Cork City and Preston North End have signed off on a deal which is believed to be worth in the region of €500,000 to the League of Ireland club.
The deal is based, in part, on the Championship side paying upfront to buy out the sell-on clauses from which City stood to benefit following the transfers of players like Sean Maguire, Alan Browne, and Kevin O’Connor to Deepdale.
It’s also understood that there is provision in the agreement for further talks on the future extent of Preston’s involvement in City. Whether that will at some point result in a takeover bid by the parent company of the English club remains to be seen but any such move would need the backing of the supporters-owned Leesiders.
Former Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale, who acts an advisor to Preston and its billionaire owner Trevor Hemmings, was in Cork this week to negotiate the terms of a cash injection which comes as a timely boost for the club after a difficult period on and off the pitch.
Last season was one to forget for the double-winners of 2017 as, operating off a budget which was predicated on another title challenge and qualification for Europe, City suffered a dramatic slump in form and ended up mired in a relegation battle which had the damaging knock-on effect of a collapse in attendances and gate receipts at Turner’s Cross.
In another blow off the pitch, City were also adversely affected by the Douglas Shopping Centre fire which forced the temporary closure of the club’s merchandise store before its relocation to Mahon Point.
In December, the club confirmed that it had reached a settlement with the Revenue Commissioners totalling €88,817.02, including penalties and charges, covering the period from January 2016 to August 2017.
City said the settlement related to VAT returns and arose out of an incorrect interpretation of the rules relating to VAT being reclaimed for certain football-related expenses.
In a statement released at the time, the club added:
However, Examiner Sport understands that City have since had to address a separate six-figure tax liability from last year, a debt which has now also been paid in full.
That settlement helped clear the way for the receipt of a club licence for the 2020 SSE Airtricity League season which, it was confirmed last night, City have been awarded in common with all the other Premier Division clubs.
Among the high-profile casualties of last year’s challenging season for the Rebels was the most successful manager in the club’s history, John Caufield, and his assistant and then successor John Cotter, before former player and ex-Longford Town manager Neale Fenn took over in August and, after a barren start, succeeded in leading the team to Premier Division safety before season’s end.
However, a host of established names subsequently left the club, with the result that City go into the 2020 season with an almost entirely new-look and notably youthful squad.
Promoted Shelbourne are the visitors on opening night at Turner’s Cross tomorrow but the fixture schedule has thrown up a real double-whammy for City in their next two games – away to FAI Cup-holders Shamrock Rovers and League champions Dundalk in the space of three days.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” manager Fenn has conceded, “but as much as we want to get off to a good start, I wouldn’t be getting carried away if we do and I certainly wouldn’t be in dismay if we don’t.
"The players we’ve got, I believe, are exciting to watch, I really do.”
And with City now seemingly on a much more solid financial footing, there will be a feeling that the club as a whole can enter the fray with a renewed spring in its step.