Morecambe FC owner hopes to ‘agree terms’ on sale of club within next two weeks – Beyond Radio

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Jason Whittingham from Bond Group, owners of Morecambe FC

The owner of Morecambe FC says he hopes to agree terms and make an announcement on a sale of the club within the next two weeks.

Jason Whittingham, speaking on TalkSPORT on Wednesday, said he is aiming to close a deal with an un-named buyer within the next 10-14 days.

Mr Whittingham, giving a rare interview about the situation surrounding the sale of the club, spoke about what has happened since Morecambe FC went up for sale in September 2022.

The club is owned by Bond Group Investments, of which Mr Whittingham is the director.

“Yes it has been up for sale since September 2022, we did have a buyer at the time who we progressed with fairly quickly,” he said to TalkSPORT.

“There were delays in that due to factors out of our control but we were signed up to an exclusive period with the buyer. So time moves forward and the buyer for various reasons is not able to complete and progress.

“But we support the buyer and give them more time. And during that time because it was an exclusive period, we weren’t able to really engage with other buyers.

“Fast forward and the buyer is still there with a want to acquire the club, and that is Sarb Capital, for clarity.

“As it stands at the moment there are four buyers engaged. One of those buyers is at a very advanced stage. The board at Morecambe are well aware of who all of these buyers are. Two possibly three of those buyers are publicly known so they can be checked in the public domain.

“We are hoping that we progress to the point that we agree terms within the next 10 days-two weeks. 

“I genuinely can’t say (who the buyer at an advanced stage is) due to confidentiality within a contract. What I’m hoping is that within the next 10-14 days we can make a formal announcement.”

Mr Whittingham was also asked during his TalkSPORT interview why the Morecambe board of directors have been vocal about their fears about the club’s future.

In a statement in May, the directors urged Bond Group to complete the sale of the club to avoid a “catastrophic outcome” and urged that they accept an offer from a US-based potential buyer.

Read more: Morecambe FC board warn of ‘catastrophic outcome’ unless club is sold after meeting with owner – Beyond Radio

Mr Whittingham said: “Reality is, Bond Group agreed to an amount of funding when we set the budgets last year.

“We were committed to injecting that money into the club to support the club through.The problem you have is that if budgets and forecasts are overly optimistic, then as an owner, you are then required to to inject more funds than you’d ever planned to.

“That was the situation last season. More than twice the amount of funding was required to get through the season. Bond Group has had to dip into its pocket or raise finance, to get money into the club to keep it going, over and above what the club budgeted.

“I would say that the budgeting process was overly optimistic and I don’t get overly involved in the budgeting process.

“I trust the people at the club which I still do, to a degree. But it’s really difficult when you’re trying to forecast how many fans are going to turn up on Saturday afternoon for a certain game, but then Morecambe had a lot of international call ups through the season. As a result that game gets rescheduled to a Tuesday night and you don’t get the same level of turnout, so you can lose half of a game’s income which is an unintended consequence of having international players.”

Mr Whittingham also spoke about Morecambe being deducted three points last season, when they finished 15th in League Two.

The club had previously received a three-point deduction, to be suspended until June 30 2024, after admitting a breach of English Football League (EFL) regulations for failing to pay player wages on or around March 28 2023. 

Mr Whittingham also spoke about Morecambe FC being under a transfer embargo over amounts due to HMRC, and the fact that the club was left with just five first-team players under contract in the close-season.

“The fact that we only have five players is down to an embargo on transfers which was nothing to do with either the club or Bond Group. We hope the EFL will see sense on the situation and lift the embargo.

“The fault lies with an external company that the club had relations with. It’s being dealt with amicably by Graham Howse and it’s a conversation between Graham Howse, the EFL and HMRC.”

Read more: Morecambe FC under embargo from EFL over unpaid tax bill – Beyond Radio

Mr Whittingham also explained why he recently postponed two scheduled meetings with the Shrimps Trust supporters group about their concerns over the ongoing sale and the future of the club.

“What I wanted to do was that make sure the information was the most current, and with regards to the Shrimps Trust, I wanted to make sure that I did the staff and club the courtesy of speaking to them first. 

“We are in talks to actually sell the club and hopefully agree terms. I was hopeful at the time of being able to communicate with them that the sale of the club had been agreed. So I did push it down the road, but I have now answered and responded to their questions.”

Read more: Morecambe FC owner claims ‘four credible buyers’ are interested in purchasing club – Beyond Radio

Mr Whittingham also said he’d had “vile and vitriolic abuse on social media not only aimed towards me but to my family” from people angry about the club’s situation.

In closing, the owner spoke about the return of Derek Adams (below) as manager this week.

He said: “If you speak to members of the club it’s business as usual. I think Derek Adams is a very good manager and exactly what the club needs now in its position.

“Bond Group will continue to fund the club through the sale process. We remain fully engaged with the board and those buyers to bring one of them to agree terms as soon as practically possible.”

Read more: INTERVIEW: Morecambe FC director says bringing back Derek Adams was “the best decision” – Beyond Radio

Sarb Capital is run by businessman Sarbjot Johal, who attended several Shrimps home games particularly in the 2022/23 season.

Mr Johal also met with supporters to outline his vision for the club’s future. He is pictured below, front second from right, at Morecambe’s game with Stockport County in December 2023.

In February 2023, Morecambe co-chairman Graham Howse said: “Sarbjot Johal is eager to start the project to take the club on to a new level, subject to satisfactorily navigating the EFL Owners and Directors’ test.

“Sarbjot, through his company Sarb Capital, has recently purchased equity in the club, injecting more than useful income into us.

“I am, along with Sarbjot, keen that the process should now move on at pace to come to a positive conclusion.”

The English Football League (EFL) has to approve any prospective new owner of the club and in February 2023, they invited Mr Johal to provide more information to enable a deal to progress.

In a statement at the time, they said: ‘’As with any proposed change of control at an EFL club, there are a number of requirements that need to be met in accordance with EFL regulations which primarily relate to the Owners and Directors’ Test self-declaration, providing Future Financial Information, along with evidencing the source and sufficiency of any funding.

‘’Whilst some of the information requested several months ago has been received, further details are still required.

‘’No approval on any change of control at Morecambe will be made until the proposed purchaser and club satisfy in full the requirements of the EFL’s regulations and the appropriate levels of due diligence are completed.’’

Mr Johal’s company made a further cash injection into the club after staff wages were delayed in March 2023. Sarb Capital then provided further funds for the club in April 2023.

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