CORK CITY, the club which refuses to die, was yesterday thrown not one, but two lifelines, as it battles to retain a place in the League of Ireland Premier Division.
The first came in the High Court which heard that a winding-up order sought by the Revenue Commissioners will be struck off next Monday, pending the payment by tomorrow of an outstanding tax bill of just over €100,000.
The second reprieve followed last night when the Independent Club Licensing Committee deferred its decision on Cork City’s place in the League of Ireland next season until after that High Court case is heard next week.
The result of the two decisions means that there is now additional time in which the planned takeover of the club can be progressed. However, no deal has been done as yet and, late last night, it was clear that there were still significant and potentially insurmountable obstacles to be overcome, amid mounting concerns about the full scale of the club’s indebtedness.
Earlier in the day, the Quintas Group, on behalf of the consortium of Peter Gray, Michael O’Connell and FORAS, the Cork City Supporters Trust, confirmed that a signed share purchase agreement had been received from the current owner of the club Tom Coughlan. The group then began the process of verifying the figures supplied by Cork City FC to ensure that the current net liabilities of the club are consistent with what had been presented.
Meanwhile, in explaining its decision to defer a ruling on Cork City for another week, the Licensing Committee noted that what it called a “fundamental principle” of club licensing is the protection of creditors, such as club employees, other clubs and the Revenue.
In a statement, the licensing body said it had been “made aware of a potential takeover which may result in commitments to creditors being honoured. As this takeover is dependent on the outcome of the High Court order, the Independent Committee felt it prudent to await that outcome and give maximum opportunity for creditors to be paid”.
The committee also deferred an application for a First Division licence from the supporters’ group FORAS pending the outcome of the decision.
EARLIER in the High Court, City had yet again lived to fight another day when Justice Mary Laffoy ruled that a winding up order against the club would be struck out next Monday if the company paid a sum of just over €107,653 owed to the Revenue Commissioners by tomorrow.
The club was to receive €158,000 from the Football Association in England arising out of the transfers of Kevin Long to Burnley and David Meyler to Sunderland, money with which it intended to discharge the debt. But counsel for the club said it could not do because AIB had frozen its bank account as a result of Revenue taking the High Court proceedings. Under FIFA rules, the court heard, the transfer money had to be paid to the club and could not be paid directly to the Revenue by the English FA.
Despite counsel for the Revenue arguing that there was no evidence that the club was solvent, the judge said she was willing to grant an order directing the bank to receive the funds from Britain and from these the Revenue should be paid by tomorrow. If that was done, she said she would strike out the winding-up proceedings next Monday.
Justice Laffoy, who also heard a Revenue winding-up case against Cork City last summer, concluded: “Hopefully we won’t be here again. Although I said that on the 31st of July.”
Responding to the decision outside the court, John O’Sullivan, chairman of FORAS said: “My gut reaction is that it has to be good because we haven’t been wound up so it allows the club to drive on to the next hurdle.”
The board of management of FORAS was due to meet in Cork last night to assess the latest developments. Meantime, Bray Wanderers general manager and club secretary Jack O’Neill expressed his frustration at the uncertainty arising out of the Cork situation, as his club is left to ponder fixture lists for both the First Division and Premier Division.
“It’s very, very disappointing that we’re still in this situation,” he said. “It is very unfair on our fans and our sponsors. And it looks like we will only get clarification 10 days before the season starts. It’s yet another week or uncertainty and it’s not ideal for anyone. It is most disappointing, but the decision has been made.”
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