League One this season.
“We estimate this to be a requirement of around £500,00 immediately, with a further £500,00 in January. This offer has not been accepted.
Rochdale’s Spotland Stadium, now called the Crown Oil Arena
(Image: Getty Images)
“It is clear our acquisition of shares in Rochdale AFC cannot under any circumstances be likened to the situations at Bury and other clubs which have been left weakened from owners.
“If anything the board will be the demise of Rochdale AFC if they continue to act in the manner in which they have been.
“Furthermore, we have paid in excess of £1 million to date in consideration for shares, due diligence and legal costs.
“So, alluding to the fact we intend to use Rochdale AFC as a cash cow for our own benefit is factually incorrect and completely untrue. There simply is no cash to ‘milk’.”
He said that the ‘rumours, misinformation and speculation on social media and the forums’ which Mr Lloyd describes as ‘jarring’ were the result of ‘several individuals breaching the non-disclosure agreement which is in place between ourselves and the club, a matter which we will address legally with those individuals in due course. The most important item on our agenda as it stands is ensuring that Rochdale AFC exists past 2021’.
Mr Curran has hit back at the town’s MP
Mr Curran added: “We wish to conclude the process in the professional manner that we have conducted ourselves in throughout. The EFL has been provided with information on the ultimate beneficial owner, along with proof, source and sufficiency of funds.
“They will come to their own conclusion as to whether this is acceptable in line with their requirements from their own findings, in their own time; from conversations, we have had so far they have been positive and they are certainly not drawn on speculation.
“Therefore until such time the EFL conclude their Owners and Directors Test, any label that Mr Lloyd wishes to assign to this takeover, namely it being ‘unacceptable,’ is not only irrelevant but also without merit.
“We have repeatedly reiterated to the club and the supporters’ trust, that we are 100 percent committed to Rochdale AFC and want to work with them going forward through these challenging financial times many clubs are facing; this offer extends to Mr Lloyd as MP of Rochdale who I feel it would be beneficial to at least have a conversation with us prior to making any unfounded allegations and statements based on what he has read on Twitter.”
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