THE Accrington Stanley Supporters’ Fund have declared that they are now prepared to pay off all of the club’s debts – and they believe they are in a better position to run the club than the current owners.
The fund was set up in the summer in a bid to bail Stanley out of their financial problems but an offer to inject £250,000 into the club has received no response because it is dependent on a share issue, which would mean Dave O’Neill losing control just months after taking over from previous chairman Eric Whalley.
With Stanley having to pay off a £308,000 tax bill by late October or face being wound up, the fund – backed by benefactor Ilyas Khan – have now increased their offer.
They say they can wipe out all the club’s debts, which they believe extend beyond the current bill.
The fund were angered by comments from O’Neill in Friday’s programme notes, when the joint chairman told them it was ‘time to either come on board and help your club, which so many people are doing unconditionally, or stay away from our limelight and let the true fans and the community of Hyndburn save the club they love’.
O’Neill also suggested the fund had been offered the chance to take over Stanley before the club faced the High Court on September 2 but instead were prepared to let the club be wound up – claims they strenuously deny.
The fund released a statement yesterday, which reads in full: "Accrington Stanley Supporters' Fund Ltd (ASSF) was formed when a group of supporters, including Ilyas Khan, came together following the May 09 court hearing when Accrington Stanley Football Club appeared for non payment of tax revenues.
"Supporters were fearful that the club would be put in to administration. We were delighted when the club announced that it had come to an agreement with the tax man to pay off the arrears over 12 months, confirming it could restructure its finances to meet the arrangement.
"Indeed, Professor Glasson and then the Supporters' Fund, made substantial loans totalling some £45,000 to the club.
"Professor Glasson and the Supporters Fund believed, mistakenly as it happens, that this cash would help pay instalments off the tax bill.
"The Supporters' Fund, with the backing of Ilyas Khan, made the offer to pay off a further substantial amount of the tax bill in July 09.
"Two main conditions were requested by the Supporters Fund, one that the club create a share issue and two, that the club make its accounts transparent so the true financial picture could be assessed.
"This has been the consistent and only approach of the Supporters' Fund.
"The directors of the club have continued to ignore this offer. "We were informed by the club on Friday August 28 that Accrington Stanley was to appear in the High Court the following Wednesday, September 2. HMRC were petitioning for Accrington Stanley to be wound up as none of the outstanding tax bill had been paid since the alleged agreement made back in May 09.
"On Saturday, August 29, we met with the club's chairman and the chief executive and again reiterated the offer from the Supporters' Fund, with conditions as before.
"At no time did Mr O'Neill indicate he would be prepared to relinquish his control of the club.
"Despite it being a Bank Holiday weekend, by 4pm on Tuesday September 1, the Supporters' Fund's offer was reinforced by a letter, through our solicitor, which was presented to the High Court.
"The Supporters' Fund have demonstrated that we are genuine in our offer to help save Accrington Stanley from extinction.
"The result was an eight-week stay of execution by which time HMRC have to be paid £308,000.
"The ASSF made a proposal to the chairman and directors of Accrington Stanley, shortly after the court date on September 2, outlining again the two main conditions and the time scales necessary to finalise the arrangement to meet the court's deadline.
"ASFC has again declined to respond to the offer.
"Accrington Stanley is facing a forest fire of debt, and its directors are using water pistols to try and put it out, and are not even prepared to use their own water, ie. none of the directors have put their own cash on the table at this critical time.
"We believe that the club's debt is now substantially more than just £308,000 owed to the tax man.
"If the club wish to dispute this statement then we ask that they open up their accounts to scrutiny.
"The Supporters' Fund, allied with the generosity of Ilyas Khan, is able to remove Accrington Stanley Football Club from debt.
"The continuing and prospering league status of the club must override the intransigence of the club's chairman and its directors, who seem interested only in avoiding a dilution of their shareholdings and losing control.
"Ilyas Khan has made it quite clear that he has no wish to take control of Accrington Stanley Football Club.
"If the Supporters' Fund offer was to be accepted, and as a result it becomes the majority shareholder, control of ASFC would be vested in the Supporters' Fund and not Ilyas Khan.
"Through its membership, the Supporters' Fund is well placed to take over the administrative affairs of the club, with skills in business management, communications, media, finance and funding.
"The Supporters' Fund has every confidence in the club's manager, coach, playing staff and players.
"The removal of Accrington Stanley from debt would allow the finance that is currently having to be used to service the debt, to be channelled into strengthening the playing side of the club, allowing a challenge for promotion.
"Very few Football League clubs will have the advantage of such an offer.
"The Supporters' Fund, and indeed all supporters everywhere, are delighted with the generosity shown so far in helping to minimize this financial burden on the club.
"However, it is necessary to look at the future sustainability of Accrington Stanley Football Club, and it does not look as if the present board of directors is able to fund that sustainability.
"They must not be allowed to mortgage the club's survival against future income as this would be disastrous.
"As true supporters of Accrington Stanley, the Supporters' Fund has amply demonstrated its willingness to step up to the table. Our offer is one that ensures finance goes directly into the club.
"We ask that fans everywhere, and the public at large, join us in supporting the offer that will ensure a confident future for Accrington Stanley Football Club.
"Also, we invite all and any supporters to take up any number of shares when the offer has been made, and thus become part of ASFC's future."