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SWINDON TOWN: Power shift at the County Ground
SWINDON Town were ushered into a new era yesterday as Lee Power formally took control of the club, while Jed McCrory resigned his position as chairman.
A statement released by the Robins on Tuesday morning confirmed Power’s company, Swinton Reds 20 Ltd, had assumed the majority shareholding of the club, which was originally taken on by McCrory’s Seebeck 87 Ltd in February.
Power is understood to have at least one other investor involved with him.
The club statement read: “STFC are pleased to announce the change of ownership of STFC to Swinton Reds 20 owned by Director of Football, Mr Lee Power.
“The change of ownership signals no fundamental changes in the Club but has been executed post the completion of the audit in line with the intent of the consortium led by Mr Jed McCrory who acquired STFC.
“Since the takeover Mr Power has injected £1.2m for a limited period of time to release the embargo enforced by the Football League at the time of takeover.
“Since then he has provided the entire funding to ensure the financial ongoing probity of the Club.
“Mr Power has also furnished the Football League with further proof of funds to underwrite the future liquidity of the Club.
“STFC would like to thank The Football League for its assistance to date.”
Later in the day, following a board meeting at the County Ground, McCrory tendered his resignation as chairman effective immediately.
After 10 months at the helm, during which time McCrory has been perceived as both the villain and the hero by Swindon fans, he made the decision to walk away on the basis of his own health.
McCrory’s statement, issued on Tuesday afternoon, read: “I would like to thank all the staff for their personal support, the sponsors for sticking with the team during the difficult times and finally, the fans for supporting me.
“I am extremely proud to have got to know most of you. I will miss walking around the Club before the game. I will always remember the song “He goes where he wants”, the Town End guys and the chaps in the Tap and Barrel pub. At least I opened up the Town End bar!
“I look forward to being in and around Swindon and having a beer with you. This decision is made with a heavy heart but I have always believed that the Club must come before the man. #inittogether, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you soon!”
The potential make-up of Power’s board remains unknown, though the 41-year-old will assume the position of chairman and the Advertiser has been told no immediate appointments will be made.
The option agreement between McCrory and Power, which outlined the change of ownership, was drawn up in April after Power paid a total of £300,000 to individuals including McCrory, Martin King and Greg Hall for a stake in the club.
Accountant Stephen Crouch, the only other director of Swinton Reds 20 Ltd, has been linked with a role at Swindon for several months.
Crouch, co-founder of online accountancy advice specialists Crunch, submitted a fit and proper person’s test to the Football League back in April and listed himself as a director of the club on his LinkedIn profile for a short period, but no paperwork confirming his appointment to the board ever emerged.
Sangita Shah remains a director of the club but is expected to step down from her position in due course. Shah is likely to remain at least until such time as the recent audit conducted by Hacker Young is published. The Advertiser has been assured that fans will be able to see the results of the audit imminently.
Steve Anderson, the man drafted in by Power to run the financial side of Swindon Town following the departure of Steve Murrall as general manager in October, could be another option for the new owner should he wish to bolster numbers on the board.
Owing to the fact that he is a Swiss citizen, Power is only allowed in the United Kingdom for 90 days a year and it is still to be seen who he gives the day-to-day responsibilities of running the club to, if anyone.
Power, who temporarily provided the £1.2million necessary to see Town out of a transfer embargo in March and has been covering the running costs at the County Ground since, recently injected a further £200,000 to cover wages. He has been solely funding the club’s shortfall as Town aim for eventual sustainability and claims he has invested £740,000 thus far this term.
In a statement released yesterday evening, Power said: “I paid £300,000 to buy out individuals who had shares in the Club and this gave me an option to take control of the Club, which I have now exercised. I put in £1.2 million to get the embargo lifted last season which I withdrew once the Football League had been satisfied.
“The financial forecasts I was given at the time were unfortunately drastically inaccurate and the Club has needed more financial input than I originally thought.
“For example: there was £500,000 of estimated income in the accounts for the summer concerts which, to date, has cost the football club circa £50,000. To date, I have put £740,000 into the Club this season and expect to put in another £400,000 before the end of the season.”
The former pro and McCrory have lowered the club’s annual footballing budget from £4.5million in February to around £2.5million today, and further reductions are expected over the summer when several of Town’s higher earners see their contracts expire.
Power is believed to have met with former majority shareholder Andrew Black regarding an outstanding debt of around £3million which would be payable upon a change of ownership at Swindon Town. In that meeting, Power was assured those monies would not be called in upon his takeover.
It now remains to be seen how the ex-Norwich City striker plans to take the club forward.
Power’s past business involvements have led some supporters to become wary of his tenure as Town owner. The 41-year-old founded Cre8 Publishing, which went bust reportedly owing a number of English and Scottish football clubs substantial sums in unpaid royalties, while its predeccesor - Cre8 UK - also suffered financial hardship.
However, in his address to fans upon taking charge of the club yesterday, Power was optimistic about Swindon’s future in his charge.
He said: “As many of you will be aware, the main necessity this season has been to reduce the playing budget to a sustainable level which has not been easy and is still not where it needs to be.
“We wanted to implement a new philosophy and blueprint on the pitch. This gives young, technical players (who might struggle in other sides at our level) a chance to shine at our football club and hopefully a style of play that the fans enjoy coming to watch.
“I want to get this club into the Premier League. It has been in the past and even recent history shows that smaller clubs than Swindon have managed this feat and I see no reason why we can't.
“I realise you don't earn trust overnight but please judge me after five years and not five minutes. I think you will pleasantly surprised at how we move this club forward over the coming years.”
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