Update from Trust Oldham 8th March

Please see below our update on last week’s matters.

HMRC debt

At the Court Hearing on 6th March, we were advised that the current HMRC debt which has brought about the current winding up petition against the club has been paid. The Court Hearing scheduled for 18th March in relation to this matter is still scheduled to go ahead but based on past experience we would expect the petition to be dismissed following the settlement of this debt.

The settlement of this debt is positive, though the fact that such legal proceedings are continuing to be brought against the club and escalated to this level is very clearly a worry. As advised in our statement of 1st March, the Trust Board will meet this week to understand how and why such matters continue to arise and indeed why Trust Oldham is not being kept abreast of these matters. This extends to reported non-payment of staff and player salaries.

Legal proceedings brought by Brass Bank

We note that the court was also advised by lawyers representing Brass Bank that the current debt alleged to be owed to Brass Bank by the club has been paid in part and that discussions regarding payment of the balance are ongoing. At the request of Brass Bank, the court agreed to a six week adjournment of the Hearing. A revised Hearing date of 21st April was agreed.

Of material relevance to Judge Eyre’s decision was that the prospect of an immediate 12 point deduction upon being place in administration would not have put the club in immediate risk of relegation to the extent that it could have had a bearing on which club is relegated from League 2.

Prospective purchase of Boundary Park and ACV designation

As a separate matter, the reports of an in principle agreement for the football club to acquire Boundary Park could bring the ground and the club under single ownership. At this stage, the Trust has some critical questions for the club and Brass Bank, including what the club intends to acquire, how this is intended to be financed and whether the ground will be owned by the club or a separate holding company. We do not have answers to these questions at this point and will seek clarification on these and related matters over the coming days and weeks.

The transfer of ownership in the ground has the potential to be of benefit, depending on the terms on which this takes place. We are keeping an open mind as is important in assessing the pros and cons of the proposal.

Related to this, Boundary Park and some surrounding land, including Little Wembley, is a registered Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act (2011). In principle, this means that if the owner of the asset intends to sell it, then it must first notify the Local Authority (Oldham Council) who must in turn notify Trust Oldham.

The designation expires in 2022.

If the ACV is ‘triggered’ in this way, Trust Oldham has a six week period to confirm its intention to put in a counter bid to acquire the asset and a further twenty weeks thereafter to present its bid. During this six month window, the sale of the asset cannot complete without the authorisation of Trust Oldham. After six months has passed, the owner of the asset is not obliged to accept any counter bid from the Trust, irrespective of its terms.

We cannot confirm at this stage whether the ACV will be triggered until we know more about the intended sale. It would ultimately be for Oldham Council to determine whether the ACV is triggered in the circumstances of the proposed sale. If the Trust is of the view that the ACV is triggered, it would be in our gift to make representations to Oldham Council to this effect. The club and Brass Bank will no doubt be securing legal advice on the status of the ACV also.

We are seeking further guidance from the FSA on this matter.

Any proposed sale of the ground is hugely important to the club and fans. As a legal entity, Oldham Athletic Football Club can be formed, wound up and reformed any number of times in theory. There is only one Boundary Park! A proposal to acquire the ground provides the potential to use the sale as a vehicle to secure the long term future of Boundary Park and for the non-football related income from the ground to benefit the club in a way that hasn’t been realised to date. We will seek to use our position within the football club and in representing fans to influence the terms of any sale so as to ensure the most positive outcome in this respect.

Trust Oldham

8th March 2020