Tranmere Rovers: the next fan-owned club?

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Tranmere Rovers owner Peter Johnson has told fans they can take over the club – if they can raise £500,000 by the end of the year. Trust member and fan Des Ferguson explains more…

Could it really be true? Could it really be about to happen? Could a supporter takeover of Tranmere Rovers actually be imminent?!

These are the questions I asked myself as I heard that Mr Peter Johnson (aka PJ), the Chairman/Owner for the best part of the last 26 years, had approached the Tranmere Rovers Trust with an offer. And not just any offer, but a deal on preferential terms to make it more achievable.

This was fantastic news. The club has been up for sale for 10+ years and, as far as we knew, only a few financial sharks had circled and shown an interest. No White Knight in shining armour had appeared on the horizon to save us but now, all of a sudden…

I could picture thousands of Birkenhead Knights on Trusty steeds riding up Borough Road to join the hordes of Rovers’ fans from Wirral’s towns, suburbs, countryside and The Swamp, to take hold of our ailing club. And ailing it is.

As we struggle on the pitch, the infrastructure of the ground is falling apart, literally, as metal seat fixings gradually rot away reducing the number of empty seats available for absent fans to not sit in. Meanwhile the main stand roof crumbles on to the other invisible fans below, roof panel by roof panel.

So, exciting isn’t really a word that properly describes this opportunity to do something about the years of neglect, the years of treading water.

Of course it quickly became apparent that conditions were attached, chiefly that £500,000 had to be raised by the end of 2013. The Trust had already banked £100,000 but another £400,000 had to be found in a little over two months. A huge amount of money.

Assets

Other parts of the deal (club overdraft, repayments) were clouded in mystery as PJ insisted on the Trust board signing a non-disclosure agreement (I’m not on the Trust board). This in turn made it harder to sell the idea to other supporters concerned about the club’s assets.

These assets included a large piece of land behind Prenton Park currently used by the club as a car park and Aldo’s, the large supporters’ bar at the back of the Bebington Kop. Rumours abound concerning the future of Aldo’s which could be a very popular focal point for fans (and income stream for the Trust).

Alongside those rumours you have the ongoing sale of the training ground at Ingleborough and it’s associated leisure centre development at Woodchurch, which makes for confusing reading for those of us not in the know, and that’s most of us.

However, those Trust board members who met with PJ couldn’t stress enough just how good a deal this could be if we can raise £500,000 by the end of December 2013. This money won’t be pocketed by PJ either – it would be working capital for a successful bid.

What if?

But what happens if we can’t raise it? We’ve only got £125,000 at present. Who are the other mystery bidders waiting silently in the wings? Will those financial sharks circle the rotting Rovers carcass, smell blood, and see an opportunity to line their pockets, as has happened at other clubs?

Who knows? I certainly don’t. But I do know that we, as fans, have the chance to rescue our 128-year-old club with all the fresh, enthusiastic energy, and ideas that will bring. It would be a magnificent achievement - the countdown has begun…

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Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.

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