Falkirk fans step back from bid to buy into Bairns

Falkirk major shareholders say they welcome fresh investment and skills in the boardroom.
Falkirk major shareholders say they welcome fresh investment and skills in the boardroom.

Talks to invest six-figure sum reach impasse; major shareholders still willing to listen

A consortium of local business figures and Falkirk fans have discussed a six-figure investment in the Bairns – if the club’s major shareholders make way.

Talks have been focused on the Bairns for almost two months

Talks have been focused on the Bairns for almost two months

Talks have been ongoing for almost two months between some of the Bairns’ largest shareholders and the group, fronted by Craig Richardson.

They wanted to make several changes to the running and future of the club – in return for major shareholders to hand back their stakes.

However the talks broke down in the past week and the group stepped back from discussions – but the major shareholders group (MSG) say they remain open to new investment, skills and a transition plan for the club, at the conclusion of which they will step aside.

The group’s aims and action points included :

- re-instate the club’s youth development structure and Academy,

- place two representatives on the board

- refresh the off-field management structure

- investigate future ownership and funding of the club including fan ownership.

Mr Richardson, who helped start the fundraising to save the club from provisional liquidation back in 1998, said: “First and foremost we have approached the club with a view to help.

“We are in an extremely difficult position which is now worse than when we first had dialogue with the MSG.

“We met again last week but unfortunately have found little in common in relation to the best way forward other than the boardroom requiring a freshness and a new skill set.

“There was no encouragement given to the off-field changes which we as a group felt were extremely necessary.

“If, however, the major shareholders are prepared to donate their shareholding back to the club, as they have intimated on many occasions, then a member of the consortium is prepared to inject substantial sums of money directly to Falkirk FC.”

The group is believed to want new appointments in the chairman and CEO roles – but both current incumbents have the MSG’s backing.

The club’s largest shareholder, Martin Ritchie, also told The Falkirk Herald some of the discussion points were outwith the MSG remit. It is understood a meeting has been arranged between the club chairman, Margaret Lang, and Mr Richardson, for this week to discuss their proposals which affect board decisions.

Mr Richardson added: “We see the decisions made in the last 12 months as being extremely poor and our concerns are that without personnel change then there will continue to be bad judgements made.

“Not only have we removed our profitable youth development programme, but we embarked on a path of bringing in a completely new squad, in our view without proper planning or management of the process.

“The supporters, who have been extremely patient and loyal since we were relegated, are at breaking point and nearly all confidence in the off-field management structure outwith the commercial activity has evaporated.

“This view is not held by the major shareholders therefore we have decided to take a step back and see how the currentstructure manages to resolve the situation and plans they say they have for re-starting youth development, which contradicts the chairman’s statement four weeks ago.

“Whilst it is obvious to most people that the squad is hopelessly short, we welcome the news that the club will be backing Ray McKinnon in the January window in an attempt to rescue our season.”

In a statement the six members of the MSG say they continue to “ welcome fans’ initiatives that will increase supporter and community involvement and investment that will result in responsible ownership of the club”.

They stated: “We have been exploring ways of stimulating and facilitating this and are open to discussions with credible parties with vision, proven knowledge and skills and with resources to invest in the short, medium and long term.

“We have had discussions with people who might meet these criteria and continue to keep an open mind on opportunities for new third party investment that could lead to shareholder change.

“In addition to original investments that saved the club from administration in 1998, substantial sums have been committed to sustaining the business since then. Their involvement in the club has never been about personal kudos or any personal financial return. All welcome fresh capital investment that will dilute their shareholdings to a point where the club is in the control of committed and responsible fans.

“While the team performance is far short of what any fan would wish for, the business itself is well-managed and debt-free.

“We believe that new impetus is required at board level and while this could be achieved through change in share ownership, we are working with the chair to strengthen the board with new people bringing appropriate skills and experience to the leadership of the club.”