Fears are growing in Morecambe that the relegation-threatened League One team will become the next English club to enter administration after informing players and staff that their March salaries would be delayed.
In an email sent on Monday, Jason Whittingham, the sole director of the club’s majority owner Bond Group Investments, warned staff they would not be paid on time but assured them the delay would be short.
“Due to the timing of the potential takeover of the club, Bond Group Investments has experienced delays in the funds coming in,” Whittingham said.
“While we remain hopeful that this money will come in later today, and payroll will occur as normal on (the) 28th, payments may be delayed but we still expect it to be paid this week.”
The money is understood to be another loan from the Bond Group at high interest rates, but as of the end of play on 28 March it had not yet arrived, prompting fears about the future of the Lancashire-based club.
Whittingham bought the club along with his business partner Colin Goldring in 2018, 11 years after Morecambe secured promotion to the English Football League for the first time.
In 2021, the club hit a new high when they reached League One via the play-offs, then defied expectations the following season by avoiding an immediate return to the fourth tier, despite having one of the lowest budgets in the division.
However, this season has been more challenging, both on and off the field.
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The first signs of trouble appeared last summer at Worcester Warriors, the first-class rugby club also owned by Goldring and Whittingham. On 17 August, HM Revenue and Customs petitioned the club to set aside unpaid taxes.
Goldring and Whittingham claimed that the rugby club’s financial problems would be solved by new owners, but this deal was never completed and by the end of September the Rugby Football Union had suspended both the men’s and women’s teams.
A week later, that comment became a dismissal. At this point the Worcester Warriors are already in management, where they stay and it’s not clear when they’ll be able to get out and get back into contention.
Goldring and Whittingham initially claimed that Worcester’s troubles would have no effect on Morecambe, but by the end of August both had left the club’s board and put the team up for sale.
The situation deteriorated in October when the couple were removed as directors of the company after failing to provide accounts for one of their companies.
This exclusion was supposed to begin in November, but they were granted a late reprieve, which enabled Whittingham to remain as principal and sole owner of the Bond Group. Goldring, who was barred from acting as a lawyer last May for his role in a failed luxury car deal in 2018, stepped down as director in August.
If the ineligibility period is ever imposed, the pair would immediately fail the English Football League’s owners and directors test, forcing them to hand over control of the club.
However, they might say they were trying to do just that, shaking hands on a deal to sell Morecambe to Sarbjot Johal, a 20-year-old who claims to have made millions from soft drinks, property and cryptocurrency speculation.
Last month, the league said it was still awaiting further information from Johal about the source and sufficiency of his funds, and that it had invited him and his advisors for a meeting.
The league added: “No change of control in Morecambe will be approved until the proposed purchaser and club have fully met the requirements of the English Football League regulations and appropriate levels of due diligence.”
The situation has not changed since then.
in the meantime, the athlete He understands there are other parties interested in Morecambe, but they value the club, which made nearly £400,000 in the 2021 promotion season, at half the amount Johal has agreed to pay.
When asked if there was a Plan B for the Johal takeover, Bond Group and the club declined to comment. Jawhar did not respond to efforts to contact him for comment.
Morecambe currently sit 22nd in League One, three points off safety with seven matches remaining.
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(Photo: Getty Images)