WREXHAM FC has been sold for just £1 to its commercial director Jon Harris.
He took over as managing director yesterday after previous owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts accepted his bid for the club, which is backed by cash from Shropshire businessman Colin Poole.
The bid by Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (WST) was rejected on the grounds it did not offer what the owners called “satisfactory comfort” about whether it could run the club financially in the long term.
But the Trust has been offered the opportunity to buy shares in the club and take a seat on the new board.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Mr Moss confirmed he received three bids for the club but that from Mr Harris was considered “best for the long-term future” of Wrexham FC.
And Mr Harris said although a contract had not yet been signed the deal “has been done”.
Mr Moss, who carried out his pledge to sell the club for a nominal £1, admitted accepting the WST bid would have been the easiest option but added: “In truth the Trust was unable to provide satisfactory comfort both in terms of their financial ability to fund the club’s operations in the medium to long term and their experience in running a professional football club.”
Mr Moss says in a statement released yesterday that a bid for the club from London businessman Stephen Cleeve had failed because of “technical and legal issues” which could not be easily overcome.
The statement added that the new management hope Mr Cleeve accepts an offer to work with them for the benefit of the club.
Mr Harris is a former general manager of Shrewsbury Town FC. He resigned in October 2010 after three years with the club.
At the conference Mr Harris said Colin Poole, himself a former Shrewsbury Town executive, would be working with the club on a consultancy basis.
The club’s statement refers to allegations about Mr Poole’s previous business dealings and his undertaking to the DTI not to act as a director of a business.
But it adds: “Mr Poole is an extremely successful businessman.
“The events that led to Mr Poole’s undertaking occurred 10 years ago.”
The statement also deals with the question of rumours Mr Harris plans to sell off or redevelop the Racecourse or Colliers Park training ground, stating that this is not the case.
At the conference Mr Harris said that while he had already bought Colliers Park as part of the deal for the club, he would purchase The Racecourse Ground from Mr Moss and Mr Roberts on a “time plan” deal.He also gave a categoric assurance that another controversial figure, former Chester FC owner Stephen Vaughan, had nothing to do with his bid.
Team manager Dean Saunders, who was also at the press conference, said he agreed to renew his contract with the club and hoped a fresh injection of cash from the new owner would allow him to buy two or three new players.
A statement issued by WST yesterday says its board are “bitterly disappointed” at the sale to Mr Harris.
The sale has also come under fire from Wrexham MP Ian Lucas and the town’s Assembly Member, Lesley Griffiths.
LEADER COMMENT: Deal done – now owners face battle to woo fans
AND so the deal has been done.
For all the very public debate about Wrexham FC’s future, the decision on who should take control of that future was made, inevitably, in private.
Yesterday’s club statement and press conference revealed what some had suspected during a weekend of heightened speculation: the club has been sold to its own commercial director.
Jon Harris, a former general manager at Shrewsbury Town FC, will take the reins with backing from a former colleague at the Shropshire club, businessman Colin Poole.
The announcement came after rival bids from Wrexham Supporters’ Trust and London businessman Stephen Cleeve were ruled out by former owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts.
And it is here that neutral observers might want to pause and reflect for a moment.
After all, for some weeks now it has appeared the real momentum was with the Trust’s bid.
Certainly, the blueprint for sustainability it released last month showed a proper understanding of the need to anchor its plans for the Reds in business reality.
Now those attending a public meeting the Trust had already scheduled for tonight can probably expect a rather different agenda.
The bidding process is over and the prize has gone to Mr Harris for an initial outlay of £1.
Nothing is that simple, of course, and Mr Harris has made positive noises about fans, community groups and the club working together to return Wrexham to the higher reaches of professional football.
He has extended the offer of shares and a seat on the board to the Trust – although on what terms is unclear – and we would expect nothing less.
This is, after all, a takeover sealed behind closed doors, the details of which we so far know very little and goodwill is a valuable commodity that deal cannot buy.
Some fans, mindful of past disappointments, may well dismiss such talk as hot air. We can understand that position, and there are questions that need to be answered.
What, for example, is the “time plan” deal that will enable Mr Harris to buy The Racecourse Ground?
And what should we make of Dean Saunders’ curious comment, quoted in the club’s own statement, that “provided the fans and community get behind us” some new players might come in?
Nevertheless, we would urge supporters not to rush to conclusions but instead give the new regime time to make its presence felt.
Only then can its performance be properly scrutinised.
As any manager will tell you, football is a results business – and it is those results, both on and off the pitch, by which Mr Harris and his team must be judged.
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