by Stuart Pike
STANLEY owner Dave O’Neill has insisted he will fight off the “vultures” encircling the cash-strapped club, following a whirlwind week of fund-raising at the Crown Ground.
O’Neill says several parties have expressed interest in buying him out, while the Stanley Supporters Fund, headed by entrepreneur Ilyas Khan, has offered to pay off the lion’s share of its £308,000 tax debt in return for a 50 per cent shareholding.
Mr Khan has also offered a no-strings-attached one-off payment if the club’s other directors are prepared to match his pledge.
But O’Neill, who has been overwhelmed by the early momentum of the ‘Save our Stanley’ appeal, is concentrating on paying off the debt with donations, not “quick fixes” with conditions.
And he is keen that the campaign, which got a big lift with Tuesday night’s charity match with Burnley raising more than £30,000, should not lose momentum as the taxman’s 24 October deadline nears.
He said: “We have set ourselves a target of six weeks and we would like to think we will get £50,000 a week, give or take. We are looking at it on a weekly basis and we have hit the target for week one. We’re comfortable with what we have set up and are targeting other ventures we’ve got lined up which are not 100 per cent finalised yet. The people of East Lancashire will make sure we’re not the first club in East Lancashire to go bust.”
He added: “Monies are coming in from all over the world and the hits on the website have just gone through the roof. Everybody’s logging on and doing their bit and the amount of people coming out of the woodwork is unreal.
“All these people are donating to the club unconditionally. They are 100 per cent behind the club and the current regime and they’re throwing money at it.”
O’Neill, who took over from Eric Whalley as major shareholder in June, has spoken of his relief at the club’s High Court stay of execution, after fearing he could have been left without a club to run.
He said: “I never want to experience anything like the emotion that we went through in that courtroom again.
“But there were only three people in that court that could have saved the club and that was Rob Heys, (vice chairman) Peter Marsden and myself. Ilyas Khan had put his cards on the table. But he’s had exactly the same opportunity to get involved in the club as I had.”
O’Neill added: “There are bids on the table and the Supporters Fund is only one of them. The vultures are hovering. As far as the fans are concerned it’s probably the best way to take one of these bids but if I was to say I’m selling out to X consortium the fans wouldn’t have a clue who was coming in.
“Eric thought that I was the right person to take the club forward. I have a vested interest both financially and morally to go with his wishes.”