ACCRINGTON Stanley have just three weeks to pay off a £308,000 tax bill – or face a repeat of 1962 and being wound up.
Around £81,000 has been raised so far, but last weekend was a massive one in their bid for survival as a behind-the-scenes war wages at the club.
Last week, chief executive Rob Heys, owner Dave O’Neill and director Peter Marsden said they would put around £100,000 into the club themselves.
There was optimism with Reds shareholder, multi-millionaire and Stanley fan Ilyas Khan renewing his vow to match what the directors put in.
Then Khan – who is the power behind the Accrington Stanley Supporters Fund (ASSF) which had £225,000 waiting to pay into Stanley in return for shares and ‘transparency" about the club’s accounts – and Marsden had a meeting last Wednesday.
Marsden, who has 10 per cent shares in the Reds, then called a directors meeting after the Chesterfield game to discuss Stanley’s plight and put Khan’s offer to them again.
There, it was revealed that some of the directors would not accept Khan’s financial help – and Marsden resigned. The next day on hearing the details of the meeting, Khan withdrew his offer, saying: "There is a limit to how many times you can be told to get lost."
Next, owner Dave O’Neill – who has seemed reluctant to deal with the ASSF in recent weeks – issued a statement on Monday trying to clarify his position - but which failed to appease the fans.
Following this, the ASSF issued a statement giving further details of the directors meeting and their feelings on the club.
Accrington Stanley stand on the brink of doing the unthinkable – of disappearing from the Football League... AGAIN.
Saving the club is most people’s priority but the off-the-field problems have dominated the headlines as they lurch from one crisis to the next in this crucial time for the club who are seemingly far away from the magic £300,000 total.
Here are the full statements made by some of the main players in Accrington’s fight for survival in a momentous 24 hours that started on Sunday morning.
A jointly issued statement from Accrington Stanley Fighting Fund/OSC/Ultras:
"On Saturday afternoon following the defeat at Chesterfield, the then Vice-Chairman Peter Marsden called a meeting of the following people: Geoff Heap DIRECTOR Mark Turner DIRECTOR, Rob Heys CHIEF EXECUTIVE (which carries Director), Marcelle Lazarus JOINT CO-CHAIRPERSON, Frank Martindale EX DIRECTOR believed to be there in a minute taking capacity, Peter Marsden VICE CHAIR, Bill Holden DIRECTOR.
"Not present who maybe would have been expected at such a meeting were Dave O'Neil JOINT CO-CHAIRPERSON, John De-Maine DIRECTOR and Jim Kenyon DIRECTOR
"Peter called this meeting in order to try to garner support for a share issue. He, in his capacity as Vice-Chair, believed that re-capitalisation was the only way forward for the club in its present situation. Not only do we owe £308,000 to HMRC, but it is believed we are in debt to a sum of money in excess of twice this figure. Mr Marsden realised that without external funding this club could only continue to fight fires rather than move the club forward. He was trying to ascertain how much board room support there was to such a notion as a new share issue.
"At the conclusion of this meeting it is alleged that a statement was made by two directors that included the words "we would rather the club go under than be run by ASSF or Ilyas Khan".
"Members of the ASSF are very concerned by this derogatory comment aimed at a group, a collection of fans that undoubtedly have the absolute best interests of the club at heart.
"The second part of that statement is irrelevant. However the first part of that statement should be of grave concern to every supporter of Accrington Stanley Football Club. Two people who have the future of the club within their control have stated that they would rather the club go under than ....
"We will take this opportunity to remind every director and every fan that as a director of a company one has a responsibility to act in the best interests of said company. With 23 days to go until the club closes its doors for the final time there were no alternative options on the table other than the one issued by ASSF. The best interests of the company were to work with that group and ensure that by the time of the next hearing there is £308,000 to give to HMRC.
"Throughout the last four months since proceedings began, the three collective fan groups have tried at all times to act in what they, individually, believed to be in the best interests of the club. We don't believe that the board of directors, led by Dave O'Neil and Marcelle Lazarus as joint co-chairpersons have.
"Furthermore it is of no surprise that these individuals have refused to listen to offers of help as neither of these are listed as shareholders nor directors in the latest available Companies House listings.
"The collective fan-based groups would appeal to all those concerned to put their collective weight behind a motion for the Board of directors to either step aside or carry out their legal, and moral, obligation to do what is in the best interests of the club."
Owner Dave O'Neill issued the following statement on the club's website:
"I have been accused of being quiet over the last few weeks which to some extent is true, as it seemed the more that I spoke in the press the more the attention was diverted away from raising money and saving Accrington Stanley Football Club. Over the last few weeks the fundraising has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the ongoing saga in the press, and I do feel that I have been made out to be something of a villain. Some of the criticisms may be justified, however I feel that a lot are not.
"Just over twelve months ago when the club was struggling I put £100,000 of my own money in to keep the club going, and have put over half as much again since that time. On top of that I have provided cars for players and coaching staff, accommodated players without charge in my properties, and worked full time for the last two years or so without taking a penny out of the club in either wages or expenses. This isn’t about me talking myself up and I am not looking for accolades as there are many here, both staff, supporters and other volunteers, who keep this club going and make Accrington Stanley what it is. I would just like to restore a little balance in the opinions that have been formed of me.
"The supporters fund offer that was tabled at the start of our fundraising campaign was not in my opinion the best way forward for our club. In many ways it would have been the easy option for me, however sometimes the easy option is not the best solution. I believe that the current team that we have here at the club are best suited to run the club, and when they have their time freed up from fighting the fires of recent weeks they will show this to be the case. As a club we were not intending to rely on the money from the supporters fund and so the withdrawal of the offer isn’t the nail in the coffin that it is perhaps being seen as.
"There is a lot of work to do over the coming 23 days, and I would urge all who hold Stanley dear to work with the club and to support the fundraising events that are taking place. I will continue our discussions with HMRC and keep all informed as to our progress. In closing I am very aware of the responsibility I have to the club and to the town, and I assure you that I will not let Accrington Stanley fold again."
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