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Cork City set to vote today on €1 takeover bid by Preston North End owner

The Foras board of management and the club’s administrative staff have both publicly backed a yes vote.

Turners Cross: vote today on takeover proposal.
Turners Cross: vote today on takeover proposal.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

IT HAS ALREADY been a transformative week for Cork City and there could be an even more seismic change in the offing.

On Saturday, a nine-year stint in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division came to an end as City’s relegation was confirmed with a game to spare. By the time the team take to the field against Derry City for that final match, the club could be under new ownership.

There is a symmetry to the fact that tonight’s special general meeting of Foras, the supporters’ trust which runs the club, could signal the beginning of a process that ends with control being handed over to Grovemoor Ltd. In 2007, Foras (Friends of the Rebel Army Society) was established as a safeguard for the future of City, which had a patchy history of ownership, as hedge fund Arkaga and then Tom Coughlan encountered financial troubles.

When City were refused a Premier Division licence for 2010, Foras stepped in to submit an application for a First Division operation and promotion was achieved at the end of the second season of fan-ownrship. Now, the return to the second tier could coincide with Foras stepping aside.

While the Foras era saw great success on the field, with City finishing second in three straight years under John Caulfield and winning the FAI Cup in 2016 before the double of 2017, off the field there have been financial issues, to the extent that the club almost went out of business just prior to the current season commencing.

With few options, City sought assistance from Preston North End, who agreed to buy the sell-on clauses that the Rebel Army held on current Republic of Ireland internationals Seán Maguire and Alan Browne. Out of those communications grew discussions regarding a full takeover by Grovemoor, which is controlled by Preston owner Trevor Hemmings.

Though the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down progress on the takeover front, tonight’s  remotely-held meeting, Foras members will vote on allowing Grovemoor to exercise a call-option whereby it would purchase the club and take on the existing liabilities. As Foras is a not-for-profit industrial and provident society, the takeover fee would be a nominal €1.

Both the Foras board of management and City’s administrative staff have publicly backed a yes vote (a simple majority will decide the issue) and chairman Declan Carey has reiterated that stance in recent days.

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“We would not have a football club today without the support of Mr Hemmings and Grovemoor Ltd. In the event that we did go out of business in February, there would have been no Foras as a fall-back to restart in the first division, as we had done in 2010,” he said.

“We continue to be honest and forthright in communications with the shareholders of Foras and have maintained our dedication to transparency over the course of this exceedingly difficult time. As a board, we remain as ambitious as we always have been, but being on the inside we cannot discount how difficult the last two years have been for the football club, primarily due to our financial position.

“It is due to our ambitions, the environment that we are operating under, and our commitment to, and dealings with Grovemoor and Mr Hemmings, that at this moment in time we feel that the best thing for our football club is to support the motion authorising completion of the sale option agreement.”

– Updated 10.25: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Seán Maguire and Alan Browne as former Republic of Ireland internationals; they are current Republic of Ireland internationals.

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Denis Hurley

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